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:
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:
Naomi and I took some photos of the swimsuit at the old Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion. This archival photo shows the pavilion in its heyday:
The pavilion’s grand, Beaux-Arts archway records the year it opened to the public, 1922:
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.
I was able to cheat and make the buttons non-functional:
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…
(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)