Tag Archives: swimsuit

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

Girls at the Jersey Shore

I look at a lot of vintage photos, and it is pretty unusual to find an entire set from an occasion unless they are in an album.   Jim at UnshreddedNostalgia.com was recently lucky enough to have a friend who put him onto these great photos, which are a record of a group of friends vacationing at Atlantic Beach in the late 1940s or early 50s.

It’s interesting to note what they photographed – lots of beach scenes, but no photos of the nightlife.  I guess they had a pact similar to one used by the folks in Las Vegas today:  “What happens in AC, stays in AC.”

I keep looking at the photos, trying to see if it is the same 4 gals, or if the photographer ever got her picture taken.  I’ve noticed the same problem with my group of friends when we travel.  I’m usually the only one with a camera, so I’m absent from all the photos.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because like these women, I have  shots taken in hotel rooms that occasionally have people in nightgowns and underwear.

These women would be in their 80s today.   I hope they are still friends, still traveling, still having fun.

Many thanks to Beth at RetroRoadmap.com, and Jim at UnshreddedNostalgia.com


Filed under Summer Sports, Vintage Photographs

Gantner Swim and Beach Wear, 1943

One of the great, but lesser-known California swimwear makers of the 20th century was Gantner-Mattern.  Like most of the makers of swimsuits, they started out as makers of knitwear – stockings, underwear, and sporting sweaters.  By the turn of the century, they were making the swimsuits that made them famous.

The company got its start in San Francisco in 1877 at the J.J. Pfister Knitting Company.  By the late 1890s, two employees, corporate secretary John O. Gantner and mill superintendent Alfred Mattern had left Pfister to start their own knitting company.  That was lucky for them because the Great Earthquake of 1906 destroyed the Pfister operation, while Gantner-Mattern was located in a safe area.  Pfister was able to rebuild with the help of two friends, but it is not known if the friends in question were actually Gantner and Mattern.

Swimwear quickly became the main product at Gantner-Mattern.  In the first days of the 20th century, swimming was becoming increasingly popular, and with the purchase of a Gantner-Mattern swimsuit, one got a free pair of waterwings to help the buyer learn to swim, or at least stay afloat!  In 1932, Gantner-Mattern was the first company to produce a topless swimsuit – for men!  Yes, it was still considered indecent in many places for a man to swim without a tank top in the early 1930s, but before long this quaint old custom was only a memory.

Like most advertising literature from the early 1940s, this catalog from Gantner makes many references to the war, though it doesn’t mention shortages.  That’s probably because the catalog was actually produced in 1942, before shortages became so acute in the US.

I had a fun time researching this label.  Most of the entries were for the many lawsuits that the company was involved in – price fixing after the war, not paying a former employee for work completed before he quit – the sort of thing that always bugged the clothing industry.  But most interesting was a reference to a strike in 1940, where women wore bathing suits and held placards at a union convention to show solidarity with locked-out workers at Gantner.

And here is a nice sampling from the catalog, including a good look at that famous men’s Wikie.


Filed under Ad Campaign, Sportswear, Summer Sports, World War II