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.

1950s

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.

1960s

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.

1970s

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.

1980s

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.

1990s

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: nytimes.com.

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:

McCallQSpring1932

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.

Patterns in Vogue: Helmut Newton at the Beach

August 31, 2014 § 5 Comments

Vogue May 1964

Detail, Vogue, May 1, 1964. Photo: Helmut Newton.

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):

Vogue 6211 coverup and bathing suit photographed by Helmut Newton - Vogue 1 May 1964

Vogue 6211 in Vogue, May 1, 1964. Photos: Helmut Newton.

As always, back views and yardage could be found in the back of the magazine:

Vogue 1May1964 219

Vogue, May 1, 1964.

Click the Patterns in Vogue tag for more posts in the series.

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.)

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!

1930s

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.

1940s

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.

1950s

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.

1960s

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.

1970s

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.

1980s

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.

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