Sat, 11 Jul 2020

The evolution of the bikini in the Soviet Union

05 Jun 2020, 20:54 GMT+10

History June 05 2020 Russia Beyond

The Black Sea coast of Crimea, vacationing on the beaches Gurzuf

Vladimir Akimov/Sputnik Even hardened Soviet women weren't above putting on skimpy bikinis and showing off their bodies! This is how the gradual transition took place.

It's hard to picture a working woman or a 'kolkhoznitsa' ("collective farmer") in a swimsuit - let alone a bikini, wouldn't you say? In these rare 1920-30s photos, we can often glimpse swimsuits with little shorts, and on rare occasions encounter what would become the future bikini (invented by Parisian fashion designer Jacques Heim in 1946), albeit with the belly button still covered up.


Aleksandr Grinberg/MAMM/MDF/

A portrait of a woman by the sea, 1920s.


In Odessa, 1925

Yury Litvin/MAMM/MDF/

On the beach in Sochi, 1937

Nikolay Ekimov's archives/

On the beach in the Leningrad Region, 1930s

Nikolay Ekimov's archives/

Vacationing in Crimea, 1946

Andrey Novikov/MAMM/MDF/

The first bikinis began to appear in the USSR only in the 1950s. Open strapless tops elicited shocked reactions - worn mostly by actresses or members of the bohemian circle. However, the high-cut bottoms - which we refer to as "retro" today - would not go out of style until the start of the 1980s. During the period this photo was taken, however, many women still felt a bit uneasy about exposing their bodies, and preferred one-piece swimsuits.

At a Crimean resort, 1950s

Leonoro Karel archives/

Archive photo

The 1960s saw much more frequent bikinis. During that decade, the belly button was finally freed. However, swimsuits and certain other wardrobe items were in a substantial deficit, so the fashion lovers of the day made their own with chintz, satin and other available materials they could get their hands on.

The first "Spidola", on the beach in Jurmala, 1960

Viktor Ruykovich/MAMM/MDF/

On the beach, 1966

Vsevolod Trasevich/MAMM/MDF/

Yacht outings, 1963

Yury Abramochkin/Sputnik

People vacationing on the beach in Sochi, 1960s


At the beach in Estonian SSR, 1960s

Aleksandr Cheprunov/Sputnik

At the Palanga resort, Lithuanian SSR, 1964


Youth, 1967

Lev Borodulin/MAMM/MDF/

It's 1969. The cult movie 'Brilliantovaya Ruka' ("The Diamond Hand") had come out, in which Svetlana Svetlichnaya showed up in a very provocative bikini by the standards of that day. She played a cunning seductress, and forever earned a reputation of a sex symbol of Soviet cinema (as well as the envy of every Soviet woman).

Still from 'The Diamond Arm'

Leonid Gayday/ Mosfilm, 1968

Actress Natalya Varley

Mercedin О. А./ Russian State Film and Photo Archives

In the 1970s-80s, an opportunity finally arose to get one's hands on "super-expensive" - but incredibly trendy - Western swimwear. The beaches were starting to come alive with colorful swimwear and various new fashion trends. And, finally, the first skimpy bottoms appeared on the scene - the bikini had arrived.

By the Black Sea, 1982

Vladimir Karlov/Vladimir Aleksandrovich Karlov archives

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