Bathing was uncomfortable for both adults and children before World War I. Modesty demanded that as much as possible of the body was well covered. Women often wore stockings as well as the all-enveloping costume. Most women adopted the one-piece woollen costume as swimming became more popular, but it was not until the 1920s that costumes started to become smaller and more sensible.
|Swimmers at Bondi in the 1920s. (State Library of NSW)
The 1930s and 40s saw the first moves towards separating the top and bottom halves of the costume, and these eventually culminated in the two-piece swimsuit.
|Bondi Beach Party 1959.
The bikini was introduced in the late 1940s and has remained in fashion. Each year has seen the introduction of even briefer costumes. The annual rumour that the topless swimsuit is about to become commonplace on Australian beaches is closer to becoming a reality, with Bondi leading the way.
|Text originally published in
Readers Digest. 1979.