Twenties Swimsuit – Simplicity 7041 (VFL 145)

November 9, 2013 § 14 Comments

Simplicity 7041

Simplicity 7041 (ca. 1929) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

I love vintage swimwear. (See my post on vintage beachwear patterns here.) It’s also been years since I had a bathing suit; somehow I can never make myself shop for one. So I resolved to make a vintage swimsuit using the Vintage Fashion Library’s reproduction of Simplicity 7041, VFL 145.

Based on the envelope design and that of the consecutively numbered Simplicity 7042, a lingerie set with bloomers, I would date the pattern to circa 1929. (On the development of the 1920s swimsuit see Bomber Girl’s post here.)

These two George Hoyningen-Huene photos of Patou swimsuits from the late ’20s served as reference and inspiration for me:

Wool swimsuit by Jean Patou, ca. 1928. Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene.

Wool swimsuit by Jean Patou, ca. 1928. Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene. Image via Corbis.

Model in Jean Patou swimsuit. Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene.

Model in Jean Patou swimsuit, ca. 1929. Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene. Image via Corbis.

The original pattern instructions give a charming description: “7041: Style for chic and for good swimming. It has a smart belted waistline, buttoned shoulder straps, and a round neckline. Style 1: A one-piece suit for the very active swimmer who demands plenty of freedom. Style 2: A two-piece suit which looks well on the taller woman. With deep V-back.” The pointed, lapped lower bodice seam is a nice Deco detail, which could be brought out further by making the attached shorts in a contrasting fabric.

I made the one-piece with scoop back. I found some lightly textured, black swimwear fabric on sale at King Textiles’ old location, with matching white fabric for a contrast belt. To face the upper bodice and belt I used tricot interfacing/lining from Designer Fabrics, where I also got some plain 1″ buttons. The 1.5″ belt buckle is from Leather & Sewing Supply Depot (now at 204 Spadina).

I needed to grade down the repro’s B38 to fit me. Even then I had to take in the suit at the upper side seams. The straps were made slightly shorter and narrower as part of the grading, but the length of the shorts was unaltered. I added white topstitching along the top and bottom edges of the bodice, with contrasting black topstitching on the white belt.

The cut of the shorts is in the old style, which takes some getting used to. Here is a view of the suit, shown flat:

1920s Simplicity swimsuit

Simplicity 7041 swimsuit (ca. 1929) – Vintage Fashion Library 145.

Naomi and I took some photos of the swimsuit at the old Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion. This archival photo shows the pavilion in its heyday:

1920s aerial photograph of bathers at Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, Toronto.

Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, ca. 1924. Image via City of Toronto Archives.

The pavilion’s grand, Beaux-Arts archway records the year it opened to the public, 1922:

Sunnyside Pavilion

The grand archway at Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion.

As Naomi pointed out, the suit is basically a playsuit, and with heels and a coverup it didn’t feel too odd walking down Queen Street West to the beach.

Suit with coverup

Simplicity 7041 worn with a coverup (shoes: John Fluevog).

I was able to cheat and make the buttons non-functional:

Suit / gates

Simplicity 7041 with “buttoned” straps.

Suit with parasol

Simplicity 7041 – front view

Suit steps

I had trouble deciding how to fit the suit. Although period photographs show knit swimsuits that cling to the body, the illustration shows a looser-fitting suit. Since I wanted to swim in it, I wasn’t aiming for an authentic reproduction. (Wool is just not an option.) But having made it up, it’s clear the suit would drape better in a lighter swimwear fabric. I may try the low-backed, skirted view for next summer…

Parasol

(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)

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