Category Archives: Summer Sports

Jantzen Swimsuit, Mid 1960s

I really love and appreciate all the great friends I’ve made through writing this blog.  So many of you have shared your stories about clothing and sewing, and all these stories make for a rich and varied shared history.

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Janey at The Atomic Redhead.  Janey is lucky because she lives in the land of White Stag and Pendleton and Jantzen, otherwise known as Portland, Oregon.  From time to time I’ll get an email from her saying that she has a little something I might be interested in.  I must be greedy, because I’m always interested in Janey’s gifts.

The latest package from Janey contained the two piece swimsuit shown here.  It is, of course, from Jantzen, as the diving girl logo proudly announces.  It is made from a creamy white textured polyester knit, and the bra is very structured.  Many swimsuit bras from this era were made with a thin padded layer that over time degrades into a gritty powder.  But in this bra the padding is intact and shows no sign of powdering.

Thanks to movies like Bikini Beach and Beach Party, some people tend to think that bikinis were pretty skimpy in the mid 1960s, but in my little conservative town, this two piece was about as risqué as it got.  As the decade worn on, the bottoms got smaller, and the bras less structured, but in 1965 girls’ swimsuits were like armor!

I can remember my very first “grown-up” swimsuit.  It was a hand-me-down from my cousin Arlene, who was two years older than me and who lived near Atlanta and who was my idol.  The style was just like the Jantzen here, but was in shades of greens and brown.  I’d have never picked that color combination out, but I’ll have to admit, that at eleven years old, I felt very grown up wearing that suit.

This Coppertone ad from 1964 shows the style quite well.  No bellybuttons here!


Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Uncategorized, Vintage Clothing

Edwards Sports and Beach Shops

This little advertising brochure is from Edwards Department Store in Rochester, New York.  It was “Rochester’s largest popular priced store.”  By popular priced they did not mean cheap; they meant moderately priced.  There is no date on the folder, but judging from hairstyles, skirt lengths and clothing details, my best guess is 1940 or so.

Two piece swimsuits were just coming into being in the late 1930s, and they were quite daring.

What’s really interesting is the wide variety of bathing suits that had become available by the end of the 1930s.  Suits were being made from woven cottons, like the middle one pictured, and were a lot like very short dresses with bloomers.

Lastex was added to both woven and to knit fabrics to give shape and a bit of control.  And for the traditionalist, wool jersey suits were still available.

The sports shop featured both slacks and shorts.  On the left is a blue denim overall.  These were very popular during WWII as many women went to work on farms and in factories.

The playsuit was a versatile, if inconvenient at times, garment.  Wear it with the skirt on the street, without it on the tennis court.

Click each photo to see an enlarged view.



Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports

Red Gingham Times Two

I recently received a box in the mail that made Christmas look like a second-rate holiday.  Reader June Lepidow had written and asked If I’d like a pair of 1950s clam diggers and a pair of jeans from the 1940s.  Well, of course I would.

When the box arrived I was shocked to also find the above swimsuit, and early 1950s skirt and an Hawaiian print halter dress from the early 1960s.  That June really knows how to pack a box!

The label in the swimsuit was Surf Togs.  That little R in a circle means that the trademark is registered, so I was able to locate the information about the company in the US Patent and Trademark Office website.   The name dates from 1933  as a maker of knit swimwear.  They were located in New Rochelle, New York and was owned by Jacob Soloman.

I love the lines of silver lurex. I do think a bit of effort could have been made in matching the check.

The inside structure consists of metal boning, which you can see has begun to rust, and which has poked a hole in the fabric.  The use of metal in a swimsuit is quite puzzling, but a suit like this one is probably more suited to pool and ocean-side lounging, rather than actual swimming.

I’ve written before about how bathing suits from the 1950s were styled much in the same manner as a sundress.  Just visualize a long circle skirt with the top of this suit.  A lot of vintage sewing patterns for bathing suits show a coordinating skirt or shorts.  You could go to the beach wearing the bathing suit with the skirt over it and not have to worry about finding a changing room.

With this bathing suit you might have worn these clam diggers.  The gingham is not the same, of course, but the color is very similar.  This piece was another of the gift from June.  According to her, all the clothes came from the same woman, so maybe these pieces were worn together at one time.

Sometimes, it is all about the details.


Filed under Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Vintage Bathing Shoes: 1930s? 1940s? 1950s?

A lot of the fun of collecting anything is finding out about the things one has selected as worthy of their collection.  Sometimes this quest for knowledge is easy, thanks to Mr. Google.  But there are other times that I finally give up and consult an expert.

Above is a pair of rubber bathing shoes made by the United States Rubber Company, the company that also manufactured Keds sneakers.  Before the mid 1920s, bathing shoes were generally made from canvas, but by 1930 the old style had been replaced with the new rubber models.  They were, as one can imagine, much more practical, being waterproof.  Rubber bathing shoes remained popular throughout the 1930s, but by the 40s, more people were going barefoot in the water, and wearing sandals on the beach and at poolside.

At first glance, these shoes seem to be 1930s bathing shoes.  The style and the shape of the toe indicate a mid 30s to 1940 manufacture.  The box graphics and fonts also look 1930s.  So why am I questioning the dating?

The problem lies within the sole.  This wavy sole, made from what looks to be rubberized cork, is commonly found on shoes from the 1950s.  But were bathing shoes even still being made in 1950?  For help I turned to shoe expert, Jonathan Walford.

I felt a lot better after Jonathan emailed back that he found them to be confusing as well, saying that he did not associate the wavy soles with pre-WWII shoes.   And he did confirm that rubber bathing shoes were made into the 1950s.  His mother had a pair that she wore in the early 50s at the family beach cottage because of sharp shells and slimy seaweed.

It was Jonathan’s feeling that these shoes are most likely 1935-1940.  I agree with him, but I’m still looking for a source that clearly shows this type sole on a 1930s shoe.  The problem is that in ads, catalogs, and fashion spreads, the sole of a shoe is usually not shown.  I’ve seen a few maybes in late 30s catalogs, but nothing definite.  And as always, your thoughts are welcome.

I got these great shoes from Carol at Dandelion Vintage.  She runs what has to be one of the oldest online vintage stores on the Web.  She has nice things and excellent prices.  Thanks, Carol!


Filed under Shoes, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Ad Campaign – Ocean Bathing Suits, 1925

Bright!  Brilliant colors in knitted blazer stripes… bright touches of piping in silk suits… bizarre embroidery over dark tone jersey… sea side and lake shore will throb with the color of smart bathing costumes.   Ocean Suits interpret the mode without over-stepping the dictates of good taste.

So comforting to know that “bizarre embroidery” does not over-step “the dictates of good taste!”

I’m posting this ad today mainly because I was so happy to see the order blank for The Crawl.  You might recall that I have this little book in my collection.  It is always nice to find an reference to an item like this booklet in a period publication.


Filed under Ad Campaign, Summer Sports

The Crawl: 1924 Swimming Booklet

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that this little booklet was published by a maker of bathing suits, the Ocean Bathing Suit Company.  While it is primarily an informational pamphlet, it is also an advertisement.  One philosophy of advertising is to give the consumer something they will keep, but that has the advertiser’s message included in the item.  It must work because someone kept this for 90 years before it came into my hands.

The writer, L.De B. Handley, was a swimming teacher, and on the left you can read the impressive list of his renowned students.

The booklet is well illustrated, and all the drawings are of women swimmers.  In fact, the entire booklet seems to be targeted toward women, though some men’s suits are shown as well.

Even the 1924 Women’s Olympic Swim Team used Ocean suits.


No informational pamphlet is complete without a showing of the wares.

The booklet also has a really interesting page titled, “The Development of Bathing Apparel.”  It combines history with a bit of selling:

Back in the early “eighties” swimming was considered a reckless sport to be indulged in only by those of a more daring nature.  Few women could really swim, and those of their sex who visited beaches did so for the moderate stimulus of “bathing”.

In 1883, when Ocean started manufacturing bathing apparel, suits were for the most part made of flannel or “hickory,” and it was not until about 1900 that mohair was introduced, replacing flannel, which in turn, was superseded in popularity by knitted jersey cloth.  The constant changes in materials, and styles, was due in greatest measure to the steadily growing interest in swimming.  As new strokes, demanding greater freedom, were introduced, there consequently followed a simplification of models.

Through all these ramifications of style, Ocean maintained its position as the favorite beachwear in this country by constant improvement in methods and quality.  Coupled with this, a keen appreciation of style demands has always made Ocean beachwear the preference of those who enjoy water sports.  While the practical requirement of swimming comfort is the first consideration, every Ocean suit is styled with a keen sense of quiet good taste.


Filed under Summer Sports

What I Didn’t Buy – The Park Antique Tennis Racket

I’m sure you have spotted the problems with this elderly tennis racket, but I still was almost a victim to its charms.  It just stands to reason that a collector of sportswear would be attracted to the corresponding sports equipment, even if they would just be props.  I’ve been tempted before, and I’ve resisted, just as I resisted this great old racket.

Click to see the great logo.

The maker was Wright & Ditson, a sporting goods company started by baseball player George Wright and businessman Henry Ditson in 1871.  The company was bought in 1891 by Spalding, but the Wright & Ditson name was used until the 1930s.  Some sources say the the Spalding company bought up other sports equipment companies  and then continued to use the name of the acquired company in order to give the appearance of competition to consumers.  Today there is a “vintage” sports shirt company that uses the Wright & Ditson name.

The best I can tell, this racket was made in the very late 1800s, or in the first decade of the 1900s.  The oval shape was introduced around 1885, and a 1910 catalog shows an up-dated form of the tennis-player logo, so I’m pretty sure it dates within that range.


Filed under I Didn't Buy..., Summer Sports