In 1965, Brian Duffy photographed Pattie Boyd for a patterns editorial, “Cotton Landscape,” in British Vogue. The editorial opens with Boyd posing in Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses and an Op Art playsuit:
Boyd’s playsuit was made using Vogue 6491, a Young Fashionables pattern for a hooded ‘jump suit,’ bikini, skirt, and pants. As the caption says, “Powerhouse zigzags, electric pattern on a beach playsuit made to dazzle, not shock. Shorts shaped with a long front zip, smashing hood, and long cuffed sleeves.” The suit was made in Cepea navy and white cotton “with a Calpreta permanent sheen finish,” available from Bourne & Hollingsworth and Civil Service Stores.
For more of the June issue, see Youthquakers.
It’s been another hot summer here in Toronto. One of my earliest blog posts, Heat Wave!, surveys vintage beachwear patterns. This summer, let’s take a look at a more elusive beast: designer swimwear patterns.
The earliest pattern I’ve seen for designer swimwear is Pucci’s strapless one-piece, McCall’s 3977. This pattern was available in Junior sizes only. The suit was lined in jersey, and could be made with or without the brightly coloured appliqués:
From another Italian designer, Irene Galitzine, Vogue 1288 is a pattern for a bikini, dress, and hat. The bikini consists of a cropped, cowl-neck blouse and bikini pants with side ties:
The 1970s were the heyday of designer swimwear patterns, often with a coordinating coverup, and always for stretch knits. Vogue 1416 is an early design by Donna Karan; from Anne Klein’s collaboration with Penfold, the pattern includes both a maillot and a halter bikini:
From Bill Blass, Vogue 1455 includes a two-piece swimsuit with bra top and bikini briefs:
John Kloss licensed a number of swimwear designs with Butterick. This ad promotes his patterns with a poolside photo of Butterick 4808:
Another Butterick designer, Gil Aimbez, designed this one-piece bathing suit. Contrast bias binding outlines the cut-away sides and bodice seaming detail:
Like the Anne Klein Penfold pattern above, this Penfold pattern includes both one-piece and halter bikini bathing suits. The one-piece and bikini top are cut on the bias:
Both Penfold patterns can be seen in a Vogue Patterns editorial photographed in Antigua:
From spring, 1978, Vogue 1893 seems to have been the only Catalina pattern. Instead of a coverup, it includes three styles of bathing suit: low-backed view A, strapless view B with built-in boning, and blouson view C is a two-piece:
The magazine recommended making the Catalina suits in Thompson of California’s “second skin Tic Toc warp knit polyester crepes” in various prints:
From 1980, McCall’s 7109 includes three one-piece swimsuits by the Italian label Basile: a mock wrap, belted halter-neck and variations on the strapless suit with gathered bust (available in the shop):
Jerry Hall (right) seems to be wearing the view A style in this Basile ad photographed by Irving Penn:
Also from 1980, Bob Mackie’s strapless, colour-blocked swimsuit, McCall’s 7138, was photographed for the July counter catalogue and news leaflet (seen at the top of this post):
Finally, this early ’90s DKNY pattern, Vogue 2897, is labelled ‘dress and bodysuit,’ but was photographed as beachwear:
After a long swimwear pattern drought, the big pattern companies seem to have noticed the renewed popularity of sewing your own, custom bathing suit. For this summer, Simplicity reissued a 1950s bathing suit pattern, Simplicity 4307 / S8139, and The McCall Pattern Company has released a number of new swimwear designs, including one Vogue and two Lisette swimwear patterns.
Two designers with existing pattern licensing, Cynthia Rowley and Rachel Comey, both have swimwear lines. If we voice our support, perhaps we could soon see patterns for Cynthia Rowley surf wear and Rachel Comey Swim…
In the mid-1960s, Helmut Newton photographed a two-page Vogue Patterns editorial for Vogue magazine on location at Wanda Beach, near Sydney, Australia.
The editorial features two pieces from a single beachwear pattern: Vogue 6211. The cowl-neck coverup is shown in white terry cloth, the one-piece drawstring bathing suit in double-knit Orlon; the linen hats are by Adolfo and Halston (click to enlarge):
As always, back views and yardage could be found in the back of the magazine:
Click the Patterns in Vogue tag for more posts in the series.
It’s been a very hot summer here in Toronto. The Toronto Standard’s recent article on nearby Sunnyside Beach is a reminder of how Torontonians coped with high temperatures in the days before air conditioning. The stretch of Lake Ontario shoreline known as Sunnyside Beach was a popular bathing spot from the early 20th century on, and the beach’s popularity was given a boost with the opening of Sunnyside Amusement Park in 1922. The amusement park was mostly demolished in 1955 to make room for the Gardiner Expressway, but some of the original structures remain, including the boat house and dance hall Palais Royale and the Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion.
Vintage beachwear patterns open a similar window onto summers past. What women wore to the beach can seem to encapsulate an era, both because beachwear is an especially trend-driven category of women’s wear and because of the attitudes to the female body it often reveals. In this post you’ll find a selection of beachwear patterns from the 1930s to the 1980s.* Enjoy!
Here’s a late thirties Vogue pattern from the Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA). Follow the image link for CoPA’s virtual exhibition on swimwear patterns.
The 1930s also saw a fashion for beach pajamas, lounge wear for days at the beach. This illustration from McCall’s magazine shows new patterns for beach fashions. The first pattern is for a kerchief top, dolman jacket and beach trousers, the second makes a gorgeous beach wrap:
- (You can see the accompanying text in this Etsy listing.) Here are a couple early ’30s McCall patterns for beach pajamas:
Simplicity’s promotional material calls this late ’30s halter design “a pajama ensemble for sun-tan fans.” (See linked wiki page for repro information.)
The forties saw the rise of two-piece bathing suits with pinup-style, high-waisted skirts or tap pants for the bottoms. Vogue 9046 is an early but typical ’40s swimsuit. (See linked wiki page for repro information.)
This McCall design is for a cute tie-back, halter top style with pleated bottoms:
I found this transitional late ’40s pattern through Oodles and oodles’ series on the patterns of sisters Alice and Edna. It’s one of my favourites:
Fifties beachwear shows the same silhouettes and details as the decade’s women’s wear. The cover-up in this mid-’50s pattern is basically a shorter version of a wasp-waisted, full-skirted fifties day dress (but check out the crazy tiki hat):
In 1956 Emilio Pucci did a series of designs for McCall’s that included this skirted, strapless bathing suit:
(Wade Laboissonniere includes a McCall’s photo of the Pucci pattern in his Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1950s, p. 127.)
This sarong style of swimsuit carried over into the early ’60s:
Early sixties swimsuit patterns tend to be variations on the modest two-piece with shorts or boy-cut briefs. Here’s the pattern image for the early ’60s beach kimono pictured at the top of this post. The pattern also included a one- or two-piece bathing suit:
Vogue 6212 includes a babydoll beach dress and a hat similar to the one worn by Jessica Paré as Megan in Season 4 of Mad Men:
Two-pieces seem to have made the decisive shift to bikinis in the later 1960s:
Seventies swimwear showed sleeker lines, still with a lower-cut leg. Maxi cover-ups came into fashion as the decade progressed. Here’s a fabulous early ’70s Vogue one-piece (with a ’60s-style hat and cover-up):
During the ’70s Vogue Patterns also released designer swimwear patterns by Catalina and Penfold (including Anne Klein for Penfold). The bikinis are actually pretty classic:
Eighties swimwear had a new, higher-cut leg and favoured the high-contrast brights and prints typical of the decade. Oleg Cassini’s line of patterns for Simplicity included this one-piece swimsuit with pareo:
Brooke Shields also licensed some designs with McCall’s, including a few swimwear patterns. Here’s the one that hits the most ’80s trends:
And in case you needed instruction in swimwear sewing techniques, Vogue Patterns had a book for you:
*For those interested in pre-1930s swimwear patterns, you can see a repro pattern for a 19th century bathing costume here; some early 20th century bathing suit patterns here and here; and some 1920s swimsuit patterns here and here.