Tag Archives: Rose Marie Reid

Reid’s Holiday Togs 1930s Playsuit

Many of you will recognize the name Rose Marie Reid, as her company produced women’s swimsuits for many years.  The Rose Marie Reid label began in 1946 when she moved her business from Canada to Los Angeles, a center of the swimwear industry.  But before that, she actually had a swimwear and sportswear company in Vancouver, Reid’s Holiday Togs.  The label dates roughly from 1936 to 1946 and is rarely seen today.

I felt pretty lucky when I spotted this sweet example in an etsy shop, Mystic Clutter Vintage.  According to the biography of Reid, the company produced only swimsuits, so finding a garment other than a bathing suit was pretty exciting.  When I received the playsuit, my enthusiasm for it was even greater.  There are so many great little details that add up to a perfect little garment.

One of my favorite features is how the pockets are built into the princess line.  Then note how just below the pocket, a pleat opens in the side seam.

The presence of pleats in a playsuit really adds to the functionality of the garment.  The legs are full without looking full, leading to greater range of movement by the wearer without sacrificing the fitted look of the suit.

The front is closed with a long metal zipper, which helps to date this to the very early years of  the label.  After Canada entered WWII, the Reid biography specifically pointed out that zippers were unavailable to the company.  I love the curved raglan shoulder, which gives the appearance of a bigger shoulder in accordance with the style of the time.  The little round collar is also a nice touch.

The back of the bodice has an inverted pleat which adds to the wearer’s mobility.

The fabric is a nice cotton twill.  The color is very reminiscent of that used in gymsuits during this time, but there is no evidence that I found that Reid made garments for gym classes.  It is my thinking that this a just a more stylish form of the gymsuit that was recognized as functional attire for girls participating in sports.  It is even possible that a matching skirt was made, as that is how playsuits were generally marketed and sold.

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Leo Narducci for Rose Marie Reid

I recently found this swimsuit from the late 1960s or early 1970s, and I bought it because of the interesting label and nice design.  It looks like a rather conservative suit from the front, but turn it around and…

you get a whole other feeling.

I wrote about Rose Marie Reid some time ago after having read a biography of her.  Rose Marie Reid sold her namesake company in 1962, but stayed on as the designer of the line.  She left the company a year later over a dispute over the bikini, which Reid thought was indecent.  The popular line continued, and around 1968 designer Leo Narducci was hired to design the line.

Narducci is not a very well-known name today, but he was well-respected as a designer in the 1960s and 70s.  Narducci graduated from the Rhode Island School of design in 1960, and went to work at LoomTogs, a sportswear company.  Over the next decade he designed for a number of firms, and in 1971 he started his own label, “specializing in soft clothes with casual outlines and elegant materials,”  according to Eleanor Lambert.  As far as I can tell, Narducci worked for Rose Marie Reid from 1968 through the early 1970s.

He also had a number of his designs made into sewing patterns by Vogue in the 1970s.  Do a search for them to see what Lambert meant by “soft clothes with casual outlines.”

This ILGWU label is more confirmation of the age of this swimsuit.  This label was changed in 1974 to include red, so it has to date before 1974.

The Rose Marie Reid company did go on to make bikinis, but the name is still associated with the covered-up but still sexy styles she created in the 1950s.  Leo Narducci is still alive, and here you can see an interview with him from two years ago.

 

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Currently Reading: Rose Marie Reid, An Extraordinary Life

After seeing the Emilio Pucci in American exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art, I was curious about the relationship between Pucci and swimwear maker Rose Marie Reid.   To my surprise I found that a biography of Reid had been published, so I promptly ordered a copy.

Unless the designer is Coco Chanel or maybe Yves Saint Laurent, designer biographies are actually quite rare.  Some are written as exhibition catalogs, such as the wonderful Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism which was published in 1998 to go with an exhibition of McCardell’s work at the Museum at FIT.  There are quite a few autobiographies from twentieth century designers, some good, some bad.  But a biography of a ready-to-wear designer in a niche market is a rarity.

In reading about the life of a fashion designer – or any important person for that matter – the thing that interests me most is that person’s work and the influences on the work.  There are a few designers, again, Coco Chanel, whose work was so important and so entwined with the time in which she lived that her private life and political and religious views are an important part of the narrative.

Rose Marie Reid, An Extraordinary Life is actually more about Reid the mother, the Mormon, and the woman with whom people had difficult relationships.  Not that the details of her design career are not present, as they are, but the timeline  is fuzzy and confusing.  To a person like me who likes to examine the when of things, it was a bit frustrating.  For instance, the book tells a great story about how Rose Marie first started making bathing suits.  Her new husband, Jack Reid was a swimming instructor who hated his saggy wool trunks.  Rose Marie took a piece of cotton duck to which she added lacing on the sides to make for a good fit.

The design was so successful that Jack took a copy to the local Hudson’s Bay Company store, where the buyer there asked for a women’s design.  From that order the business was formed, and  within a year Rose Marie was overseeing a factory with thirty-two sewing machines.  But the book never says exactly when this all took place.

Of course I realize that history is not always measured in dates.  However, when you are studying design it helps to know when such innovations actually took place.  The best I can figure was sometime between November 1935, when Rose Marie and Jack were married, and 1937 when it is mentioned that Rose Marie’s suits were used in some 1937 games.

Interwoven into the story of the formation of the business are the details of the birth of their children, the disintegration of their marriage, and how Rose Marie prayed through it all.  The theme and the timeline constantly changed and at times I was left shaking my head.

I guess it is important to let you know that one of Rose Marie’s daughters, Carole Reid Burr, was the co-author.  There were endnotes that gave sources, and from that it is easy to see that this book is mainly a compilation of oral family stories.  Numerous interviews were listed as references, and from that I could begin to see why the telling seemed so disjointed.

There were actually sixteen different people interviewed for the book, and along with old letters and newspaper clippings, they seem to be the source for most of the information.  Company records did not seem to be used at all, but that is not surprising since Rose Marie sold the business and franchised her name starting in 1962.  Subsequently there are more details about the many lawsuits in which Rose Marie was involved than there were of the actual business of making swimsuits.

Near the end of the book I finally spotted the name of Emilio Pucci, and began to take notice.  Unfortunately the anecdote was about how he had bought some Rose Marie Reid swimsuits for his staff, and had given one to fashion journalist Ann Scott James.  And that was the end of Emilio, with no mention of the collaboration between him and Reid.

A great deal is made of Reid’s Mormon faith, and I suppose that is understandable considering that the book was published by a Mormon company.  In some ways her faith was important to her design story, as the dictates of modesty by the Mormon Church led her to strongly reject the bikini.   And it was probably this rejection that led Rose Marie to sell the company in 1962.

Besides the fuzzy storytelling, there were quite a few factual mistakes.  The book refers to, but does not explain a relationship with White Stag.  Unfortunately, it is consistently spelled “White Stagg.”  There was also a big discussion of the great success of rival  swimsuit maker Cole of California.  The authors refer to Cole’s Scandal Suit as a bikini, which it was not. (There was a version that resembled two pieces connected by mesh, but even it was not a true bikini.)

It’s such a shame that the story of a company that was the world’s largest producer of women’s swimwear in the late 1950s should be told in such an off-putting way.  Between the preaching of Mormon principles and the accolades of Reid’s mothering ability, I’ve found it hard to go back through and try to establish just the story of the swimsuit company.  Maybe someday I’ll be stranded on a desert island with just this book and a pencil and I can figure it all out.

 

 

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Ad Campaign – Rose Marie Reid, 1965

rose marie reid takes Op Art out of the gallery and gives it to every girl on the beach! What’s wilder yet is to mix these cotton prints in swimsuits, cover-ups and accessories…

It was 1965, and Op Art was going mainstream.  Many people still did not “understand” modern art, but because of textiles, many were exposed to it and actually liked it.

It’s interesting that in the ad copy they are encouraging the mixing of prints, but in the photo the models are wearing only one print each.  It was hard to go from the matchy 1950s and early 60s into mixing prints that were crazy to start with!

The beginnings of Op Art can be traced to Josef Albers, who left Germany in 1933 when the Nazis closed down the Bauhaus, where he was teaching.  He immigrated to the US, and ended up here in Western North Carolina, at the new and experimental Black Mountain College.  If you’ve never heard of Black Mountain, and you love modern art, you need to make its acquaintance.  It’s an amazing story about how some of the best modernists ended up in the NC mountains.

There is a museum in Asheville, so maybe I ought to go and take photos.

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Rose Marie Reid

I grew up in the days of the premium – the advertising freebies given away by companies to keep their brand name literally in front of you.  These freebies took many forms, and were sometimes given out in department stores but more often were offered through the company’s ads in magazines.

I found this great Mid Century design towel from Rose Marie Reid on ebay back in the winter.  I’m not sure that it is a premium, as the Rose Marie Reid company sold bathing accessories along with their famous swimsuits.  But there is something about the quality – or rather lack of quality – that hints that this was given away rather than sold.  But quality aside, I love the design, with the big rose hat and the beachy symbolism.

Many companies used premiums to their advantage.  Many of them were geared toward impressionable children, but there were also many opportunities for girls and women to send in a dime, a proof of purchase,  or a stamped envelope to receive a “gift” in the mail.

In the mid 1960s, this was how so many of the paper dresses were sold.  Companies printed their advertising on the dresses which were offered through magazines for one dollar.  Probably the most famous was the Campbell’s Soup dress, but these were also made for The Yellow Pages, Green Giant Foods, and of course, the company that started the craze for paper dresses – Scott Paper.

A sampling of premiums from 1966 and 1967:

Stainless spoon for 25 cents.

How to plan your engagement and wedding booklet.  This ad is from Seventeen, which was always full of engagement ring ads!

Free charms from the Kotex Charm tree!

Skin care trial sizes

200 page cookbook for 25 cents.  Who knew there were 200 ways to use Campbell’s Soups?

Flatter Pins from Kleenex.  This expired January 1, 1967, darn it!  I’d love to get a Golden Puppy pin.

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