Schiaparelli for Catalina Swimsuit, 1949

Some people might think that designer collaborations with mass market manufacturers is a new idea, but they actually go back at least to 1916 when Lucile’s – Lady Duff-Gordon – name began appearing the the Sears Roebuck catalog.  By the 1930s California swimsuit maker Catalina was calling on the designers of Hollywood films to do an occasional suit for them.

I haven’t been able to find any concrete information about the Schiaparelli for Catalina collection, except for the fact that it was in 1949.  The suits were widely advertised so there is a good record of the various suits designed by Schiaparelli.  It’s interesting that I’ve not found reference to this collaboration in any of my print sources, including Schiap’s autobiography, Shocking Life, and the catalog that accompanied the 2003 Shocking! exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In an ad in the Spokane Daily Chronicle, May 13, 1949, this suit was touted as the “Official Swim Suit of the Atlantic City Miss America Pageant.”

The best fitting swim suit in the county… and hailed by the nation’s prize-winning beauties!  It’s “Cable Mio,” designed by the world-famous Schiaparelli exclusively for Catalina!  White wool cables on Celanese and Lastex Knit.  It’s a convertible – can be worn with or without straps.

The design is achieved purely through the cutting of the fabric to form chevrons.  It’s amazing the effect that can be made through a bit of creative planning and stitching!



I’m sorry about of the quality of this 1949 ad.  It’s a scan of a scan…  I’m still trying to locate my original and I will post a better image when I find it.

Purchased from Ballyhoo Vintage, who always has a great selection of vintage swimwear.


Filed under Designers, Sportswear, Summer Sports

19 responses to “Schiaparelli for Catalina Swimsuit, 1949

  1. This swimsuit resembles the one the original Barbie doll wore! Schiaparelli designed clothing for one of the smaller fashion dolls that came before Barbie so I wonder if there was another connection here?


  2. Serious sleuthing so swimmingly sorted!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. QueensGirl

    Oh, yes, it does look like the iconic Barbie swimsuit. Prior to reading the other comments, I meant to remark on the in-house design effects achieved by creating chevrons at seams. Just pondering the idea of woolen swimsuits makes me itchy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating. What kind of interior foundation does it have?


  5. Fantastic swimsuit, great story – as ever. Thanks, Lizzie!


  6. Pingback: Schiaparelli for Catalina Swimsuit, 1949, Part II | The Vintage Traveler

  7. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. I am so jealous, Lizzie! What a treasure!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That is a clever design!

    Liked by 1 person

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