1960s Bullet Bra Beachwear

Growing up, my brother and I were very fortunate to have a backyard pool for basically every summer I can remember. We would spend long afternoons pretending to be adrift in an endless sea, bouncing up and down in our inner tubes to make small nauseating waves, and hanging over the edge to warm ourselves on the inflatable ring.

I learned how much I enjoyed not just being in the water but actually swimming laps when I got to college. I don’t have the best form, but I’m fast (sometimes) and have a decent amount of stamina (at least more than I do running). I began flashing my ID to the freshman lifeguard and flip-flopping to the locker room when my schedule allowed. It didn’t matter what I looked like doing it, if I’d had an awful morning, or if finals were fast approaching. Everything emptied from me when I swam. I simply allowed myself to be there, to get tired, and to leave feeling refreshed, lighter.

With its minor age-related wear, I hesitate to stress this suit by taking it for a swim, but I believe it would have held up quite well in its day as an active piece. Many modern pieces of swimwear that I’ve encountered are designed less for athletics than they are for style. With wide straps, a relatively high neckline, and fitted bottoms, it’s not hard to imagine taking this one from the sand or pool edge into the water.

This swimsuit is likely from the early sixties, as retains some of the charms of the previous decade–something that was common for early sixties fashion. The one-piece cuts a girlish figure and is conventionally modest, with a fitted micro skirt attached to the bottoms. The back is rather low, coming into a scoop cut just below the waist.

The straps feature two clear buttons that could be readjusted to alter the length, but are more practically just decorative. A series of intricate topstitches and darts fan out from the underbust, helping to add to the hourglass shape. This of course, is also emphasized by what is known as the “bullet bra,” a look that was popularized in the 1940s. While this garment is far from the extreme of pointed bras of the era, it does have a slight conical appearance.

Large peach colored flowers and chartreuse leaves and stems make up the cheerful pattern of the suit. I would consider this style a subtle predecessor to the flower power looks that would have been popular just a few years later in the late 1960s. The colors offer a sweetness that feels, as with the beginning of the decade, like early summer: green grass, lemonade, and youthfulness.

It invigorates and inspires me that I am far from the first woman to enjoy swimming (just read up on Esther Williams). To feel both playful and strong, perhaps even beautiful (in a stringy-haired, wide-eyed, shivering, carefree sort of way) in the water is a tremendous set of feelings. While it may not be the most accessible activity these days, splashing around and propelling through the water holds a special place in my heart and I relish any chance to become so fashionably saturated.

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