Tag Archives: swimsuit

Schiaparelli for Catalina Swimsuit, 1949, Part II

Click to enlarge


In reading about the Schiaparelli for Catalina swim suit I recently bought I discovered that, according to an advertisement, that this suit was the “Official Swim Suit of the Atlantic City Miss America Pageant.” That sent me on an internet search to see if I could actually find photos of the contestants wearing this particular suit.  When I came up  empty I just assumed that it was Catalina suits in general that were the official suit of the pageant.

To my surprise and delight, I got the above photo in my inbox last night.  Julie of Jet Set Sewing saw my Schiaparelli suit and thought it looked familiar.  Then she realized that a photo of the 1948 contestants wearing the suit was hanging in her home.  Julie’s husband found the photo in a shop in Paris.

As you can see, it is the Schiaparelli swim suit, but with the addition of the Catalina flying fish logo.  And even though this was the 1948 Miss America contest, the suit was not made commercially until the next year.  Thus, all my searches for “Miss America Catalina 1949” brought up a different set of swim suits.

Even though the power of Google is great and it so often leads us to the correct information, it makes me happy that it was a friend who provided the breakthrough on this one.  Thanks, Julie!

Click to enlarge



Filed under Curiosities, Rest of the Story, Sportswear, Summer Sports

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

Jantzen Swimsuit, Mid 1960s

I really love and appreciate all the great friends I’ve made through writing this blog.  So many of you have shared your stories about clothing and sewing, and all these stories make for a rich and varied shared history.

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Janey at The Atomic Redhead.  Janey is lucky because she lives in the land of White Stag and Pendleton and Jantzen, otherwise known as Portland, Oregon.  From time to time I’ll get an email from her saying that she has a little something I might be interested in.  I must be greedy, because I’m always interested in Janey’s gifts.

The latest package from Janey contained the two piece swimsuit shown here.  It is, of course, from Jantzen, as the diving girl logo proudly announces.  It is made from a creamy white textured polyester knit, and the bra is very structured.  Many swimsuit bras from this era were made with a thin padded layer that over time degrades into a gritty powder.  But in this bra the padding is intact and shows no sign of powdering.

Thanks to movies like Bikini Beach and Beach Party, some people tend to think that bikinis were pretty skimpy in the mid 1960s, but in my little conservative town, this two piece was about as risqué as it got.  As the decade worn on, the bottoms got smaller, and the bras less structured, but in 1965 girls’ swimsuits were like armor!

I can remember my very first “grown-up” swimsuit.  It was a hand-me-down from my cousin Arlene, who was two years older than me and who lived near Atlanta and who was my idol.  The style was just like the Jantzen here, but was in shades of greens and brown.  I’d have never picked that color combination out, but I’ll have to admit, that at eleven years old, I felt very grown up wearing that suit.

This Coppertone ad from 1964 shows the style quite well.  No bellybuttons here!


Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Uncategorized, Vintage Clothing

Red Gingham Times Two

I recently received a box in the mail that made Christmas look like a second-rate holiday.  Reader June Lepidow had written and asked If I’d like a pair of 1950s clam diggers and a pair of jeans from the 1940s.  Well, of course I would.

When the box arrived I was shocked to also find the above swimsuit, and early 1950s skirt and an Hawaiian print halter dress from the early 1960s.  That June really knows how to pack a box!

The label in the swimsuit was Surf Togs.  That little R in a circle means that the trademark is registered, so I was able to locate the information about the company in the US Patent and Trademark Office website.   The name dates from 1933  as a maker of knit swimwear.  They were located in New Rochelle, New York and was owned by Jacob Soloman.

I love the lines of silver lurex. I do think a bit of effort could have been made in matching the check.

The inside structure consists of metal boning, which you can see has begun to rust, and which has poked a hole in the fabric.  The use of metal in a swimsuit is quite puzzling, but a suit like this one is probably more suited to pool and ocean-side lounging, rather than actual swimming.

I’ve written before about how bathing suits from the 1950s were styled much in the same manner as a sundress.  Just visualize a long circle skirt with the top of this suit.  A lot of vintage sewing patterns for bathing suits show a coordinating skirt or shorts.  You could go to the beach wearing the bathing suit with the skirt over it and not have to worry about finding a changing room.

With this bathing suit you might have worn these clam diggers.  The gingham is not the same, of course, but the color is very similar.  This piece was another of the gift from June.  According to her, all the clothes came from the same woman, so maybe these pieces were worn together at one time.

Sometimes, it is all about the details.


Filed under Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Ad Campaign – Sea Nymph Glamour Suit, 1953

by the sea, by the beautiful sea nymph glamour suit

When each wave comes rollin’ in… you’re the most alluring picture by the sea in your Sea Nymph glamour suit!

When was the last time you heard the word glamour being associated with a swimsuit?  Can you imagine a time when glamour was being used to sell instead of sexy?   Is this suit any less appealing because it is glamorous rather than sexy?  And when did this shift to become all encompassing?

For me, I’d take being glamorous over being sexy any day of the week.  Not that I am particularly glamorous, of course, but it just seems to be a more fun alternative.   Sexy implies that it is all about the body, but glamour is about the woman, the personality, the persona.  And which is more important?

Just thinking “out loud.”


Filed under Ad Campaign

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

Ad Campaign – 1937 Jantzen Swimwear

In the late 1930s swimsuit makers were experimenting with new fabric for their products.  For years, knit wool had been the mainstay of the swimwear industry, but new products like lastex were bringing big changes to the industry.

But the swimsuit makers were not quite ready to give up on wool.  they worked with developing new knitting techniques to improve the elasticity of the product, and they were somewhat successful.

Kava knit fabrics of luxurious quick-drying wool in beautiful new weaves have knitted-in perfection of fit that achieve slender “girdle-fit” for women – and trim athletic lines for men.

In that one sentence, the ad addresses the 2 big issues of wool swimwear – it was slow to dry and the fit was droopy.

I was excited to find this ad because I have a version of the swimsuit in the upper left.  It is the “Up-lifter”, in which the name of the suit says it all.

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Filed under Ad Campaign, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing