A swimsuit, bathing suit, swimming costume, bathing costume, swimming suit, swimmers, swimming togs, bathers, cossie (short for "costume"), or swimming trunks for men, is an item of clothing designed to be worn by people engaging in a water-based activity or water sports, such as swimming, water polo, diving, surfing, water skiing, or during activities in the sun, such as sun bathing. Different types are worn by men, women, and children.|
A swimsuit, bathing suit, swimming costume, bathing costume, swimming suit, swimmers, swimming togs, bathers, cossie (short for "costume"), or swimming trunks for men, is an item of clothing designed to be worn by people engaging in a water-based activity or water sports, such as swimming, water polo, diving, surfing, water skiing, or during activities in the sun, such as sun bathing. Different types are worn by men, women, and children.
A swimsuit can be worn as an undergarment in sports that require a wetsuit such as water skiing, scuba diving, surfing, and wakeboarding. Swimsuits are also worn when there is a need to display the body, as in the case of beauty pageants or bodybuilding contests. Glamour photography and magazines like the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue feature models and sports personalities in swimsuits.
There is a very wide range of styles of modern swimsuits, which vary in relation to body coverage and materials. The choice of style of swimsuit is dependent on current fashions and community standards of modesty, as well as on personal preferences. Swimwear for men usually exposes the chest, which women do not usually do.
1858 Woman's bathing suit
Swimsuits can be skin-tight or loose-fitting. They are often lined with another layer of fabric if the outer fabric becomes transparent when wet.
Swimsuits range from designs that almost completely cover the body to designs that expose almost all of the body. The choice of swimsuit will depend on personal and community standards of modesty and on considerations such as how much or how little sun protection is desired, and prevailing fashions. Almost all swimsuits cover the genitals and pubic hair, while most except thongs cover much or all of the buttocks. Most swimsuits in western culture leave at least the head, shoulders, arms, and lower part of the leg (below the knee) exposed. Women's swimsuits generally cover at least the aereola and bottom half of the breasts, but some are designed for the top part of the swimsuit to be removed . In many countries, young girls and sometimes women choose not to wear a swimsuit top, and this can vary with the occasion, location, age, etc. Men's swimsuits which cover the upper body are relatively rare in western culture.
Both men and women may sometimes wear swimsuits covering more of the body when swimming in cold water (see also wetsuit and dry suit). In colder temperatures, the swimwear is needed to conserve body heat and protect the body core from hypothermia.
Main article: Competitive swimwear
Some swimsuits are designed specifically for swimming competitions where they may be constructed of a special low resistance fabric that reduces skin drag. For some kinds of swimming and diving, special bodysuits called diveskins are worn. These suits are made from spandex and provide little thermal protection, but they do protect the skin from stings and abrasion. Most competitive swimmers also wear special swimsuits including partial bodysuits, racerback styles, jammers and racing briefs to assist their glide through the water thus gaining a speed advantage (see competitive swimwear).
Unlike regular swimsuits, which are designed mainly for the aesthetic appearances, swimsuits designed to be worn during competitions are manufactured to assist the athlete in swim competitions. They reduce friction and drag in the water, increasing the efficiency of the swimmer's forward motion. The tight fits allow for easy movement and are said to reduce muscle vibration, thus reducing drag. This also reduces the possibility that a high forwards dive will remove a divers swimwear. Starting around 2000, in an effort to improve the effectiveness of the swimsuits, engineers have taken to designing them to replicate the skin of sea based animals, sharks in particular.
In July 2009, FINA voted to ban non-textile (non-woven) swimsuits in competitive events from 2010. The new policy was implemented to combat the issues associated with performance enhancing costumes, hindering the ability to accurately measure the performance of swimmers. Subsequently, the new ruling states that men's swimsuits may maximally cover the area from the navel to the knee, and women's' counterparts from the shoulder to the knee.
Some swimmers use a specialized training suit called drag suits to artificially increase drag during practice. Drag suits are swimwear with an outer layer of looser fabric - often mesh or nylon - to increase resistance against the water and build up the swimmer's endurance. They come in a variety of styles, but most resemble a looser fitting square-cut or swim brief.
Swimwear and hygiene
Germs, bacteria, and mold can grow very quickly on wet bathing suits. Medical professionals warn that wearing damp swimwear for long periods of time can cause a number of infections and rashes in children and adults, and warn against sharing bathing suits with others. They suggest that changing out of a wet bathing suit right away can help prevent vaginal infections and itching in females and Tinea Cruris ("Jock Itch") in males.
In public swimming pools in France for reasons of hygiene, it is only permitted to wear closer fitting styles of swimwear. Men, for instance, must wear "Speedo" style bathing suits and not baggy shorts or trunks.
Main article: History of the bikini
In classical antiquity swimming and bathing were done naked. There are Roman murals which show women playing sports and exercising wearing two-piece suits covering the areas around their breasts and hips in a fashion remarkably similar to the present-day bikini. However, there is no evidence that they were used for swimming. All classical pictures of swimming show nude swimmers.
In various cultural traditions one swims, if not in the nude, in a version in suitable material of a garment or undergarment commonly worn on land, e.g. a loincloth such as the Japanese man's fundoshi.
In the United Kingdom until the mid-19th century there was no law against nude swimming, with each town being free to make its own laws. For example, the Bath Corporation official bathing dress code of 1737 prescribed, for men:
It is Ordered Established and Decreed by this Corporation that no Male person above the age of ten years shall at any time hereafter go into any Bath or Baths within this City by day or by night without a Pair of Drawers and a Waistcoat on their bodies.
In rivers, lakes, streams and the sea men swam in the nude, where the practice was common. Those who didn't swim in the nude, stripped to their underwear. The English practice of men swimming in the nude was banned in the United Kingdom in 1860. Drawers, or caleçs as they were called, came into use in the 1860s. Even then there were many who protested against them and wanted to remain in the nude. Francis Kilvert described men's bathing suits coming into use in the 1870s as "a pair of very short red and white striped drawers".
Cartoon by George du Maurier in Punch, 1877, showing men's and children's bathing suits
Female bathing costumes were derived from those worn at Bath and other spas. It would appear that until the 1670s nude female bathing in the spas was the norm and that after that time women bathed clothed. Celia Fiennes gave a detailed description of the standard ladies' bathing costume in 1687:
The Ladyes go into the bath with Garments made of a fine yellow canvas, which is stiff and made large with great sleeves like a parson.s gown; the water fills it up so that it is borne off that your shape is not seen, it does not cling close as other linning, which Lookes sadly in the poorer sort that go in their own linning. The Gentlemen have drawers and wastcoates of the same sort of canvas, this is the best linning, for the bath water will Change any other yellow.
The Bath Corporation official bathing dress code of 1737 prescribed, for women:
No Female person shall at any time hereafter go into a Bath or Baths within this City by day or by night without a decent Shift on their bodies.
The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker was published in 1771 and its description of ladies. bathing costume is different from that of Celia Fiennes a hundred years earlier:
The ladies wear jackets and petticoats of brown linen, with chip hats, in which they fix their handkerchiefs to wipe the sweat from their faces; but, truly, whether it is owing to the steam that surrounds them, or the heat of the water, or the nature of the dress, or to all these causes together, they look so flushed, and so frightful, that I always turn my eyes another way.
Penelope Byrde points out that Smollett.s description may not be accurate, for he describes a two-piece costume, not the one piece shift or smock that most people describe and is depicted in contemporary prints. His description does, however, tally with Elizabeth Grant.s description of the guide.s costume at Ramsgate in 1811. The only difference is in the fabric the costumes are made of. Flannel, however, was a common fabric for sea bathing costumes as many believed the warmer fabric was necessary in cold water.
In the 18th century women wore "bathing gowns" in the water; these were long dresses of fabrics that would not become transparent when wet, with weights sewn into the hems so that they would not rise up in the water. The men's swim suit, a rather form-fitting wool garment with long sleeves and legs similar to long underwear, was developed and would change little for a century.
In the 19th century, the woman's two piece suit became common.the two pieces being a gown from shoulder to knees plus a set of trousers with leggings going down to the ankles.
In the Victorian era, popular beach resorts were commonly equipped with bathing machines designed to avoid the exposure of people in swimsuits, especially to people of the opposite sex.
In the United States, beauty contests of women in bathing costumes became popular from the 1880s. However, such contests were not regarded as respectable. Beauty contests became more respectable with the first modern "Miss America" contest held in 1921, though less respectable beauty contests continued to be held. Norman Rockwell judged the Miss America 1922 bathing beauty contest along with Howard Chandler Christy and James Montgomery Flagg. They were all unclear as to how to judge the contest. One judge suggested that they judge each part or feature of the body out of ten, then the woman with the total highest score would win. After they had tried the system, they discovered that although one woman might have beautiful individual parts for features, she might not be beautiful over all. So they "...gave up trying to figure out a system and resolved to trust our eyes. It led to squabbles, because all of us didn't see things in the same way, but it was the best we could do."
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