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California Girls

The Swimsuit: A History of Twentieth-Century Fashion by Sarah Kennedy (Carlton Books; $34.95; 304 pages)

This is a serious survey of the evolution of the ladies’ swimsuit in the 20th century.   The text offers a chronology of the garments worn by bathers, accompanied by countless illustrations and photographs.   Don’t let the fancy layout and gorgeous swimsuit models in the modern era suits fool you.   There’s a strong correlation between the social and political achievements during the last century and the freedoms we now enjoy.  

Innovations in fabric production have allowed designers to create remarkably colorful and daring shapes that stand up to water and sunshine.   In the past, there were several concepts that seemed like good ideas but failed miserably when put to use.   The rubber suit was one of them.   It seems that it was only good for a couple of swims before it crumbled – not exactly a pretty picture!

Author Sarah Kennedy traces the various manufacturers and designers whose work stands out and has survived the whims of fashion.   She has brought together resources from England and the United States.   There is a comprehensive list of designers and manufacturers as well.   This book would make an excellent present for the swimsuit fashionista on your holiday gift list.

Reviewed by Ruta Arellano.   Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

Take Away:  Women will enjoy reviewing this clever look at the female liberation movement, from an on-the-beach perspective.   But don’t be surprised if the males in the household (ages 15 to 80) are caught using it for scientific research purposes!

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