Haute Elan’s burkini collection would have been considered far too scandalous a century ago in Europe or in the US. They would have been accused of being far too revealing of bare skin. In France, women bathed in ankle-length garments at that time. At best they wore bloomers that showed a flash of calf. Culture demanded women to be covered up in loose clothing while swimming. In Boston, Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman was arrested in 1907 for wearing a figure-hugging one-piece ankle length swimsuit.
In the 19th century, many women did not cover their torso in southern India, while some went bare-breasted under their saris in Bengal. Even a hundred years later from then, Jnanadanandini Debi, the wife of Satyendranath Tagore, was refused entry to clubs run by the British in India, for covering her breasts with her sari alone.
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images
Indian-style drapes and motifs have been a major influence on European scarves, even though this love was not returned. In the 1930s, many French couturiers such as Grès and Rochas began to be profoundly influenced by the Indian style of draping unstitched cloth, in part because of the international fashion expositions that took place at that time in Europe.
Corsets returned to the dressing-room with proper flamboyance only in the 1990s. This time they were designed by feminist Vivienne Westwood and, later, Gaultier. A garment that was once a powerful symbol of oppression now represented winning the battle of the sexes, directly mocking male dominance.