How Much Cover is Too Much, or Too Little? The French bathing suit controversy as represented in original source material

September 1, 2016 § Leave a comment

French beaches, or more accurately, the mayors of some French beach towns, have made headlines in recent weeks for their, so called, “Burkini Ban.” Many, including the New York Times and CNN, have commented on everything from the socio-political nature of the decision to it’s oddly hypocritical tone in the face of our more modern and multicultural western identity.

Posters, primary source documentation that speaks volumes to the ideals and cultural customs of their time, are snapshots into the past. The posters below highlight the fluid nature of French and Italian beach fashion across the decades.

This poster shows women, and men, in an array of beach wear. You can spot everything from bikinis and swim trunks to the couple in a high necked, full length gown and suit.

The swimsuit worn by the sunbather in this poster would seem harmless to many today. However, it was still considered revealing to many during that time.

This swimwear advertisement, from the same time period as the one above, leaves little to the imagination. Showcasing a naked woman in order to sell products was nothing new by this era but using this as an advertisement for beach wear, then policing what women wear at the beach shows the contradictory nature of the time. It also highlights how little has changed since then.

This poster advertises 150 years for the Baths of Rimini. Interestingly, Rimini is the same beach town mentioned in the New York Times article that inspired this piece. It begs the question; how will women’s self expression and personal representation be viewed by the world on the Rimini bath’s 170th anniversary?


This post was written by Susannah Starr, Summer Intern and Edited by Elizabeth Norris,  Vintage European Posters

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