1929 Jantzen Diving Girl Swimsuit

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.


Filed under Collecting, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

17 responses to “1929 Jantzen Diving Girl Swimsuit

  1. adorable! So happy to see this is now in your collection!


  2. seaside

    Your research is impeccable. The details you provide are fascinating. It’s a wonderful find.


  3. Wow, what an wonderful treasure to have, I see how it would be a piece of art framed. very nice, thanks for the info.


  4. You are a lucky lucky girl! The colors of the suit are just smashing! What an iconic piece of history. Thanks for sharing this Lizzie!


  5. Glamour_ologist

    Oh my, this is just beautiful. Thanks for posting in more detail.


  6. That is just spectacular. What a great piece!


  7. Thanks for helping me celebrate this great find!


  8. super info and great close up views, something like a short trip into a time machine to see a suit this pristine.


  9. Em

    Marvelous! The label with the threads for repair still attached alone is spectacular as is the diving girl embroidery. I like that you included information about the actual manufacture date versus the patent date.


  10. what a gorgeous piece, I love sporty 20s clothes


  11. I am so in love with this I can’t quite begin to explain! I’ve always been a big fan of Jantzen swimwear but this has to be one of the best examples I have seen!


  12. Susan B Carlson

    I am totally in love with The Vintage Traveler. My mother is 83 and fashionista that she is, has great stories to tell about her many years of fashionable dressing on a budget. Alas, she refuses to get or use a computer, so when she visits me we have great fun enjoying The Vintage Traveler together on MY computer, with her peering over my shoulder. I thank you ever so much for your sharing your wonderful finds….


  13. So sweet!!!! I am enjoying in your stories.


  14. Pingback: Lost in the Closet: Jantzen Swimsuit and the Cult of the Mermaid | Theatre of Fashion

  15. Pingback: What I didn’t Buy – 1920s Jantzen Swimsuit | The Vintage Traveler

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.