Daily Picture Show

The Evolution of Olympic Swimwear

  • Full-body suits emerged nearly a decade ago, sparking debate over technology that cut swimmers' times. Australian Susie O'Neill shows off a model in 2000. That year, neck-to-ankle suits were cleared for the Olympics.
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    Full-body suits emerged nearly a decade ago, sparking debate over technology that cut swimmers' times. Australian Susie O'Neill shows off a model in 2000. That year, neck-to-ankle suits were cleared for the Olympics.
    Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images/ 
  • Mary Descenza sets a world record in the women's 200-meter butterfly Wednesday, finishing in 2:04.14 — nearly three seconds faster than her previous best. Her time drew attention to her rubberized swimsuit made by Jaked.
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    Mary Descenza sets a world record in the women's 200-meter butterfly Wednesday, finishing in 2:04.14 — nearly three seconds faster than her previous best. Her time drew attention to her rubberized swimsuit made by Jaked.
    Alessandra Tarantino/AP/ 
  • Michael Phelps (center) wore a high-tech suit at the 2008 Olympics. Starting in 2010, men's suits can run only from waist to knee, and women's can't go past the shoulder or below the knee. On Tuesday, Phelps suffered his first major loss since 2005. Germany's Paul Biedermann was wearing one of the new suits - Phelps was not.
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    Michael Phelps (center) wore a high-tech suit at the 2008 Olympics. Starting in 2010, men's suits can run only from waist to knee, and women's can't go past the shoulder or below the knee. On Tuesday, Phelps suffered his first major loss since 2005. Germany's Paul Biedermann was wearing one of the new suits - Phelps was not.
    Mark J. Terrill/AP/ 
  • The new full-body suits are a far cry from these worn by British swimmers J. Slane (left) and C. Stephens as they trained for the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
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    The new full-body suits are a far cry from these worn by British swimmers J. Slane (left) and C. Stephens as they trained for the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
    Hulton Archive/Getty Images/ 
  • The Finnish swimming team opts for a little more coverage during the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. Perhaps this was the start of a trend.
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    The Finnish swimming team opts for a little more coverage during the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. Perhaps this was the start of a trend.
    IOC Olympic Museum/Allsport/ 
  • American swimmer Corinne Condon poses for this portrait circa 1950 in a get-up that looks more like a dress than a swimsuit.
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    American swimmer Corinne Condon poses for this portrait circa 1950 in a get-up that looks more like a dress than a swimsuit.
    Hulton Archive/Getty Images/ 
  • By the time Nicole Haislett (left) and Dara Torres won gold medals with the U.S. women's 4x100-meter relay team during the 1992 Barcelona Games, Olympic swimwear looked more like the "common" swimsuit.
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    By the time Nicole Haislett (left) and Dara Torres won gold medals with the U.S. women's 4x100-meter relay team during the 1992 Barcelona Games, Olympic swimwear looked more like the "common" swimsuit.
    Allsport UK/Allsport/ 
  • Just 13 years ago, the tight and tiny Speedo was the suit of choice in the men's 100-meter backstroke during the 1996 Atlanta Games.
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    Just 13 years ago, the tight and tiny Speedo was the suit of choice in the men's 100-meter backstroke during the 1996 Atlanta Games.
    Mike Hewitt/Allsport/ 
  • This suit Phelps wore at the Olympics won't meet the new standards. U.S. national team head coach and general manager Mark Schubert told The Associated Press that the rules may make it difficult to break the records set since 2000.
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    This suit Phelps wore at the Olympics won't meet the new standards. U.S. national team head coach and general manager Mark Schubert told The Associated Press that the rules may make it difficult to break the records set since 2000.
    Luca Bruno/AP/ 

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The main topic of conversation at the World Swimming Championships in Rome this week has been those new-fangled swimsuits. The neck-to-ankle suits, enhanced with polyurethane, and now rubber, popped onto the scene in 2000 when they were cleared for competition at the Sydney Olympic Games. A number of world records have been broken since then, prompting swimming's governing body, FINA, to ban "non-textile" suits and limit the amount of coverage — between the waist and knees for men, not past the shoulders or below the knees for women. The new standards, passed on Friday, will take effect in May 2010.

With the new ruling, who knows what we will see at the next Olympic Games? We take a look at the history of competitive swimsuits, from the teeny-tiny Speedo briefs to full-body coverage and back.

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