Evolution of the Bikini Body
Combined with the fitness and fashion trends, changes to the bikini body also reflect the culture and media at the time.
Let’s take a look at the transformation of the “Bikini Body” through the decades. Starting in the early 1900s through the swinging 60s, all the way to 2015.
In the years leading up to and during the 1920s, the women’s swimwear consisted primarily of tight, form fitting tops and shorts which overlapped to cover the midriff.
As a result of the modesty of the swimwear with very little exposed skin, the bikini body of this decade was largely curve-less. Often described as “unisexual”, the look left very little room for femininity.
As the swimsuits got smaller, peeks of midriffs became more common.
The 30s saw a very similar bikini body to that of the previous decade, however a more curvy physique had started to become more desirable. Flat but not defined stomachs and a subtle hourglass shape ruled the day, but very little emphasis was placed on muscle tone or appearing ‘fit’.
The 40s saw swimwear get even smaller, with the first official bikini being introduced in 1946.
The introduction of the bikini meant more skin being shown at local pools and beaches, as well as in the media – to the outrage of many censorship groups. The bikini body of the 40s was curvy and small waisted. Flat stomachs became highly sought after and legs became more shapely, to compliment the hourglass figure.
As the success and appeal of the bikini continued to grow, so did the interest in curvaceous figures and small waists.
Similar to that of the 40s, the bikini body of the 1950s placed high emphasis upon the exaggerated hourglass figure, as exemplified by stars like Marilyn Monroe. As in the 40s, arms were neither toned or defined, leaving the focus on more shapely legs and small waists.
By the 1960s, the bikini had started to become more widely accepted and with more and more skin being shown, the curvy, hourglass shaped bikini body still ruled the day.
However, the 60s did see a move from the more voluptuous figure of the 50s toward a longer, trimmer silhouette as seen with stars like Raquel Welch pictured above.
The 1970s saw the continuing of many of the trends seen in the 60s.
As two-piece swimsuits continued to become more ubiquitous, flat stomachs and shapely midsections stayed all the rage as they had been in the 60s. However, the 70s did begin to see a push toward an even trimmer figure, particularly in the arms and legs.
The 80s saw the dramatic rise of “fitness”, helped largely by programs like Jane Fonda’s aerobics exercises.
The bikini body of the day transformed into what is now referred to as the supermodel look. A physique mixing fitness and a trim silhouette while retaining as much shapeliness as possible.
Often referred to as the age of Baywatch, the bikini body of the 90s, interestingly enough, exists in two quite polarizing fashions.
The supermodel look of the 80s, with its curves, flat stomachs, and toned arms and legs continued to grow in popularity and being immortalized in shows like Baywatch. While at the same time an even more slender figure with fewer curves also began to rise in popularity.
The early 2000s saw the bikini body becoming more diversified and accommodating.
The bikini body of the early 2000s was a combination of healthy and slim, with a touch of curves. The biggest change from the previous decade being a new emphasis on muscle tone.
2010 Through Today
As bodybuilding, fitness, crossfit, and other forms of exercise continue to take the world by storm, a new emphasis on being physically fit while retaining curves is the new bikini body.
The new goal physique is one with defined abs, lean muscular upper and lower-bodies with some healthy curves. The emphasis on being “skinny” is fading and being replaced with words like “healthy,” “fit,” and “strong”.