A common appearance in Japanese school anime and manga series – the official Japanese school swimsuit! They are known as “sukumizu” for short in Japanese – a combination of “sukuuru” (school) and “mizugi” (swimsuit). Let’s learn how to draw “sukumizu” accurately today!
In Japan, swimming lessons are a common part of the curriculum at middle and high school, and there is an official swimsuit designated for students by the school to use in those lessons. They are simple and functional, and yet extremely popular as an outfit choice for anime and manga characters – so let’s take a look at how to draw them!
How to draw the traditional 1960’s – 1970’s “sukumizu” school swimsuit
This is the first style of “sukumizu” to be introduced to Japanese schools. In order to drain the water that gets trapped inside the swimsuit the chest and stomach areas, the swimsuit has a double layered design. This looks almost like a cute skirt at first glance! This design is old, but it’s the most popular one used in anime and manga today.
The top and bottom halves are totally connected together, so it might look like a pants and top combination, but it’s actually an all in one bathing suit.
The bathing suit is skin-tight, so make sure to follow the outline of the body closely
In some cases, anime-style wrinkles are added for emphasis, but since swimwear is made of smooth material, it does not usually form fine wrinkles or creases like underwear. However, since the fabric of this old school swimsuit is thick and less stretchy, it is a good idea to draw a small crease around the waist where the body bends. Over the years, school swimsuit material has become thinner, stretchier and more practical for better performance.
Old style school swimsuit have this double layer to allow water to drain out
The swimsuit has a seam from the upper chest line to the bottom. Make sure to draw vertical lines along the contours of the body.
The back is open wider than the front, with a large scooped neckline
If you add in the seams at the back too, it will look more realistic as a school swimsuit
How to draw the 1980’s – 2000’s “new style” school swimsuit
In the 1980s, schools began to adopt new school swimsuits, called “shin-suku”, which were made of thinner fabric and performed better in the water. The most standard type is navy blue with white piping on the shoulder straps. In addition to the standard navy blue, the new school swimsuit has also occasionally comes in different colours like green or red.
Because of the new stretchy material which allows water to pass through more easily, there’s no need for the double-layered “drainage” features from the original school swimsuit. We see thinner shoulder straps and no “skirt” part. The new school swimsuit borrows some design features from competitive swimsuits – one of those being the “racer back” design with the open back and crossed straps.
How to draw modern school swimsuits (2010’s onwards)
In the 2010’s, school swimsuits had some major design changes to reflect the changing times, and are now often created in unisex designs. Up until the 2000’s, the swimsuits for boys had been a trunks or boxer short design, with the girls wearing the swimsuit designs we covered above.
However in the 2010’s, we saw the introduction of unisex swimsuit designs in many schools. There is less skin on show, and the swimwear fabric has improved dramatically, making them lighter, thinner and more elastic to allow for better competitive performance.
That brings us to the end of this introduction to Japanese school swimsuits or “sukumizu”. We hope this will provide a good reference for you when drawing school scenes in your own work! Good luck!