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…
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:
Golf. Ben-Hur Baz (later known for his pin-ups) illustrated this golf scene for McCall’s magazine, circa 1930:
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.
Roller skating. Simplicity 3890, a World War 2-era skating pattern, includes this roller skating illustration:
Sailing. This 1930s sailor dress has a contrast collar and big buttons at the side-front closure:
The swimsuit was photographed by Richard Rutledge for Vogue Pattern Book:
Tennis. The cover of the McCall Quarterly for Spring 1932 has this tennis-themed illustration featuring two dresses by Bruyère:
(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.
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.
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.)
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.