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15 Facts About Bathing Suits That'll Make Your Eyes Pop

Why were bathing suits ever made out of wool?

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1. In Australia, tiny mens' Speedo bathing suits are called "budgie smugglers."

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The giggle-inducing nickname has been around since the '90s, and it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016! The name is a type of parakeet.

2. The first bathing suits for women were more like gowns, and they were made out of heavy fabrics like flannel and wool.

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They were often worn with pants (or bloomers), hats, socks, and shoes. Unsurprisingly, the fabrics and accessories made it difficult for some women to stay afloat.

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3. And some women, including Martha Washington, sewed lead weights into the hems of their bathing gowns to prevent the skirts from floating up.

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Sure, it ensured modesty, but it also definitely could've caused drowning, so was it really worth it?

4. It was illegal for men to go topless on American beaches until 1937.

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Freeing the male nipple was a long process in the US. In Atlantic City, lawmakers defended the rule, saying they didn't want "gorillas on our beaches." Jantzen invented "The Topper," one of the first mens bathing suits that allowed them to show off their chests, in 1932. It basically looked like an undershirt and shorts attached by a zipper.

5. And police used to monitor beaches and measure the length of women's bathing suits.

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Many women were arrested if they violated the strict dress codes that regulated how long their skirts could be, among other things.

6. Women used to change into their swimwear in wooden carts, which were then pulled into the water by horses so no one got a glimpse of their bodies.

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It was all about modesty back in the 1800s and 1900s, and it was thought that women should not be seen in their bathing suits on land at all. Enter the bathing machine, a private place for them to slim into something more swimmable and avoid the prying eyes of fellow beachgoers.

7. Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman was arrested for indecent exposure in Boston in 1907 for wearing a one-piece bathing suit that revealed her arms and legs.

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How scandalous! At the time, swimmers, especially women, did not show off anything above the knee. Kellerman, aka "The Original Mermaid," designed the suit herself and is considered the first woman to publicly wear a one-piece swimsuit, even if it didn't end too well for her.

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10. A company made a bathing suit out of rubber in the '30s called a "cloque"...that peeled off in the water.

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And not on purpose. The Seamless Rubber Company's crinkly-looking suits often got very hot and clammy (surprise, surprise), and would often just come right off. Luckily, they later used the same material to manufacture rubber bathing caps.

11. And another company invented a bathing suit for skinny dipping.

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The Moonlight Buoy, as it was called, was a bikini made in 1946 that had a cork buckle attached to the bottom. If the wearer wanted to go for a skinny dip, she could tie the top to the buckle, allowing both parts to float while she splashed around in the nude.

12. The bikini got its name from Bikini Atoll, where nuclear weapons were tested.

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The skimpy bathing suit was invented in 1946, one year after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when atomic fever was sweeping the globe. Louis Réard hoped his bikini would shock everyone the way the bomb did. Funnily enough, his invention came soon after another designer, Jacques Heim, introduced another teeny bathing suit, one he called the Atome.

13. It was almost impossible to find someone to model the very first bikini.

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The design was so jaw-dropping that no self-respecting model or actress would agree to wear it — none, that is, except for French nude dancer Micheline Bernardini. She agreed to wear Réard's creation in public, and held a matchbox as she did so to indicate that the bikini was so small it could fit inside a matchbox.

14. The inventor of the bikini said it couldn't be called that if it couldn't be “pulled through a wedding ring.”

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When Réard invented the bikini, it was a shocking turn from the more modest bathing suits people were wearing. In the 1950s, he advertised them with that eye-popping description, and honestly, he'd probably still be pretty happy with how bikinis look today.

15. A bathing suit called the pubikini was once designed to show off a woman's pubic hair.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Designer Rudi Gernreich was the definition of avant-garde: Not only did he invent the monokini, a one-piece that intentionally showed off both breasts, but he also designed the pubikini in 1981 to free the pubes. It never really caught on.

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