National Geographic Goes Swimming

Singer Lady Gaga, responds to acknowledgement from President Barack Obama, as he speaks at the Human Rights Campaign national dinner, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009, in Washington.
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
It's the middle of winter, so it must be time for a swimsuit issue to liven up magazine reading.

No, not that one.

National Geographic is doing a swimsuit issue.

It's a special newsstand-only issue that takes a detailed look at people wearing swimsuits but without quite the titillation some other magazines muster.

Instead, National Geographic takes the reader on a historical tour of the swimsuit over the last 100 years.

The photos in the magazine brought out "a sense of fun and wonder - as well as total astonishment at what some people will wear in public," said Bill Allen, National Geographic's editor-in-chief.

Swimming became popular early in the 20th century. Some of the early suits, with stockings and shoes, weighed 20 pounds or more when wet; no wonder swimming classes often were held on land rather than in the water.

Things have lightened up since then, with women's suits shrinking to two pieces in the 1940s, bikinis in the following decades and almost vanishing in recent years.

A 1916 photo contrasts men in suits with tops - men wouldn't start going topless for another 20 years - with a 1917 view of Polynesian women, already topless in their warm climate, much to the dismay of some visiting Westerners.

Nostalgic photos tour the one-piece suits worn by women in 1930 in New Orleans, Florida's Wakulla Springs in 1944 and by "Miss Sopot" in Sopot, Poland, in 1956.

Other shots show the crowd at Coney Island on a summer day in the 1950s, Atlantic City in 1961 and in pool-studded backyards of Baltimore row houses in 1975.

The issue goes on sale Feb. 1.
By Randolph E. Schmid