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Old-Timey Bathing Suit

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"The door is guarded by ten jacked homeless guys in old-fashioned bathing suits."
Stefon, Saturday Night Live

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  Not to be confused with modern wetsuits or bodyskins, which also cover more skin but are for protection and competition purposes, not modesty. And especially not with the Creepy Old-Fashioned Diving Suit.

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, 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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • Eleanor of Emma: A Victorian Romance 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 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 Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Phantom Blood with the 1880s British couple Jonathan and Erina, when they're 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.
  • Lupin III (and sometimes Jigen) is occasionally shown to wear one. It functions as a Shout-Out to the era that birth his famous literary grandfather.
  • One episode of the Karin anime had Karin wearing an old-fashioned striped one-piece suit that used to belong to her mother in the hopes of deflecting the attention of Winner Sinclair. Turns out the eccentric Winner still thinks it looks good on her.
    Maki: That's Winner for you... "interesting" taste.
  • 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.
  • Pecola: Pecola, Chewy, and Rudy are seen wearing the striped one-piece version in the Beach Episode "Gazelle's Goof".
  • Ranma ˝:
    • 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.
  • In the Beach Episode of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Rimiru wears an old-fashioned striped swimsuit.
  • 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.
  • The Wallflower: Sunako Nakahara, being the sort of girl she is, wears a striped Victorian-styled bathing suit whenever she goes swimming.

    Comic Books 
  • 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!
    • Another Archie story had Betty and Veronica filming a documentary on the history of the swimsuit, with Archie running the camera. While it was blatantly an excuse to draw the girls in sexy bikinis by the end, they also showed off some old-timey suits for both women and men.
  • 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 Vol 1: 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.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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."

    Fan Works 
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: During the Indigo League, Misty watches a video of her grandmother Ondine in higher definition, and comes to realize that the outfit she's wearing is not a dress like Misty assumed, but actually a swimsuit that was fashionable at the time.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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 1880s.
  • 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.
  • Stitch! The Movie: Jumba and Pleakley arrive at Lahui Beach wearing way outdated clothes for the beach (due to Pleakley's poor research), with Jumba wearing a one-piece bathing suit and Pleakley wearing a pink dress and bonnet.
    Jumba Jookiba: Are you sure wooly one-piece bathing suit is from proper century?
    Pleakley: (very sure of himself) Absolutely! Now put on your hat. (puts a pork pie hat on Jumba)
  • The Three Caballeros:
    • The Aracuan bird is introduced bathing in a pond wearing this style of bathing suit. Then he changes into his standard shirt behind a folding screen.
    • Donald Duck is later seen wearing one during the beach scene while chasing after live-action women.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Addams Family: Wednesday and Pugsley Addams wear matching suits like this in the second movie.
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Dick Van Dyke sports a red-and-white striped one-piece.
  • Donovan's Reef: Amelia, a Bostonian visiting French Polynesia, is given one which she applies Rip Tailoring to after embarrassing Donovan.
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: Lucy Muir is sketched in hers by the unscrupulous Miles Fairley, causing mild scandal to her maid, Martha.
  • Mrs. Brown: One scene has Queen Victoria and two of the younger princesses swimming in a cove, wearing dark purple outfits that resemble Bloomer dresses.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: The title character wears one as part of Mrs. Lovett's Dream Sequence during "By The Sea".
  • The Three Stooges: In the short "Restless Knights", the title characters play medieval court wrestlers — Moe and Curly incongruously wear striped old-timey suits, while Larry even more incongruously wears a leopard-skin caveman outfit.

  • 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.
  • The Coming Of The Quantum Cats: Implied and discussed in this multiverse-spanning novel by Frederik Pohl. 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.
  • Not actually seen, but referenced in Diary of a Wimpy Kid—- when Greg tries wrestling at school, he says the singlets remind him of “Those bathing suits from the 1920s.”
  • Discworld:
    • The Last Continent: The wizards wear these when they are definitely not on a tropical beach holiday, 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.
  • The Famous Five: Early editions tell of them wearing "bathing suits", and the original illustrations show them wearing full-body bathing suits. Modern reprints have changed this to "bathing trunks".
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: When attempting to blend in with Muggles, many wizards display a complete ignorance of appropriate fashion, and the results can be pretty hilarious. While viewing one of Dumbledore's preserved memories (circa 1950s), Harry sees Ministry of Magic representative Bob Ogden wearing "...a frock coat and spats over a striped, one-piece bathing costume."
  • More Misleading Cases in the Common Law: Referenced 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!"
  • Return To Gone Away: 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.
  • The Worst Witch: In The Worst Witch All At Sea, Miss Cackle orders bathing suits for the girls when they have a seaside excursion. In keeping with the old-fashioned nature of the school, these are striped old-timey bathing suits, complete with a school badge. When the girls are disappointed to see these, Miss Hardbroom is appalled by their lack of enthusiasm, and makes them write thank-you cards to Miss Cackle for providing the bathing suits.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 30 Rock: Liz prefers one of these when going on a beach vacation.
  • 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.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon and Amy wear these in one of their "Fun with Flags" segments.
  • Boardwalk Empire: One episode features a woman in 1920 getting a citation for wearing a swimsuit that ends above the knee.
  • Doctor Who: The First Doctor imagines himself in one when aliens attempt to read his mind in the serial "The Space Museum".
  • Horrible Histories: One episode 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Bumbling antagonists Bulk and Skull are seen wearing such swimwear in several episodes (the wide black-and-white stripes also resemble old-timey prison clothes).
  • Murdoch Mysteries: Set in late Victorian period and the turn of the century in Canada. There's a Heat Wave in Toronto in the episode "Loch Ness Murdoch" and our characters enjoy a Beach Episode. Lots of lovely beachwear 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.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • 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.

    Puppet Shows 
  • 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 children's 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.

  • Samantha's Edwardian collection from American Girl includes an accurate old-style bathing suit, Samantha's Bathing Costume. Both editions include a navy dress style bathing suit with an overskirt, black tights (either used from the collection or included), and swimming slippers; the first set from 1997 also includes a large straw hat, while the rerelease from 2005 has a bathing cap to cover her hair. Notably, Samantha never goes swimming in her books or movie; the first outfit was part of a limited edition set focusing on outdoor activities, while the second release was part of a set of swimsuits for early 20th century characters and included Kit and Molly to show how swim wear had changed over the eras. Rebecca separately received one—complete with swim cap and ankle boots—as a limited edition outfit in 2015.

    Video Games 
  • 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, set in 1912, 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 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.
  • One of the outfits in Miitopia is "Swimming gear", a good ol' male bathing suit and swimming cap.
  • 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.

    Web Animation 

  • Phil Foglio's Author Avatar wears one in a bonus strip of Girl Genius. Kaja's Avatar, on the other hand, has different tastes.
  • In Hooky princess Monica, Dani and Dorian wear these when going to the beach, while their friend Niko wears normal swimming trunks. The twins' bathing suits are even horizontally striped.
  • 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.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In the 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!
  • Batman: The Animated Series: The Joker wears one when he goes swimming in Mayor Hill's pool (Of course, taking into account his clown-white skin, bikini briefs would have been even more horrible.)
  • The Beatles, mirroring their publicity photo shoot, 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 (such as in "Hawaiian Holiday", "How to Swim" and "Aquamania").
  • Dinosaucers: The episode "Beach Blanket Bonehead" involves the cast all spending a day at a beach, and Bronto-Thunder's two-piece striped number falls squarely into this trope.
  • 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.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Any time the characters are in the pool or at the beach, Mr. Herriman is shown wearing one of these.
  • The Legend of Korra: As a 1920s analog, this type of swimwear seems to be the norm. 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 two sets of swimwear here.
  • 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.
  • Monkey Dust: The Paedofinder General wears one... which makes sense, since he would likely consider the exposure of skin in public to be a form of paedophilia.

  • The Mr. Men Show: In the storyboards, 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.
  • Popeye:
    • 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".
  • Swing Shift Cinderella: In this Tex Avery short, 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 and Jerry: Tom wears one in every Beach Episode (including "Salt Water Tabby" and "Muscle Beach Tom"). Strangely enough, Tom still wears it in Tom and Jerry Tales, 60 years later!


Video Example(s):


That Time I Went to the Beach

Rimuru's swimsuit is a bit old fashioned, emphasizing that his body is actually genderless.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / OldTimeyBathingSuit

Media sources: