Bloomers to bikinis: Bathing suits through history

Story highlights

  • The average American woman owns four bathing suits
  • There were 30 square inches in one of the first bikinis
  • The swimwear industry estimates $17.6 billion in revenue for 2015

Do you prefer a one-piece or a string bikini? Swim trunks or a snug Speedo? Whatever you select, your choice isn't made in a vacuum under the florescent lights of a fitting room. History has informed the bathing suit styles of today, in ways we might never imagine. Click through the gallery above to learn how modesty, function and the evolution of style have affected the suits you take to the water, and look below for a collection of facts about swimwear.

$17.6 billion: The estimated revenue of the worldwide swimwear industry in 2015, according to research firm Global Industry Analysts.

4: The average number of bathing suits an American woman owned in 2012, as researched by Statistics Brain statisticians.

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20: The percentage of women who said they are concerned what the general public thinks when they wore a bathing suit, according to a recent survey by clothing company Land's End.

7 in 10 : The number of women who told Land's End they prefer to wear one-piece swimwear.

46: The percent of U.S. men who feel their abs aren't ready to show off at the beach or pool, according to a 2011 survey by "Anytime Fitness."

1920s: The decade Australian swimwear company Speedo makes the first non-wool bathing suit.

July 5, 1946: Louis Reard introduced the "bikini" at a popular Paris swimming pool. (A similar swimsuit, called the "atome," was introduced around the same time, by fashion designer Jacques Heim.)

30 square inches: The amount of fabric in one of the first bikinis. In one of Reard's ad campaigns, he claimed a bikini wasn't a real bikini unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring. Anybody got a robe? Anyone?

1958:The year textile company Lycra says scientists created the eponymous fabric that would benefit saggy swimsuits everywhere.

1964: The first year Sports Illustrated published a swimsuit edition.

$12.95: The modern price of a ladies' vintage-style rubber swim cap with flowers on it from The Vermont Country Store.

Photos: Happy birthday, blue jeans!

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