Jantzen 1936 Style Book

Jantzen is one of those companies that seemed to get things right from the very beginning. It was established in 1910 by Carl Jantzen and John and Roy Zehntbauer as the Portland Knitting Company, with their products being woolen sweaters and accessories. The founders were active in rowing, and in 1913, they designed wool knit trunks for members of their team. From there a one-piece men’s bathing suit was designed. By 1915 bathing suits became their main product, and the name of the company was changed to Jantzen.

The three owners were also avid swimmers, so they worked on the knit until it was good for swimming and not just splashing about in the water. In 1921 the team at Jantzen began marketing their suits as swimming suits instead of bathing suits. By then Jantzen suits were being marketed to both men and women, and their famous diving girl logo had been designed.

The Jantzen story is well-documented. The company advertised heavily and they also released catalogs for both retail and wholesale. I have a fair collection of them, mainly from the 1950s, so I was glad to get this earlier one.

Unlike some companies, Jantzen maintained an archive even after the original families sold the business. They have not only a nice collection of Jantzen swimsuits, but catalogs, artwork, and copies of the in-house magazine, Jantzen Yarns.

My 1936 catalog has this nifty color chart. Color can be an important clue when determining the age of a vintage piece. Colors, like everything else in fashion, come and go.
The 1930s brought a lot of changes to swimsuit fashion. The wool knit suit was still pretty much standard for suits, but makers were always looking for ways to make them fit better. They were much more form-fitting than 1920s suits, just as 1930s dresses were more fitted than the dresses of that decade.

The Take-Off model came with a removable skirt that doubled as a cape. The straps could be adjusted for three different looks.

The two-piece suit was making its appearance.
“Maximum exposure”
Changes were also coming to men’s swimsuits. In 1932 Jantzen introduced the Topper, in which the top could be removed from the trunks by way of a zipper. This was considered very risque in some areas.
By 1936 some men were doing away with the top and just sporting trunks. But for more conservative tastes, Jantzen still made the old-fashioned one-piece.
Things got really cute with kids’ suits.

Jantzen developed several textured knits, like the Kava knit seen throughout this catalog. Lastex thread had been invented and marketed starting in 1931, but it took swimsuit makers a few years before they fully embraced the new (and improved) technology.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Jantzen 1936 Style Book

  1. Lora Hudson

    Great information and love the photos! Thanks!

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  2. fascinating! the yarn colors do look “off” to my modern eye. also, what about bras? I read the catalog descriptions — no mention of bras, just vague remarks about trim fit and “carefully tailored uplift construction emphasizes natural lines of youth.” Meaning – these are not for the older woman or anyone in need of bust support? Honestly, I have this same problem today buying swimsuits. Either they’re over constructed/constricting or not constructed enough!

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  3. jacq staubs

    “Just wear a Jantzen and a smile”! Remember when they were the “official” Miss America swimsuits? The tank suit for men is my favorite.As much as i still try – no amount of exercise could make me look better than the tank suit (or more presentable) as i age.The Speedo days are gone! Great post / thanks.

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  4. A treasure for your museum!

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  5. KeLLy aNN

    oooh, I totally want the Ladies/Misses Bra”Shorts Style 349 with the Jantzen Red bottoms and French Rose top!! le sigh……………

    Like

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