Written By: Eliza Berman

On Memorial Day, swimming pools and beaches open for the season. It’s an occasion for sun-worshipers to assess their beachwear, digging it out from the depths of dresser drawers. That desire to make a style splash at the shore is nothing new. To celebrate the arrival of beach season in 1950, LIFE’s Nina Leen photographed that season’s trends for women: strapless and halter-top swimsuits, “pirate pants” drawn from fashions of the French Riviera and island-inspired straw hats. Thighs were in and midriffs were out, as simple suits allowed accessories the spotlight. As for the age-old one-piece versus two-piece debate? LIFE had the scoop: “The two-piece suit in general is running a poor second this summer.”

Two-Piece vs. One-Piece: Numerically this battle is going to the one-piece suit by ratio of three to one.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Beach fashion in Florida, 1950.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Beach fashion in Florida, 1950.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Beach fashion in Florida, 1950.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Knee-length shorts, called "pirate pants," are a copy of a style popular on the Riviera last summer. Made of striped piqué, they fit tight to the thigh and have a fly front. The absorbent worsted jersey middy fits loosely, is long enough to cover wet bathing suits. (Shorts: $7.95; middy: $12.95; both by Cabana.)

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Pared-down t-shirts worn with shorts have classic stripes but are cut to reveal bare areas. Emily Wilken's red and black cobbler's apron playsuit (left, $19.95) leaves midriff uncovered. Sheperd's striped top (center, $1.98) and Carolyn Schnurer's purple and white shirt (right, $10.95) are scooped out at neck.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Beach fashion in Florida, 1950.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Beach fashion in Florida, 1950.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Beach fashion in Florida, 1950.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Beach fashion in Florida, 1950.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Black suits and big hats go well together. The exaggerated size of the headgear sets off the deliberate plainness of these one-piece bathing suits, which are (left to right): a Catalina ($14.95), Jantzen ($15.95), Tina Leser ($22.95).

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Beach fashion in Florida, 1950.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Beach fashion in Florida, 1950.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Beach fashion in Florida, 1950.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Posies and pink terry cloth are worn together. Artificial flowers which adorn sombrero are $1 each (Heineman). Toga (Bonnie Cashin, $14.95) has big pockets in the pieces which are thrown over the shoulder.

1950s Beach Fashion

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

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