Vintage style: down by the water

I’ve been away for a long time from my vintage style post series, but now I’m back and bringing you a guide to retro swimwear.  I don’t know if I’m going to manage to get within a splash of a pool this year, but some people, I believe, actually take holidays.  And if you don’t, the beauty of retro swimwear is that it’s often a lot more modest (and attractive) than modern styles, so perhaps if you’re brave you can take it to the local pool.  Just think: what would Marilyn do?

Marilyn favoured a bikini – which is the style that’s much easier to get hold of today too.  Here’s some history of the bikini I found interesting:

The bikini remained a taboo novelty throughout the 1950s. Made even of such unusual fabrics as mink, grass, and porcupine quills, bikinis were worn mostly by screen sirens and pin-up girls like Brigitte Bardot, Jayne Mansfield, and Diana Dors, along with sophisticates on the beaches of resorts along the Riviera. They were also showcased in bathing suit beauty contests in vacation spots like Florida and California. One-piece and more modest two-piece suits, resembling the highly structured undergarments of the period, held favor with the majority of women until the end of the decade, when bikini sales started to rise.

Source: A-Z Fashion, Berg Fashion Library

A porcupine quill bikini? Ouch?  No wonder they were taboo if that’s what they were making them out of.

Anyway, onto today’s buys!

This is an area where vintage really can’t help you that much.  The fabrics weren’t great and unless it’s deadstock I feel a bit gross about vintage swimwear somehow.  Much better to put your faith in modern styles and materials and these come in various price ranges, hence my ‘steal’ or ‘spend’ guide to what’s out there right now (I know, original)…


ASOS come out on top for variety and prices of retro style swimwear and even better, they often do most bikini top styles in a standard and ‘fuller’ bust size.  I really appreciate this because it’s real life affordable swimwear for curvy girls – bravo, ASOS!

I’ve just bought this one for the total price of just £15!*  No, I’m still not going anywhere, but y’know, just in case…

ASOS leaf print fuller/standard bust bikini, £15 total

A classic 50’s spot print and halterneck style, with a choice of either skirt briefs like these or high-waisted like the above.  The frills are kinda 40s too, so cute!

ASOS Mix and Match Spot 50s halter padded bikini, £28 total, +£4 for high-waisted briefs

Everyone loves a bit of gingham!

ASOS Gingham High Waisted Bikini fuller/standard bust, £30 total

And more spots, but this time in a swimsuit format.

Polka Dot Pin-Up One Piece, £32.97


Forluna has to be top choice for retro swimwear.  They do several variations of classic 50’s shaped swimsuits and bikinis.  And have an annoyingly stunning model.

Red retro swimsuit, £59.95
Yellow Flower Retro Bikini, $59.95 total

This from Rock Steady is charming 50s.

Hello Sailor Navy Blue One Piece Swimsuit, £49.97


Sea Folley Polka Dot D Cup Skirted Swim Suit, £67.50

Now it’s up to you how much you spend!

* I like to demonstrate my vintage looks on myself so everyone can see how easy they are to achieve, but this one took some nerve.  And I bottled it by throwing on a sarong and taking a blurry mirror shot.  (So sue me.)  However, I was really impressed with the quality of this bikini for the £15 I paid for it and it’s seriously flattering.  Which maybe you can see a little bit here.  I’m not as stick thin as the above model and I actually think it looks better on, eh-hem, curves.  Y’see what I’m mostly hiding in this photo is my hideous sunburned leg (yep, that’s why it’s an odd shade of beetroot – and yes, it’s just the one) 😉

ASOS high waisted bikini review

Now to book a holiday by the beach just so I can lay around pretending I’m Marilyn…


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