Until the end of the Victorian era, no self-respecting lady tolerated a suntan: a brown face and hands were indicative of the working classes. Upper-class women took care to protect their fashionably pale complexions from the sun’s rays with bonnets and parasols.
With the explosions of the craze for sunbathing in the 20’s came new fashions both on and off the beach, inluding reaviling clothes that would show off a golden tan. In the early 1900’s, doctors and scientists had begun actively to promote sun therapy for the benefits of vitamin D. The tide was already turning. Then, when Coco Chanel was spotted sporting a rich tan in the 1920’s, her acolytes took note and decided they wanted a sun-kissed body, too! By 1923 december tan had become a status symbol, synonymous with the luxury of winter travel.
Many fashion designers swiftly responded to the new craze, by designing attention-seekinh swimming costumes whose bright colours emphasized a tan. The launch of the bikini in 1946 gave women an excuse to flaunt even more bare flesh. But in 1960’s Brigitte Bardot did the unthinkable: topless sunbathing!
Today, topless or nude sunbathing is common. Bikinis are often tiny triangles of fabric and swimsuits are sometimes slashed or pierced with large holes to reveal the flesh.