Designer Swimwear: Vintage Patterns

August 9, 2016 § 6 Comments

1980s Bob Mackie swimsuit pattern McCall's 7138 photographed for McCall's summer news flier

McCall’s 7138 by Bob Mackie on the cover of McCall’s news, July 1980.

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:

1950s Emilio Pucci bathing suit pattern McCall's 3977

McCall’s 3977 by Emilio Pucci (1956) Image: eBay.


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:

1960s Galitzine bikini, coverup, and hat pattern Vogue 1288

Vogue 1288 by Irene Galitzine (ca. 1963) Image: eBay.


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:

Vogue 1416

Vogue 1416 by Donna Karan at Anne Klein for Penfold (1976) Image: Etsy.

From Bill Blass, Vogue 1455 includes a two-piece swimsuit with bra top and bikini briefs:

1970s Bill Blass jacket, pants, and swimsuit pattern Vogue 1455

Vogue 1455 by Bill Blass (1976)

John Kloss licensed a number of swimwear designs with Butterick. This ad promotes his patterns with a poolside photo of Butterick 4808:

Butterick Kloss ad 1976

Butterick 4808 by John Kloss, Butterick advertisement, 1976. Image: eBay.

Another Butterick designer, Gil Aimbez, designed this one-piece bathing suit. Contrast bias binding outlines the cut-away sides and bodice seaming detail:

1970s Gil Aimbez swimsuit and coverup pattern Butterick 5449

Butterick 5449 by Gil Aimbez (ca. 1977) Image: Etsy.

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:

1970s Penfold pattern Vogue 1655

Vogue 1655 by Penfold (ca. 1977) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Both Penfold patterns can be seen in a Vogue Patterns editorial photographed in Antigua:

1970s Anne Klein / Penfold halter bikini pattern by Donna Karan, Vogue 1416 in Vogue Patterns magazine

Beach beauty: halter bikini Vogue 1416 by Donna Karan at Anne Klein for Penfold, Vogue Patterns, May/June 1977. Model: Clotilde. Photo: Albert Watson. Image: the Fashion Spot.

Vogue Patterns MayJun 1977 Penfold

Vogue 1655 by Penfold with Vogue 9808, Vogue Patterns, May/June 1977. Models: Lisa Cooper and Clotilde. Photos: Albert Watson. Image: the Fashion Spot.

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:

1970s Catalina swimsuit pattern Vogue 1893

Vogue 1893 by Catalina (1978) Image: Etsy.

The magazine recommended making the Catalina suits in Thompson of California’s “second skin Tic Toc warp knit polyester crepes” in various prints:

Vogue 1893 by Catalina, Vogue Patterns, May/June 1978. Image: Vintage Goodness.


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):

1980s Basile swimsuit pattern - McCall's 7109

McCall’s 7109 by Basile (1980) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Jerry Hall (right) seems to be wearing the view A style in this Basile ad photographed by Irving Penn:

vogue italia 1980 penn basile

Basile advertisement in Vogue Italia, 1980. Photo: Irving Penn. Models: Michelle Stevens and Jerry Hall. Image: the Fashion Spot.

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):

1980s Bob Mackie swimsuit and cover-up pattern McCall's 7138

McCall’s 7138 by Bob Mackie (1980) Image: Etsy.


Finally, this early ’90s DKNY pattern, Vogue 2897, is labelled ‘dress and bodysuit,’ but was photographed as beachwear:

1990s DKNY bodysuit and hooded dress / coverup pattern Vogue 2897

Vogue 2897 by DKNY (1992) Image: Etsy.

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

Cynthia Rowley for Roxy wetsuit, 2010

Wetsuit by Cynthia Rowley for Roxy, 2010. Image: Pinterest.

Willy Somma self-portrait for Rachel Comey Swim, 2013

Willy Somma self-portrait for Rachel Comey Swim, T Magazine, May 2013. Image:

Pan Am Games 2015 – Vintage Pattern Edition

July 20, 2015 § 6 Comments

This week the Pan Am Games continue in Toronto. In honour of the Games, here’s a look at vintage patterns and illustrations showing women’s sports.

First up: Pan Am sports that have already concluded for 2015.

Archery. From a 1933 issue of McCall’s magazine, this archery scene was illustrated by Jean des Vignes:

Jean des Vignes archery illustration in a 1930s McCall's magazine

“Taking Aim,” McCall’s magazine, March 1933. Illustration: Jean des Vignes.

Golf. Ben-Hur Baz (later known for his pin-ups) illustrated this golf scene for McCall’s magazine, circa 1930:

Ben Hur Baz ladies' golf illustration in McCall's magazine, spring 1930

McCall 6078 and 6074 in McCall’s magazine, April 1930. Illustration: Ben Hur Baz.

Donna Karan designed these mid-1970s golf separates, hat included, when she was at Anne Klein. You can buy it for your own golfing needs from the PatternVault shop.

1970s Donna Karan for Anne Klein for Penfold golf pattern - Vogue 1415

Vogue 1415 by Donna Karan for Anne Klein x Penfold (ca. 1976) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Roller skating. Simplicity 3890, a World War 2-era skating pattern, includes this roller skating illustration:

1940s roller skating pattern - Simplicity 3890

Simplicity 3890 (ca. 1941) Image via Etsy.

Sailing. This 1930s sailor dress has a contrast collar and big buttons at the side-front closure:

1930s sailor dress pattern - New York 217

New York 217 (ca. 1930s)

Swimming. This chic, cuffed swimsuit (previously featured in my Heat Wave! beachwear post) dates to the late 1940s:

1940s bathing suit pattern - Vogue 6709

Vogue 6709 (1949) Image via Oodles and oodles.

The swimsuit was photographed by Richard Rutledge for Vogue Pattern Book:

1940s Richard Rutledge photograph - Vogue pattern no. 6709

Vogue 6709 in Vogue Pattern Book, April/May 1949. Photo: Richard Rutledge.

Tennis. The cover of the McCall Quarterly for Spring 1932 has this tennis-themed illustration featuring two dresses by Bruyère:


Bruyère patterns McCall 6804 and 6819 on the cover of McCall Quarterly, Spring 1932. Illustration: Blanche Rothschild.

(For more tennis patterns see my Tennis, Anyone? post.)

Stay tuned for more vintage sports wear… I’ll be looking at a different Pan Am sport and related vintage pattern every day this week.

Tennis, Anyone?

June 25, 2012 § 9 Comments

art deco tennis illustration McCall Style News May 1928

McCall Style News, May 1928.

Wimbledon kicks off today. In honour of the world’s oldest tennis tournament, here’s a selection of patterns for playing the most fashionable sport.

Tennis Vogue June 1927 cover by Harriet Meserole 15 July 1927 US edition

Vogue UK, late June 1927. Illustration: Harriet Meserole. Image via G1Art.

Modern tennis fashion really got underway in the 1920s, when tennis became a popular leisure activity and couturiers like Chanel, Patou, and Vionnet designed tennis wear to meet the demand for fashionable luxury sportswear. (For more on ’20s tennis fashion see the Voguepedia article Tennis Dressing.)

Typically, sewing patterns for tennis outfits show a woman holding a tennis racquet. The Deco cover of the McCall Style News shown at the top of this post portrays McCall 5277 as a dress for tennis, but the pattern envelope doesn’t advertise its suitability for sports. The illustration simply shows a day dress with the skirt pleated in front; the handkerchief collar and scarf girdle are optional:

McCall 5277 1920s tennis dress McCall's catalogue illustration

McCall 5277 (1928) in the McCall’s catalogue, 1930. Image courtesy of echopoint.

In the early 1930s, sports dresses had lower hemlines, but could be worn unbuttoned in the back, like this McCall’s sports dress from 1933:

McCall 7663 early 1930s sports dress for tennis

McCall 7663 (1933) Sports dress. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

This pattern was illustrated on the cover of the Spring 1934 McCall Fashion Book:

Cycling and tennis ensebles on the cover of McCall Fashion Book, Spring 1934

McCall Fashion Book, Spring 1934.

(Catalogue image courtesy of Judy Yates of Vintage4me2.)

Playsuits and shorts became fashionable tennis wear after American tennis champion Alice Marble wore shorts to a professional match in 1932. These McCall’s sports separates include a tennis outfit with high-waisted shorts:

McCall 9180 1930s Slacks, shorts, and shirt pattern for tennis

McCall 9180 (1937) Slacks, shorts, and shirt. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Lauren of Wearing History has made the McCall 9180 trousers; you can see a photo by clicking the pattern image.

The ‘masculine’ shorts trend continued into wartime, which also saw a return to the sports dress. This Advance tennis dress has a front zipper and inverted pleat, and includes panties for underneath:

Advance 2754 WW2 1940s day or tennis dress and panties pattern

Advance 2754 (c. 1941) Day or tennis dress and panties. Image via Vivian Belle Vintage.

In the postwar period tennis dresses or skirts, pleated or plain, became the standard tennis wear. The silhouettes reflected current trends, but with higher hemlines, as with this tennis dress with pleated skirt and cinched waist:

McCall 7170 1940s tennis dress and shorts pattern

McCall 7170 (1948) Tennis dress and shorts. Image via eBay.

This Vogue tennis dress is a shorter version of the day dress also included in the pattern (check out the vintage camera):

Vogue 9101 1950s tennis dress and shorts pattern

Vogue 9101 (1957) Dress and shorts. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Tennis hemlines are rising with these Vogue sports separates, which include a sleeveless blouse, shorts, and tennis skirt:

Vogue 9771 late 1950s blouse, skirt and shorts pattern

Vogue 9771 (1959) Blouse, skirt, and shorts. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

More perky pleats on this early 1960s tennis dress from McCall’s:

McCalls 6825 1960s tennis dress and panties pattern

McCall’s 6825 (1963) Tennis dress and panties. Image via Etsy.

The popularity of tennis in the 1970s prompted the release of a wide variety of tennis patterns, for dresses, visors, and even racquet covers and other accessories. Vogue Patterns licensed tennis wear from Anne Klein, Penfold, and Anne Klein for Penfold (illustrated on the June 1976 news cover here). These Vogue Patterns magazine covers show an Anne Klein tennis outfit in action and Regine Jaffrey modelling a Vogue tennis shirt and visor:

Vogue Patterns magazine April/May 1973 Anne Klein tennis cover

Vogue 2841 by Anne Klein on the cover of Vogue Patterns magazine, April/May 1973. Image via Etsy.

Model Regine Jaffrey in a tennis shirt and visor, Vogue Patterns magazine Spring 1975

Vogue Patterns, Spring 1975. Model: Regine Jaffrey. Image via eBay.

Butterick licensed designs by women’s tennis champion Chris Evert, including this pattern for a tennis dress, briefs, and visor:

Butterick 4688 1970s Chrissie Evert for Puritan Fashions pattern for tennis dress, briefs, and visor

Butterick 4688 by Chrissie Evert for Puritan Fashions (c. 1977). Tennis dress, briefs, and visor. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Karen Bjornson models this Penfold set consisting of a sleeveless tennis dress, t-shirt, shorts, and wrap miniskirt:

Vogue 1635 1970s tennis dress, t-shirt, shorts, and wrap skirt pattern

Vogue 1635 (c. 1977) Tennis dress, t-shirt, shorts, and wrap skirt. Model: Karen Bjornson. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

It’s interesting how the history of women’s tennis wear is a history of female athletes pushing the envelope: from May Sutton Bundy’s rolled-up sleeves, in 1905, and Suzanne Lenglen’s higher hemlines, to Alice Marble’s shorts and Serena Williams’ recent subversion (with hot pink briefs) of the rule of Wimbledon whites. (See a Guardian Wimbledon slideshow here and Vogue’s tennis slideshow here.) Women’s tennis fashions insist on femininity while offering an escape from modesty.

Heat Wave! Vintage Beachwear Patterns

August 8, 2011 § 10 Comments

A wrapped and tied beach kimono

A wrapped and tied beach kimono. Reeves cotton printed by Cranston. Vogue Pattern Book, June/July 1961. Photo: Schiavone. Model: Jean Shrimpton?

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.

Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, archway detail

Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, archway detail. Image courtesy of Alex Laney via Wikipedia Commons.

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.

1930s bathing suit pattern Vogue 8237

Vogue 8237 (1938) Bathing suit. Image via At the Pond, CoPA virtual exhibition.

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:

Beachwear fashions in McCall's magazine, April 1932.

Beachwear fashions in McCall’s magazine, April 1932.

(You can see the accompanying text in this Etsy listing.) Here are a couple early ’30s McCall patterns for beach pajamas:
McCall 6945 (1932) Beach pajamas

McCall 6945 (1932) Beach pajamas. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

McCall 7344 (1933) Sports or beach pajamas and cape

McCall 7344 (1933) Sports or beach pajamas and cape. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Simplicity’s promotional material calls this late ’30s halter design “a pajama ensemble for sun-tan fans.” (See linked wiki page for repro information.)

Simplicity 3081 (1939) Pajama ensemble

Simplicity 3081 (1939) Pajama ensemble. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.


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.)

Vogue 9046 (c. 1941) Two-piece bathing suit

Vogue 9046 (c. 1941) Two-piece bathing suit. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

This McCall design is for a cute tie-back, halter top style with pleated bottoms:

McCall 5648 (1944) Two-piece bathing suit

McCall 5648 (1944) Two-piece bathing suit. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

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:

Vogue 6709 (1949) Bathing suit

Vogue 6709 (1949) Bathing suit. Image via Oodles and oodles.


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):

1950s bathing suit and cover-up pattern - Vogue 8883

Vogue 8883 (1956) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

In 1956 Emilio Pucci did a series of designs for McCall’s that included this skirted, strapless bathing suit:

McCall's 3977 by Emilio Pucci (1956)

McCall’s 3977 by Emilio Pucci (1956) Strapless bathing suit and shirred overskirt. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

(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:

Vogue 9749 (1959) Bathing suit and reversible beach coat

Vogue 9749 (1959) Bathing suit and reversible beach coat. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.


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 5263 (1961) Beach kimono and bathing suits

Vogue 5263 (1961) Beach kimono and bathing suits. Image via eBay.

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:

Vogue 6212 (1964) Two-piece swimsuit, beach dress and hat

Vogue 6212 (1964) Two-piece swimsuit, beach dress and hat. Image via the Vintage Patterns wiki.

Two-pieces seem to have made the decisive shift to bikinis in the later 1960s:

Vogue 6752 (c. 1966) Bikini and cover-up

Vogue 6752 (c. 1966) Bikini and cover-up. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.


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):

Vogue 7815 (1970) Bathing suit, cover-up and hat

Vogue 7815 (1970) Bathing suit, cover-up and hat. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

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:

Vogue 1416 by Anne Klein for Penfold (1976) Swimsuit, bikini, cover-up and scarf

Vogue 1416 by Anne Klein for Penfold (1976) Swimsuit, bikini, cover-up and scarf. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Vogue 1655 by Penfold (1977) Swimsuit, bikini and cover-up

Vogue 1655 by Penfold (1977) Swimsuit, bikini and cover-up. Image via eBay.


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:

Simplicity 6884 by Oleg Cassini (1985) Swimsuit and wrap skirt

Simplicity 6884 by Oleg Cassini (1985) Swimsuit and wrap skirt. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Brooke Shields also licensed some designs with McCall’s, including a few swimwear patterns. Here’s the one that hits the most ’80s trends:

McCall's 9566 by Brooke Shields (1985) Bathing suit

McCall’s 9566 by Brooke Shields (1985) Bathing suit. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

And in case you needed instruction in swimwear sewing techniques, Vogue Patterns had a book for you:

Everything about Sewing Swimwear (1972)

Everything about Sewing Swimwear (1972). Image via eBay.

*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.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Penfold at PatternVault.

%d bloggers like this: