Keyhole Swimsuit


How to say it: kee-hohl

Traditional Features: 

Keyhole Swimsuit

  • one or two-piece swimsuit with small areas missing to expose the skin underneath
  • ‘keyholes’ can be on the top or bottom of the swimsuit and are usually on the front

21st Century Keyhole Swimsuits

In the 21st century, keyhole features occur on many one or two-piece suits, with designers continually experimenting with the size, shape and placement of the hole to keep the style looking new and relevant.

Forever 21 JETS by Jessika Allen

Forever 21, JETS by Jessika Allen

L Space Paul Smith

L Space, Paul Smith


…of the style: A keyhole swimsuit is any kind of suit (one or two-piece) with small areas missing to expose the skin underneath. The style is somewhat similar to the cut-out swimsuit, except that the missing areas are usually much smaller than those of a cut-out style – showing just a hint of skin rather than a large patch. While a keyhole feature is traditionally found around the centre bust area on the swimsuit, over the years the holes have moved all over the suits, from the navel to the side panels, and have spread to both one-piece and two-piece suits.

I couldn’t find an actual history of the style, however I was able to find images of keyhole swimsuits from as far back as the 1930s, and given the strict modesty rules surrounding women’s swimwear before these decades, I think it is safe to assume that the keyhole swimsuit was introduced sometime in this decade.

Based on the images I was able to find, it seems that while the keyhole look existed as far back as the 30s, the style didn’t really garner much popularity until the 1960s, when showing a bit more skin at the beach was finally accepted in the West, and the sexual revolution gave women the courage to show off a bit more.

The keyhole feature has remained a staple in swimwear design since then, with designers continually experimenting with the number, size, shape and positioning of the holes in order to continually reinvent the look. In the 21st century the range of keyhole swimsuits available on the market is quite large, and given the subtly sexy appeal of the look, it is unlikely that the swimwear market will ever turn its back on these small, revealing keyholes.

…of the name: I couldn’t find any information regarding where the term ‘keyhole’ came from, but I assume it stems from the shape of the traditional teardrop cut-out in the bust area – it looks a bit like a keyhole.

I can’t really offer any further information regarding the Keyhole Swimsuit as I wasn’t able to find any to start with. All I did was type ‘vintage keyhole swimsuit’ into my internet browser and look through all the images to determine a basic timeline.

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