I showed off this prize in my Liberty Antiques Festival post, just because I had the photos of how it looked in the seller’s booth, all encased in glass. From the look of the frame, my guess is that someone had it framed in the 1980s or possibly 90s. I’m just glad it was housed away from strong light, and where moisture could not do damage. With the exception of some dirty spots on the back shoulders, this suit is in perfect condition. It was never worn, and was stored for a very long time where the moths couldn’t get to it.
I’ve spent some time looking for something similar both online and in my print resources. Jantzen began making swimwear in 1910, and the Diving Girl dates to 1920. If you’ve been looking at vintage clothing for any amount of time, you have most likely seen this logo, which was usually located on the left hip of the suit. The big logo is much harder to spot. There are two examples of early 1920s suits with it in Making Waves by Lena Lencek and Gideon Bosker, and the Jantzen blog has a marvelous old photo of young women in the snow wearing sweaters with the logo.
But luckily, I was able to track down some specific information on the suit. It is a woman’s suit (but in this case for a very small woman) style 35, and was made in 1929. A similar suit was produced in 1928, but in a different color. It is made from wool, and is sewn together with wool thread. The original cost was $5.50.
Here is the label shot, showing the wool thread stitching and the paper tag containing extra yarns with which to make repairs.
This is sort of a side note, but notice the patent date of Sept. 6, 1921. So many people (including the seller of this suit) see that and assume it means that the suit was actually made in 1921. No, it means the suit design was approved by the US Patent office in 1921. I’ve seen that date on suits as late as the 1930s. It is all about how the garment was designed and constructed.
I’d never really taken a good look at the diving girl, I guess because the patch on most suits is rather small. With this one you can see just what a marvel of weaving it was. It is made from silk and was attached to the suit with a type of zigzag stitch. This big patch came in two sizes – 10 1/4 inches and 14 inches from the fingertips to the toes.
And just to show how interconnected the clothing and textiles industries were, the patch was made by E.H. Kluge’s weaving company, a brother to Adolf Kluge. Long-time readers may remember him as the owner of Artsitic Weavers, the company behind the fabulous label quilt and maker of art in label form.
This suit was a late version of “the suit that changed bathing to swimming.” As I said above, this design was patented in 1921, and was soon copied by other makers. It was one piece, but it looked like two. Ironically, it became known as the California style, because Jantzen was located in Portland, Oregon. In the early 1920s many beaches outlawed the suit, calling it indecent, but by the end of the decade, the modesty skirt was fading fast, with suits consisting of just the tank and the trucks combination.
My favorite detail has to be the belt loops, which are attached on top of the faux belt. The belt “buckle” is actually a piece of ribbon, or label fabric, appliqued on.