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Tan-through swimsuit bottom

Date: 1970-1975
Overall (laid flat): 235 x 400 x 20 mm
Medium: Polyester
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Ilma Cunnew
Object Name: Swimsuit bottom
Object No: 00047965

User Terms

    These tan-through swimsuits were made by Piz-Buin a Swiss sunscreen manufacturer and represent a short-lived novelty in the 1970s. Sheer polyesther fabric allowed the wearer to tan while still clothed. As the issue of skin damage from sun exposure emerged cosmetic companies developed products and marketing campaigns aimed at sun protection rather that sun tanning. Tan-through swimsuits were revived in the 1990s.

    SignificanceThese tan-through swimsuits represent a short-lived novelty of the 1970s and were a response to the fashion for dark tans during that decade.
    HistoryPiz Buin is the trading name of a Swiss sun cream company, based in Zug, Switzerland. It was the first to introduce the Sun Protection Factor (SPF), which has now become a worldwide standard.

    The fashion for sun tanning developed in the 1910s with the increasing popularity of swimming and an emerging beach culture. Jean Patou manufactured "Huile de Caldee" the first sunscreen in France in 1928. Brown and beige-tinted powders and creams were created to be brushed on the places the sun had missed. The fashion world featured clothes for women who wanted to flaunt their new tans; shoes were worn without stockings and sleeveless dresses became stylish. Bathing costumes that had covered women's legs with bloomers and stockings, now bared the leg, and swimming became an acceptable sport for women.

    Eugene Schueller, the founder of L'Oreal cosmetic company, created a sunscreen in the 1930s and Franz Greiter invented a product named Glacier Cream in the 1940s in response to sunburn he received in 1938 while climbing Piz Buin, a mountain of the Swiss-Austrian border.

    By the 1930's a sun tan stood for health, wealth and style. Before long, skimpier swim wear appeared, with slim shoulder straps which could be lowered to keep an even tan. The halter was introduced into swim wear design, allowing the shoulders to be exposed for tanning.

    Benjamin Green, a Florida physician, developed a sunscreen formula to protect the WWII American soldiers and sailors stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. The mass-produced product launched in 1944 became known as Coppertone suntan cream.

    By the 1940's, two piece bathing suits were being worn and the world would see tanned legs, exposed midriffs and bare feet in public for the first time. Pinups became popular and featured tanned women in two-piece bathing suits. Stocking manufacturers also began using 'suntan' as a coined name for stocking colours.
    Then, in the 1960's the sun lamp was introduced enabling people to tan all year round. During the 1970's the thong and the tan-through swimsuits made a suntan was virtually compulsory for any stylish woman. Models were photographed with tans in summer issues of the top fashion magazines, the darker the better. Tanning lotions were all about getting darker, with the idea of sun-protection low down on the list of prerequisites. In Australia sunbathing was popular in the mid 1970s and the products included Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil or scented Reef Oil. Piz Buin and Ambre Solaire were new on the market but more expensive.

    However recognition of the need to block the ultraviolet spectrum was made in the 1960s and 1970s with the first sunscreen appearing on the American market in the late 1960s. Its purpose was to attempt to minimize the effects of ultraviolet light from the sun.

    The 1980’s fitness craze encouraged the use of tanning beds for bodybuilders and a spray on tans and self tanning creams became popular. Tan-through swimsuits were revived in the 1990s.

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