Before the 20th century, people who wanted to go swimming in mixed company but keep their modesty would wear bathing costumes that covered nearly as much skin as their regular clothing. In fact, men could be arrested for swimming topless. These are relatively rare in Western culture in the current day, but are still used in cultures where body modesty is considered paramount, such as among Muslims (the style is called a "burqini"). note
In fiction, these will be seen either in period stories where they're appropriate, or on an individual character to show that he or she is hopelessly old-fashioned, extremely modest, or downright prudish. Stereotypically, the horizontally striped models from between 1900 and 1910 are used (the page image is from 1906), as swimwear started becoming more daring in the 1920s.
Note that in the late 19th century it was often still considered obscene to be seen even in an Old-Timey Bathing Suit, and beaches installed elaborate bathing machines to ensure there was no chance of accidentally seeing a woman's legs from the beach. Annette Kellerman, the Australian swimmer who was one of the first women to attempt to swim the English Channel, was arrested for indecent exposure in Boston when she appeared in public in a swimsuit of her own design.
That made this kind of swimsuit also a porn trope when bathing machines were at their zenith, before mixed gender bathing started to become more acceptable in the 1900s. Even during The Edwardian Era, when standards started to relax, the female version of the Old-Timey Bathing Suit, with its extremely short (by the standards of the 1900s) skirt and the sheer (usually black) silk stockings that always covered the wearer's legs, was an immensely popular motif in the pinup art and photography (the so-called "French postcards") of the period. The famous illustrator Charles Dana Gibson (creator of the "Gibson Girl"), for instance, drew a lot of pictures of beautiful young women disporting themselves at the seashore in these outfits — very likely, according to one biographer, so that he could legitimately draw shapely and exposed feminine legs.
Contrast the Barely-There Swimwear.
- Kanade Jinguji in Best Student Council wears such a bathing suit, and even gives one out as a gift. Only her most dedicated fangirl will willingly wear it and Kanade can't quite comprehend why that is.
- The servants wear some in Black Butler, episode 7. May Linn still manages to bring some Fanservice, though. The anime is set in the late 1800s. Regardless of how much they cover, Maylene's bathing suit still would have been scandalously unmodest for the time.
- In The Daughter of Twenty Faces, during the very brief Beach Episode, Tome wears one of these, though it's much more clingy than was the intention of the original artists.
- Lupin III is occasionally shown to wear one. It functions as a Shout-Out to the era that birth his famous literary grandfather.
- The girls in The Familiar of Zero wore such bathing suits, and the plot of the Beach Episode centered on the guys getting them into more provocative swimsuits from Saito's world.
- Used in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure with the 1880s British couple Jonathan and Erina when they are on a date and playing around at a local river.
- In Ladies Versus Butlers!, Kaoru Daichi is, after much panicking, given one of these by Tomomi for the Beach Episode.
- Lichtendahl of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 is seen wearing one, while everyone else has much more modern bathing suits on. It's eventually revealed that he wore it to cover up the fact that large parts of his body have been replaced by machinery.
- All Might wears this style while overseeing Midoriya's training in My Hero Academia. It both suits his "goofy dad" personality and hides the massive scarring on his torso.
- Ranma ½:
- Sōun Tendō wears one of these each time they go to the beach, although the rest of the cast wear contemporary bathing suits.
- Miniature Senior Citizens Happōsai and Cologne too. Thank goodness.
- Dr. Eggman in Sonic X wore one of these in one episode, stripes and all. All things considered, this was probably for the best. See the Fan Disservice page image for why.
- Since Touhou takes place in a Magical Land with a culture mostly based on Feudal Japan, the Touhou Suzunaan ~ Forbidden Scrollery entry in CompAce Swimwear Book 2015 featured main character Kosuzu wearing one of these.
- Eleanor of Victorian Romance Emma visits the beach in a couple side-stories and can be seen wearing this type of outfit, complete with a mobile changing house. Her maid falls into the water when the house unexpectedly pulls away while she's sitting on the steps.
- The Wallflower: Sunako Nakahara, being the sort of girl she is, wears a striped Victorian-styled bathing-suit whenever she goes swimming.
- Archie Comics has done a few stories with the gang dressed up in old-timey swimsuits ("bathing costumes"). One story actually had Riverdale transported back in time, and when they went to the beach Veronica was very nearly arrested for wearing a swimsuit where you could see her (gasp!) ankles and shoulders!
- Shows up in The Beano occasionally. If it's done at all recently, you can bet that it'll be someone's parents wearing them, with the kids groaning in shame at the sight.
- Ms. Marvel (2014): Ms. Marvel's costume is partially constructed from a burquini. "I thought you swore you would never wear that." "Never wear that to swim."
- Mortadelo y Filemón: Mortadelo's favorite swimming gear.
- Dupond and Dupont (Thomson and Thompson) wear old-fashioned bathing suits◊ in one of the Tintin stories (though in this case they're not at the beach but in the desert, and think there's a lake in front of them.
- Wonder Woman (1942): The Holliday Girls are rather curious to see what their middle aged dean looks like in a swimsuit, only for her swimsuit to be an old fashioned not form fitting striped thing with carpi-length pants.
- A cartoon Whitney Darrow drew for The New Yorker in the 1940s has two men chatting on a beach; the younger one is wearing a modern bathing suit, while the older one has one of these, and is saying "Believe it or not, this is the first vacation I've had in twenty-three years."
- Anastasia: The Russian imperial family, including Anya herself, is shown wearing these in a dream sequence.
- The Mousekwitz family and Tony Toponi wear these at the end of An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster, implied to take place in the late 1880's.
- Milo accidentally includes a photo of himself wearing this style of swimsuit, plus a goofy-looking inner tube, in a slideshow presentation in Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
- The Three Caballeros:
- Wednesday◊ and Pugsley Addams wear matching suits like this in the second The Addams Family movie.
- Dick Van Dyke sports a red-and-white striped one-piece in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
- In the film Donovan's Reef, Amelia, a Bostonian visiting French Polynesia, is given one which she applies Rip Tailoring to after embarrassing Donovan.
- Anna Muir is sketched in hers by the unscrupulous Miles Fairley in The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (1947, set at the beginning of the 20th century), causing mild scandal to her maid, Martha.
- The title character of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street wears one in the movie version as part of Mrs. Lovett's Dream Sequence during "By The Sea".
- In the short "Restless Knights", The Three Stooges play medieval court wrestlers — Moe and Curly incongruously wear striped old-timey suits, while Larry even more incongruously wears a leopard-skin caveman outfit.
- In Belles on Their Toes, the girls are wearing skirted bathing suits with leggings in 1924, when one-piece suits are starting to become the norm. Mother's is even worse, described as "practically a Gay Nineties model" and able to pass for a circus tent. Martha scandalizes her sisters when she forgets her suit and decides to wear just the underpart of her mother's.
- Implied and discussed in Frederik Pohl's multiverse-spanning novel The Coming of the Quantum Cats in which a version of the main male character in one timeline narrates that him going topless whilst swimming is considered daring — he'd be arrested if caught. This goes towards demonstrating that the timeline in question is an Oppressive States of America, dominated by a morally-conservative government influenced by wealthy and powerful Arabs.
- Discworld: The wizards wear these when they are definitely not on a tropical beach holiday in The Last Continent, only made suitably wizardly:
Confront a wizard with the concept of a bathing suit and he'll start to get nervous. Why does it have to be so skimpy? he'll ask. Where can I put the gold embroidery? How can you have any kind of costume without at least forty useful pockets? And occult symbols made out of sequins? There appears to be no place for them. And where, when you get right down to it, are the lapels?
Also, it takes heavy machinery to part a wizard from his pointy hat.
The Chair of Indefinite Studies looked sideways at the Dean. They both wore a variety of garments in which red and white stripes predominated.
- Referenced in More Misleading Cases in the Common Law, when a man is tried for indecency because the council feel he should have been wearing something like this when swimming, and the judge throws the case out with the words "My father wore nothing but drawers. So do I!"
- In Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright, the children borrow bathing suits similar to these from their elderly neighbor Mr. Pindar Payton. At the advice of Mrs. Minnehaha Cheever, Mr. Payton's sister, the two girls wear boys' swimsuits because the girls' version would be rather cumbersome.
- 19 Kids and Counting reveals that the Duggar family mandates very modest swimwear, females wear skirted onesies while males are required to wear swim shirts.
- On 30 Rock, Liz prefers one of these when going on a beach vacation.
- On The Addams Family, this is the sort of bathing suit Gomez wears while moonbathing.
- Bassie & Adriaan: whenever they go swimming, Bassie will wear one of these.
- On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon and Amy wear these in one of their "Fun with Flags" segments.
- An episode of Boardwalk Empire features a woman in 1920 getting a citation for wearing a swimsuit that ends above the knee.
- The First Doctor imagines himself in one when aliens attempt to read his mind in the Doctor Who serial "The Space Museum".
- An episode of Horrible Histories features the Victorian Beach Watch, a pair of lifeguards who take so long getting into their Old-Timey Bathing Suits that they end up failing to save a struggling swimmer. Who was struggling in the first place because his suit was so hard to swim in.
- On How I Met Your Mother, Lily forces Ted to wear a red-and-white striped bathing suit that was hanging as decoration in the hotel they are staying at because Ted and Marshal ruined her dress for a rehearsal dinner.
- On one episode of I Love Lucy, Lucy buys what Ricky assumes is a one-piece swimsuit for Little Ricky. It's actually for Lucy herself. "It stretches."
- Laugh-In features the cast dressed like this for a musical/comedy sketch dealing with the issue of chicken meat being used in hot dogs.
- Murdoch Mysteries is set in late Victorian period and the turn of the century in Canada. There's a Heat Wave in Toronto in episode "Loch Ness Murdoch" and our characters enjoy a Beach Episode. Lots of lovely beach wear to be admired, worn by both ladies and gentlemen. At the end Murdoch gets a bit scandalized (but not really) when Julia decides it's ridiculous that she's wearing wool stockings.
- The Beatles wore them along with straw boater hats on an early beachside photo shoot.
- The cover of In the Aeroplane over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel depicts these.
- "The Who Sell Out" album cover has the four band members posing in mock advertisements, with Roger Daltrey wearing one, sitting in a tub of baked beans.
- Male wrestlers can be seen sporting any number of wrestling costumes, but the type favored by Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam and Jack Swagger (among others) is the singlet, which looks similar to an Old Timey Bathing Suit except for showing more of the legs. For that matter, British wrestler Dave Taylor was known to wear a legless red one-piece that wouldn't have looked out of place on one of the female lifeguards on Baywatch.
- In a series of promos for SummerSlam 2006, Viscera wore a bathing suit of this type for the WWE pool party. This wasn't due to prudishness, but the fact that he was so disgustingly fat that no one wanted to see any more of him than was necessary.
- The Muppet version of Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas starts with Emmet and his mother singing a made-up folk song about "Grandma Otter"'s infamous bathing suit. Infamous for how big it was, that is. (And yeah, it's clearly a fat joke, but even so...)
Even though it was her bathing suit that made her famous — it was almost heaven sent
Many times when it was drying on the line a tourist would mistake it for a circus tent
- In South African childrens' show Die Liewe Heksie, Lavinia the Little Witch wears one for the Beach Episode, despite the obvious amusement of the elves she is with.
- Our Miss Brooks: In "Heat Wave", Miss Brooks notices Mr. Boynton, Harriet Conklin, Walter Denton and Stretch Snodgrass are wearing bathing suits beneath their regular clothes. They're quite evidently in the old timey style, given the fact Miss Brooks sees the suits sticking out of their collars.
- Animal Crossing: New Leaf introduced swimming as a new feature. In order to swim, the player has to don a wet suit that looks similar to these kinds of bathing suits. About eight different kinds are available and all can only be purchased on Tortimer Island.
- Male Hom wears one in the beach scene in Atelier Rorona.
- BioShock Infinite has people wearing these in Columbia's Battleship Bay. That's right, the flying city even has a huge artificial beach.
- Harris from Harvest Moon 64 a man who wears one at the Swimming Festival.
- Ittle Dew 2 has one such (male) bathing suit as an unlockable outfit for Ittle. With the stripes and the locker key tied to her ankle, it makes her look a bit like an escaped convict.
- One of Zafira's unlockable swimsuits in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable : The Gears of Destiny. The other one is a Fundoshi.
- The park inspector dons one when evaluating pools in RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Soaked!.
- In Tales of Symphonia, there's a sidequest in which you can earn swimsuit costumes for some of your party members. Regal's swimsuit is in this style, although not striped... and this despite the fact that Zelos gets a speedo. It could be justified as Tethe'allan fashion being outdated by our current standards, except the others all have modern-style swimwear, and the fact that there are bunny girls in Altamira. Which is where Regal is from and the swimsuit sidequest takes place. Fangirls were a little miffed about this one, too, but it was fortunately corrected in The Anime of the Game.
- Welkin, protagonist of Valkyria Chronicles, favors the horizontal stripes during the Beach Episode bonus chapter. It's pretty out of style in 1935, but no more than some of the modern-day fashions his troops are wearing. Note that the women in the sequence all wear much skimpier modern suits (except for Eleanor Varrot who thinks herself too old). Leaving miffed fangirls without a Welkin Shirtless Scene.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Digital Series: In the various Beach Episodes or the Cruise Special Spring Breakdown, local nerd Micro Chips is seen wearing an old-school, striped suit with suspenders. (Though the girls don't wear such swimsuits, theirs are still a bit all over the place in term of time periods.)
- Phil Foglio's Author Avatar wears one in a bonus strip of Girl Genius. Kaja's Avatar, on the other hand, has different tastes.
- The Order of the Stick: The androgynous Vaarsuvius wears one in the "Beach Party" wallpaper here.
- As the cast of Pocket Princesses came from movies that took place in the olden days, the princesses frequently wear these types of swimwear.
- Cecania from Sore Thumbs wears an early 20th-century swimsuit because her figure is so spectacular the U.S Congress passed a law specifically prohibiting her from wearing anything more revealing to protect public morality.
- Everyone, male and female, wears these in the Beach Episode of Tiny Kitten Teeth except for Mewsli (who wears ordinary trunks). Since the comic is, by all indications, set in the present, this can likely be chalked up to the eccentricities of rich people.
- In the American Dad! episode "An Incident at Owl Creek", Stan makes Hayley wear one of these to a pool party.
Haylely: Dad, I'm sweating like a pig in this thing. It's humiliating.
Stan: Not to me. And show some respect! Your grandmother drowned in that bathing suit!
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Legend of Korra, being set in a 1920s analog, features this type of swimwear. When compared to the beach episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, it looks like fashion has grown more conservative in the 70-year timeskip. Alternately, Republic City might simply be colder than the tropical islands of the Fire Nation. You can compare the the two sets of swimwear here.◊
- The Joker wears one when he goes swimming in Mayor Hill's pool in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. (Of course, taking into account his clown-white skin, bikini briefs would have been even more horrible.)
- Mirroring their publicity photo shoot, The Beatles wear these in the episode "Boys." They look completely out of place compared to the guys who congregate at a beach for a movie studio's Mr. Hollywood contest.
- CatDog The title characters are seen wearing one (they're Conjoined Twins) when they go swimming, as seen in the episode "Shriek Loves Dog" (also when they dive into a pile of diamonds which are actually rock candy in the episode "Diamond Fever").
- Classic Disney Shorts: Goofy has been known to wear this whenever he goes out in the water (i.e., "Hawaiian Holiday", "How To Swim", "Aquamania").
- Gravity Falls: "The Deep End" has Stan wearing an old-fashioned striped bathing suit at the town's swimming pool. It also serves to hide the mysterious tattoo on his back.
- Looney Tunes:
- Bugs Bunny wears one lifted from the Coney Island Baths in "Frigid Hare", when he shows up at the North Pole (or South Pole, or wherever penguins and Eskimos coexist).
- In the 1955 Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird cartoon "Sandy Claws", Granny (often portrayed as an old-fashioned, turn-of-the-century schoolmarm), teases the audience that she is going to try on her "new bikini bathing suit" during a trip to the beach... and emerges from a beachhouse wearing a full bathing suit and shower cap. (Incidentally, this was the final Sylvester and Tweety cartoon to feature the "old-style" Granny, as voiced by Bea Bernadet. Future cartoons featured a re-styled Granny and her voice done by actress June Foray.)
- In the Daffy Duck cartoon "Muscle Tussle", Daffy is shown up at the beach by a Speedo-wearing muscle-builder duck — as the designated nine-pound weakling, Daffy wears an old-timey striped suit and straw boater hat.
- "The Dover Boys" features an odd man walking by wearing an old-timey bathing suit as a Running Gag. He ends up with the girl at the end, after the Dover Boys punch each other out.
- Mighty Magiswords: Ralphio and King Rexxtopher wear them in the episode "Pool Fools". Everyone else wears more modern swimsuits, even Old Man Oldman.
- The Paedofinder General in Monkey Dust wears one... which makes sense, since he would likely consider the exposure of skin in public to be a form of paedophilia.
- In the storyboards from The Mr. Men Show, Mr. Persnickety wears one when he goes swimming.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Granny Smith wears an old-fashioned women's bathing suit in "Leap of Faith", when Flim and Flam's "miracle cure" inspires her to relive her days as an aqua-pony.
- Phineas and Ferb:
- The show takes it a step further with the Klimpaloon, a living bathing suit meant to spoof myths about the Yeti. As the song says:
He's the magical, old-timey bathing suit that lives in the Himalayas, they call him Klimpaloon. (Klimpaloon...)
- One episode features a Corrupt Corporate Executive who runs a company that makes bathing suits and tries to abduct Klimpaloon as part of a scheme to increase the demand for this kind of bathing suit.
- The show takes it a step further with the Klimpaloon, a living bathing suit meant to spoof myths about the Yeti. As the song says:
- Olive Oyl is only ever seen in this kind of suit when at the beach.
- Popeye wore one at least once, already laughably out of date in the mid-1930s. He's called out for wearing one in I Wanna Be a Lifeguard and laughed at for how horribly out of date it is by everyone at the pool. The others (including Bluto) wear more fashionable swimsuits for the 1930s.
- Regular Show. Pops wears one of these. Given that he's over a hundred years old and usually dresses in an antiquated fashion, it suits him.
- Rugrats: Grandpa Lou Pickles wears this kind of bathing suit in "Beach Blanket Babies."
- The Simpsons:
- Marge wears this in the King Kong (1933) parody in one "Treehouse of Horror" episode.
- According to "Lady Bouvier's Lover", Marge's mother was once forced off the beach by police for "indecent exposure". She was wearing one of these, but it showed off too much "gam".
- Abe Simpson wears one on the beach in "Catch 'Em if You Can".
- In the Tex Avery short "Swing Shift Cinderella", the randy old fairy godmother transforms her dress with a wand to go nightclubbing with the unwilling wolf. She accidentally ends up in an old-style swimsuit with a beauty contest sash that reads "Miss Repulsive 1893".
- Tom wears one in every Beach Episode of Tom and Jerry (i.e., "Salt Water Tabby" & "Muscle Beach Tom"). Strangely enough, Tom still wears it in Tom and Jerry Tales, 60 years later!