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Bathing Suits in Black and White

by Linda Ferguson

In honor of the arrival of spring, we're celebrating the swimsuit in black and white photos. These photos, which are photos of men and women in swimwear from the early 1900s up to the early 1950s, are borrowed from the Library of Congress' American Memory Collection. They offer a more realistic view of swimwear than fashion shots or ads (though we couldn't resist the panoramic view of the 1953 Miss America Pageant!) Also included are two non-swimwear shots just because they're cool and water-related.

The thumbnails are grouped in approximate chronological order. Click on a thumbnail for a larger image and information about the photo. A word of warning: the wide thumbnails represent panoramic views. These tend to be large but they're worth the wait. Don't forget to scroll to see the entire view.

Between 1890-1901

Between 1900-1905


c. 1905

c. 1920


Between 1920-1930



Between 1910-1930



Between 1930-1940




Swimwear Links:

Pictorial history of Jantzen Swimwear

Articles on the development (pun intended) of the bikini

History of the beauty pageant

History of Men's Swimwear

History of Women's Swimwear (up to 20th c.)

20th c. women's swimwear history


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