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Summer holidays and swimsuits throughout history

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In summertime, life cannot be imagined without popular, practical swimsuits. As all pieces of clothing, they also change according to fashion trends. Today every woman is free to chose the swimsuit that fits her physique and needs best. There are one-piece and two-piece swimsuits, small and large panties, tops and push up bras, monokinis, thongs and G-strings… in all varieties of colours and patterns: plain, vivid or classical colours, flower, ethnic and stripe patterns, or even shiny swimsuits. However, swimsuits do not only belong to the present and future. Swimming wear also has an interesting and, from our present perspective, rather funny past.

Therefore, we invite you to choose a swimsuit that you like best and come to Opatija. We look forward to your visit!

History of swimsuits

Our ancestors used to bath whenever and wherever they wanted. Of course they wore no swimsuits – they were all nudists and bathed naked in creeks, rivers, lakes and the sea. In ancient Rome and Greece, people used to bath in a much more comfortable way – bathrooms, bathtubs and public baths were quite common there. At that time, people used to bath not only for hygiene, but also for health and religious reasons. Moreover, public baths were popular meeting areas and centres of social life.

In ancient Rome and Greece, people used to bath in a much more comfortable way – bathrooms, bathtubs and public baths were quite common there. At that time, people used to bath not only for hygiene, but also for health and religious reasons. Moreover, public baths were popular meeting areas and centres of social life. Although togas dominated on separated men’s and women’s baths, some mosaics reveal that the ancient Romans also knew two-piece swimsuits. A 4th century mosaic that was found in a Roman villa in Piazza Armerina on Sicily shows women wearing clothes that we would today describe as bikinis. Ancient Romans brought their culture of bathing, thermae and public baths to perfection and spread it all over Europe.

In the Middle Ages, many European towns also had numerous public baths. Most of them were mixed (that is, for men and women), and the separate ones were only divided by a symbolic wooden partition. Both men and women used to bath naked, but according to the fashion of the period, with their heads covered – which particularly applied to women. Therefore, we can say that in the Middle Ages, various head coverings were the only bathing wear, both in public baths and in private bathtubs.

The first designated bathing wear was invented at the end of the 18th century, when people discovered that the sea and seacoast were ideal for relaxation. It resembled a lot the sleepsuits of that period and included a long gown (of course with a corset underneath), special shoes and stockings, and a hat. The gown often had weights to prevent it from lifting immorally in water. At a time when women went into water only up to the waist wearing corsets, long gowns, hats and sun umbrellas, the Australian swimmer and actress Annette Kellermann made a revolutionary step in the history of swimwear and the fight for women’s rights

On a swimming competition in 1910, the English swimmer Gladys Osborne appeared in a swimsuit made of silk. Because such swimsuits were rather transparent and quite provocative, men had to view women’s swimming competitions from a safe distance.

In the 1930s, sunbathing was so popular that it was even prescribed by physicians. Swimming wear became more and more revealing: after some daring one-piece swimming costumes that revealed shoulders, upper back, décolletage and legs, the 1940s saw the arrival of the first, even more provocative, two-piece swimsuits, which soon started a new revolution in swimsuit fashion. Inspired by the American nuclear tests on the atolls in the South Pacific, French fashion designers created the most daring two-piece swimsuits ever.

In 1946, Jacques Heim displayed a two-piece swimsuit called ”Atom” in his Cannes shop. Soon afterwards, his competitor Louis Reard made history with his creation called ”Bikini”. The bikini presentation on the Paris fashion show, where it was worn by the nude dancer Micheline Bernardini, caused a lot of stir and scandal, but it also set the basis for the piece of clothing which became indispensable when it comes to women’s swimsuits!

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