Swimsuits of the 1950s exude glamour. Formal and structured, ’50s-era swimsuits flatter a wide array of body types and accentuate all the right curves. Corsetry cups and boning in 1950s swimsuits perk up the bosom, while control panels cinch in the waist — much like the era’s exaggerated female silhouette made fashionable by Christian Dior and his 1947 ‘New Look.’ Swimsuit legs were cut longer or covered by a skirt-like fabric, often called a modesty apron.
If you want to channel your inner Hollywood ingénue on the beach, go vintage. Most vintage stores carry a variety of retro swimsuits during the warmer months and you can find them online year-round. Before you shop for vintage swimsuits, get inspired by these classic 1950s styles worn by five silver screen icons.
1. Elizabeth Taylor
On the set of her 1953 film, "The Girl Who Had Everything," Elizabeth Taylor looked stunning in a one-shoulder mint green bathing suit that holds up her bosom and shows off her tiny waist.
Why it works today: Mint green is a hot color for 2013. Women with ample bustlines get extra support from the stylish one-shoulder strap and structured cups. Extra fabric around the rear and upper thighs hides unsightly areas.
Accessorize it: White accessories, like sunglasses, sandals and a sleek beach bag, look amazing with mint green. Show off the shoulder strap with a beachy updo.
2. Marilyn Monroe
The bikini debuted in 1946, so few women in the 1950s sported two-pieces like Marilyn Monroe’s adorable bathing suit. Most bikinis in the 1950s, like this one, were high-waisted and covered the naval to maintain modesty. Marilyn looks sweet yet sultry in the polka dot bikini embellished with ruffle details.
Why it works today: With the bikini bottom’s detachable ruffle skirt, it’s easy to cover or show off as much of your behind as you want. The high waist highlights slim midsections while hiding any lower-belly issues. Plus, you don’t have to worry about falling out of this flirty, full-coverage bikini.
Accessorize it: Pair it with cute open toe kitten heels, a polka dot parasol and long eyelashes.
3. Grace Kelly
Just a year before becoming Princess of Monaco in 1956, Grace Kelly wore this chic strapless bathing suit with seams and slight ruching that hugged her delicate curves. The suit is simple, yet sophisticated.
Why it works today: Classic black swimsuits are timeless and slimming. The low leg line hides imperfections on the rear and upper thigh, while the sweetheart neckline shows off the décolletage. It goes to show that skimpier bathing suits are not necessarily sexier.
Accessorize it: Top it off with a sheer black cover-up, oversized sunglasses and a shock of red lipstick.
4. Lana Turner
Lana Turner’s black-laced boudoir-inspired bathing suit highlights the actress’ curves, slender legs and fair skin. It’s alluring without being revealing, especially with the sheer lace cover-up that gives the ensemble a Spanish flair.
Why it works today: In 2013 lace made a major comeback, so this strapless bathing suit is perfectly on trend. The suit has a more modest silhouette, but the lace makes it oh-so sexy.
Accessorize it: Go for black open toe kitten heels, red nail polish and a simple red beach bag.
5. Esther Williams
In a 1950 Hollywood publicity shot, actress and competitive swimmer Esther Williams sports a halter swimsuit that flatters her athletic figure. Williams (who passed away on June 6, 2013) looks fresh, beautiful and all American.
Why it works today: Some women shy away from white, but white swimsuits look white hot on many bodies, particularly athletic builds, straight up-and-down figures or tanned skin. Its boy-cut bottom hides any imperfections and lets you play freely in the pool.
Accessorize it: Make it sporty with a striped cap (as shown) that picks up the stripes around the bathing suit’s legs. Throw on a pair of navy shorts and Keds before running down to the beach.