painting of girls in swimsuits

1.6 How the Swimsuit Shrunk

How the Swimsuit Shrunk: A History of Women’s Swimwear

Most women, if they swam at all, were probably skinny dipping. Regular beach goers with regular beach wear got going in the 19th century when they wore an unbelievable amount of gear. In the decades since, the swimsuit shrunk in fits and starts, and even an occasional retreat.

Women mentioned include Jane Austen, Annette Kellerman, Louise Rosine, Gertrude Ederle, and Anne Cole.

This episode belongs in the series What’s in the Closet and How It Got There.

Selected Sources:

One of many sources I used for this episode was Gavin Mortimer’s The Great Swim. It’s not really about swimwear, but it covers Gertrude Ederle’s epic journey through the Channel, including what she wore.

You can read one take on how Europe rediscovered swimming on History Today. Also, check out the Louvre’s vase of Amazon women swimming for one of the very few sources on ancient women going for a dip. 

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The featured image is by Paul Fischer, available on Wikimedia Commons,


  1. Your podcasts have answered many questions I did not even know I had! Love your presentations! Thanks for all your research and careful selection of interesting tidbits to share with the rest of us. You make learning history really fun!


  2. This episode is so descriptive! It’s amazing you were able to describe the many swimwear trends in words only.


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