Tag Archives: swimwear

Au Bon Marché Sports Clothes Catalog – Early 1930s

 

Most of my collecting involves USA made fashion and industry, but sometimes one just has to look at other influences to see the entire picture.  If you are looking at the 1960s fashion scene, you can’t ignore what was happening in London.  And even though sportswear is very often best exemplified as American, you can’t ignore the influence of Jean Patou and Coco Chanel in France in the 1920s and 30s.

Au Bon Marché dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century and was the first grand Parisian department store.  It is still open as Le Bon Marché.

My catalog does not have a date anywhere, but it is from 1931 or 1932. It is full of the delightful things that make one want to pack up the automobile and head for the closest sandy beach.

The front cover folds out and the wares are displayed in a panorama with that sandy shore in the background.  All the photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The men and boys are still modestly attired in their tank suits (swimming briefs were soon to make their appearance, though).  What is really interesting is item number 14. This is the earliest example I’ve ever seen of a woman’s two piece suit that bares the midriff.

As expected, all the bathing suits are made from wool knit.  What I found to be interesting is that three of the women’s pyjamas  -17,25, and 29 – were also made from wool jersey knit.  Only number 21 was made from the cotton duck cloth one would expect to find here in the States.  The robes or peignoir du bains, were all made from terrycloth.

 

Number 24 seems to be as risque as the two piece.  I’ve love to see how much of the front is exposed.

And how about the rubber swim cap the little girl in number 28 is wearing?  Scottie dogs on a swim cap!  Actually, all the caps are pretty incredible.

 

The man in his blouse et pantalon pour la peche ou le bateau could only be a Frenchman, no?

 

Be sure to notice how one could change the angle of the large umbrella in the center by moving the pole to a different hole.

 

I’ve wanted a portable gramophone ever since I first saw Sabrina and Humphrey Bogart pulled his old one out of the closet to take on his boating date with Audrey Hepburn. And while I’m fantasy shopping,  I’ll also take that picnic basket.

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports

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

 

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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.

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Filed under Designers, Sportswear, Summer Sports

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 – Ceeb of Miami, 1960

Thunderbird is the word!

For your sculptured Ceeb swimsuit… get inside this faille Lastex creation from Indian Summer Collection.  A vibrant hand screened print in gold or lilac combinations…For smashing coordinates, try the cotton skirt and the Italian straw hat with matching band and snood.

I find this ad to be a bit confusing.  I suppose the print is a bit “Indian” inspired, with the reference to Thunderbird and the fact that they called the collection “Indian Summer.”  But what’s with that sculpture (Is it African, or is it modern?) and the odd arm gestures?

I love that the ad shows the coordinating skirt and the hat with the matching band and Snood.  But who was still using the word “snood” in 1960?  Odd.

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Mid Twentieth Century Bathing Suit Cover Up

I’ll be honest, there are few things that get me as excited as seeing a fantastic vintage novelty print, especially one that has a beach theme.   Make that novelty print into a wonderful piece of sportswear and I’m moving into the thrilled category.  And to find out that this treasure is actually for sale, that registers into the ecstatic range.

Seriously, this print is about as good as it gets.   The hats, the suns, the waves, the sand!

And that’s not just a collar; that’s a hood.  The interior of the jacket is lined in the green.

Even the buttons are super, being covered with the same green fabric as the lining.

The maker was Ceeb of Miami.  Ceeb was a label of the Miami Sportswear Company, which was owned by Mr. and Mrs. C.B. Brasington and Mr. and Mrs. W.T. Rose.  (I wonder why C.B. got the label named after himself.)  The business is still in operation, and they still manufacture bathing suits in the USA.  According to their website the company was started in 1942, but the US Trademark Database says 1946, with the name being trademarked in 1949.

That means my jacket has to date after 1949, as the label tells us the name is registered.  The print looks early to mid 1950s.  I’m really tempted to take out part of the hem to see if the selvage is intact and if so, does it have any information printed on it.  The more I think about this, the more I want to do it.

Ceeb made a variety of “Florida” fashions including jumpsuits that were really bathing suits with capri length legs.  They could be quite fancy with shiny fabrics and sequins and such. Today their image is decidedly less sexy.

What really has me excited is that I’m sure that out there somewhere is a matching bathing suit.  It is there, I know it.  And I will find it.

You might be wondering how I found such a perfect object.  I found it by way of Instagram.  This has become my favorite way to find new things for my collection, as sellers usually post their new finds there even before they are offered for sale.  It’s like an auction preview, and with me at least, it is quite effective.

If you are a vintage seller, you really should be on Instagram.  It is an excellent way to not only show off things you have for sale, but also to give your business a personal face.  The Instagram accounts I find to be most interesting are the ones that feature the family dog, their garden, their travels, the sunsets.  Throw in some nice historical clothing and I’m ready to follow.

With Instagram, it’s important to remember to be social.  I really find it to be the most social of the big sites.  Perhaps it is because the great majority of photos posted are of a more personal nature (as compared to Pinterest and Facebook, where most of what you see is not original to the poster).  For whatever reason, it is a great place to post photos and get feedback.

For those of you who sew, there is a growing sewing “community” at Instagram as well.  People share tips and show off their patterns and projects.  It’s a lot of fun as well.

Beach jacket from DnJVinage.

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Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

1930s Rubber Bathing Cap

Almost as soon as women took to the water as bathers, they tried to come up with a reasonable solution to keeping their hair dry.   According to my search of the US Patent Office data base, the first rubber bathing cap was patented in 1887.  Over the next thirty-five years or so, bathing caps looked a lot like a present-day shower cap, with a lot of loose space in the cap to accommodate a women’s long hair.

But as hair styles got shorter in the 1920s, the rubber bathing cap became more fitted to the head.  By the 1930s rubber bathing caps looked very similar to the ones that can be bought today.   For that reason, bathing caps are really hard to accurately date.

The cap above was a very lucky find.  I pulled it out of a bin at the Goodwill outlet – a bin of “hard goods” such as plastic toys, video tapes, cookie tins, and all the other stuff people get rid  of.  It was a small miracle that it survived the last eighty years, but most of all, that it survived the mad scramble of Goodwill shoppers in their quest to find a bit of treasure in the bins.

Inside, the only marks were the numbers, 801232.  I thought that it could possibly be a patent number, but unfortunately it was not.  Also note the rubber bands across the opening.  These were thought to help keep water out.  I found dozens of patents for these “seals,” all just a bit different, all an “improvement” over the others.

I have a 1930s Kleinert’s catalog that is not dated, but it did have an interesting bit of information.  It mentioned that Kleinert’s caps were of the new seamless style.  Two of the caps are shown above, and you can see how similar in style they are to my cap, but my cap has two seams that run front to back.

Here is a similar cap shown in a 1932 fashion illustration in Vogue magazine.  Because it is a drawing, there is no way to tell if it was seamed or not, but it does show that this style was used over the course of several years.

In this rather unfortunate photograph, the woman is wearing an early to mid 1930s style swimsuit along with a similar style cap, but with a strap.

The photo above was taken in the late 1920s as an ad for a summer cap.  You can clearly see the seam in the side of one bathing cap, and it is not as sleek as mine or the ones illustrated that are from the 1930s.

My best guess is that my cap dates from the early 1930s.  The earliest patent for making an unseamed cap  is dated 1932.  I’d never given a seam much thought, but a quick look through my caps showed all of the ones from the 1940s and more recent were all seamless.  It must have been a big improvement.

 

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing, Vintage Photographs