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Swimwear refers to items of clothing that are especially designed to be worn at the beach or for water based activities, like swimming, surfing and water sports. The term is generic and it incorporates bathing suits for men, women and children.

Swimsuits are also worn during events that require a display of the body, like bodybuilding competitions. They can also come in different shapes and sizes. For women, there are two main types of swimwear, namely one piece and two piece swimsuits, called bikinis. The one piece swimsuit provides more coverage, and consequently, some women prefer to use it instead of a bikini, which covers only the breasts, the groin, and either part of or the entire buttocks, while leaving the abdomen and the back uncovered.

The shape of a typical bikini swimsuit resembles women’s underwear, but it is usually more lively colored. Most swimsuits are made of an impermeable nylon and spandex mixed fabric, which can be stretched repeatedly, and will still snap right back to its original form. Men may use either swim briefs, trunks or boardshorts, although full body wetsuits may also be used in sporting competitions or for deep sea diving.

The modern bikini was invented in 1946 by a French engineer named Louis Réard. Most of the models of the time refused to wear such a daring new clothing item, so Réard’s bikini swimsuit was almost never launched. The French engineer eventually resorted to hiring a nude dancer to model his invention. Consequently, the first woman to ever model a bikini swimsuit was 19 year old Micheline Bernardini. The bikini was an instant hit, turning young Bernardini into an overnight superstar.

Variants of the bikini include the monokini (see this ladie’s bikinis south Africa page for examples), the string bikini, and the mankini (bikini worn by men).

Nowadays, the bikini is the most popular type of women’s beachwear in the world, not only because it provides more skin surface for tanning, but also because it has come to be considered a symbol of femininity and women’s sexuality. The popularity of the bikini has lead to the creation of new concepts such as bikini contests, where women compete against each other in bikini swimsuits, and bikini waxing.

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