Style & Beauty

These Old-Hollywood Bombshells Have All The Vintage Swimwear Inspiration You Need

We've already taken notes.
06/11/2018 05:45am ET

The women of Old Hollywood somehow managed to look glamorous wherever they were, including the beach. And it’s not their hair and makeup we’re talking about ― though both were always impeccably done ― it’s their swimsuits.

For the women of cinema’s golden age, one-piece swimsuits were extremely popular. These usually featured flattering sweetheart necklines, ruching throughout the body and low-cut leg openings, and sometimes came in fun prints. Around the 1940s, stars like Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner wore two-pieces, with high-waisted, full-coverage bottoms and structured halter tops. (The bikini as we know it ― low-rise bottoms with higher-cut leg openings and a more bra-like top ― was introduced to the U.S. in 1946, Slate notes.)

There’s something about vintage swimsuits that just screams “bombshell.” Sure, they provided more coverage than the itsy-bitsy, teenie-weenie bikinis favored by Instagram “it” girls and models these days, but they’re no less sexy.

Unsurprisingly, considering everything old becomes new again, vintage swimsuits have clearly inspired a number of current retailers and brands, most notably ModCloth and Lisa Marie Fernandez.

As you prepare to hit the beach, pool, roof, balcony or even your fire escape this summer to soak up the sun’s rays (while wearing SPF, obviously), look to these Old Hollywood stars for all the swimwear inspiration you need. And always remember: The only thing you need to have a “bikini body” is a bikini, or any swimsuit, and a body.

Marilyn Monroe
George Rinhart via Getty Images
Enjoying the waves at the beach sometime in 1955.
Lucille Ball
Bettmann via Getty Images
Wearing a strapless swimsuit in "Best Foot Forward," circa 1943.
Barbara Stanwyck
Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images
Reclining on a diving board in 1945.
Esther Williams
NBC via Getty Images
In a swimsuit during "The Esther Williams Aqua Special" in 1956.
Dorothy Dandridge
Bettmann via Getty Images
Relaxing in the sunshine on the French Riviera in 1957.
Sophia Loren
Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images
On a motor boat in the mid-1960s.
Bette Davis
Bettmann via Getty Images
Posing for a photo on the beach in California in 1933.
Elizabeth Taylor
Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images
Wearing a one-piece leopard print swimsuit, circa 1955.
Elizabeth Taylor (again!)
Sunset Boulevard via Getty Images
On the set of the 1959 movie "Suddenly Last Summer."
Grace Kelly
Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
Among deckchairs and sunshades in the Cote d'Azur in 1955.
Lauren Bacall
Bettmann via Getty Images
On the set of the 1957 film "Designing Woman."
Marilyn Monroe
Hulton Archive via Getty Images
In a strapless bathing suit and high heels, circa 1951.
Rita Moreno
Archive Photos via Getty Images
Posing on a balcony in a striking orange swimsuit sometime in 1961.
Jean Harlow
General Photographic Agency via Getty Images
Exercising with weighted pulleys on a patio, circa 1933.
Rita Hayworth
Bob Landry via Getty Images
Taking a bite out of a hamburger as she sunbathes in a white two-piece bathing suit, circa 1941.
Ava Gardner
Eric Carpenter via Getty Images
Flashing a big grin while modeling a stylish swimsuit on the beach in 1943.
Ginger Rogers
John Kobal Foundation via Getty Images
Rubbing sun lotion onto her legs before sunbathing in 1936.
Natalie Wood
Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images
Posing by a pool in a one-piece swimsuit, around 1965.
Norma Shearer
FPG via Getty Images
By the swimming pool of her Hollywood home sometime in 1930.
Gina Lollobrigida
Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
Posing in a swimsuit in a recreational park in Rome in 1949.
Jean Simmons
Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images
Wearing a print pattern swimsuit, circa 1960.
Veronica Lake
Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images
Lounging by the pool in a red-and-white striped swimsuit, around 1945.
Anne Baxter
Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
Wearing a strapless bikini top and matching bottoms, circa 1950s.
Alice White
Margaret Chute via Getty Images
Practicing her aquaplaning techniques, sometime in 1928.
Janet Leigh
Pictorial Parade via Getty Images
Wearing a purple bathing suit in the 1950s.

Here are a few vintage-inspired swimsuit options you can get for yourself:

Vintage-Inspired Swimwear
Instagram-Worthy Swimsuit Brands