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BACKGROUND TO SWIMSUITS

Bikinis. One pieces. Trunks. We’ve been wearing swimsuits for a while now, so it’s fair to say that we know our way around a swimsuit.


Over the years, humans have loved relaxing in water, Romans built the first swimming pools and heated pools back in the first century. Over in Japan swimming events became more common, whereas people in Europe took the water a lot slower, however deadly infections is probably what slowed it down. Skip forward to the middle of the nineteenth century when swimming organisations started popping up all over the country, a lot in London. However swimsuits, like what we wear today, weren’t a thing until the early twentieth century, go back to the nineteenth century, but go back to the late nineteenth century and picture a bathing costume with bloomers, blouses, stockings and shoes on top. It wasn’t till the 1930’s were western people became less paranoid about getting a tan, swimsuits started to feature lower cut backs and arm holes, women’s midriffs also started to make an appearance, before the bikini was born in Paris during the 1940’s.

In the past, synthetic dyes weren’t as popular as they are now, up until the mid-nineteenth century dyes would have been extracted from animals, vegetables or minerals. In 1856 a chemist in London accidentally made mauveine (purple dye to you and me) and it took off from there. Depending on the dye, the fabric, or the effect the designer wants, that will alter the way the dye; the simplest way, water and dye. Sometimes you might want it to look more ‘uniform’ so then you would add an oxygen reagent to achieve this. Alternatively, there is a process called mordant dying, so this is a wet metallic solution and is made up of tin, chromium, iron or aluminium gets applied to the fabric, then you put the dye on top of that and the colour forms within the cloth. Or apply the dye directly to the cloth, leave the fabric in a hot solution with the dye; to get the patterns, you need to dye the fabrics that have been woven with different types of yarn usually including materials like nylon and polyester, different dyes react differently causing the pattern to form.

However, this produces a lot of waste, at this point we know anything involving dye produces loads of waste that can be harmful, now there is a way to reuse and recycle waste from production including dyes and any synthetic materials. Dyes are now purified and recycled and the left over synthetic fabrics are recycled and used to make other products, it could be something as simple as a water bottle.

Swimsuits also have to go through a lot of tests before they can go on sale to the public. The swimsuits will test the fabric, how well the colour changes (or hopefully doesn’t) by washing the swimsuits over and over in water that is either fresh, salt or chlorinated water and then exposing the swimsuits to simulated swimsuit.

Swimwear isn’t an easy business to crack, but hopefully this gave you some insight.

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