The Friday Five: Swimsuit Edition

by Fiorella Valdesolo (Brooklyn)

From left: Beach Blanket Halter Bikini, Sunfire Bandeau Bikini, Deco Dot String Bikini,
Meadowbloom Tanksuit

Yup, you read that right: swimsuits. Sure, it may be the dead of winter outside, but thanks to the newly launched Madewell swim shop, we’re wearing wool but dreaming of a getaway. Need a little inspiration? Check out those sweet suits above, then wade through our favorite moments in swimwear history below.

1. The invention of the bikini
The very first swimsuits (which actually consisted of bloomers and stockings) debuted way back in the 1800s, but the world didn’t experience a real swimwear revolution until July 5th, 1946. That was the day French engineer Louis Reard unveiled something jaw-droppingly scandalous: a two-piece swimsuit. So scandalous, in fact, that he even had trouble finding a model.

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2. Norma Kamali’s one-piece wonders (especially on Farrah Fawcett)
This New York–based designer has many feathers in her fashion cap: She’s responsible for the sleeping bag coat as well as silk parachute pants (made of real parachute material), is capable of absolute wizardry with jersey fabric and, since the ’70s, has been whipping up some seriously stunning swimsuits. So stunning, in fact, that one (a certain red tank worn by the late Farrah Fawcett) now sits in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection.

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3. Pam Grier, a bad-ass bikini babe
Before she joined Showtime’s cult hit The L Word, Pam Grier was the queen of ’70s blaxploitation. Her first role in the genre? The “baddest one-chick hit squad that ever hit town” in Coffy (1973), where she plays a nurse turned vigilante. The movie may not have been Oscar worthy, but one of its many amazing moments is, hands down, when Grier lounges poolside in a perfect white crochet bikini.


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4. Raquel Welch’s prehistoric swimsuit
Pretty much no one remembers the 1966 movie One Million Years B.C. And the ones who do probably don’t even recall Raquel Welch, who played Loana the Fair One—a part with just three lines. But the publicity shot of Welch wearing “mankind’s first bikini” became one of the most iconic movie posters of all time. The ragged, furry two-piece is not exactly beach ready, but this was prehistoric times, people!


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5. Annette Kellerman: the first swimwear activist

Believe it or not, in the early 20th Century, ladies had to actually fight for their right to wear swimsuits that would give them the freedom to backstroke. That is, until Annette Kellerman came along. The strong-willed Aussie credited for inventing synchronized swimming and being the first woman to attempt to swim the English Channel was a vocal advocate of one-pieces. Soon, legions of women followed her lead and demanded one-pieces—or, as they called them, “Annette Kellermans.”

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