Thursday, June 10, 2010

The 1920s Swimsuit


So with no camera there really isn't much for me to post concerning Operation Ruby Shorts. There's no real progress to report since I've taken the last few days off. My Beau and I have spent the last couple of days getting our files in order. I know you may all find this hard to believe, but I've never had a filing cabinet before. I've always had a box. This was apparently not acceptable. Beau has lots of filing experience so he's been taking the lead on this project.

I did want to report that Ali over at The Wardrobe, Reimagined has finished her Rubys! So cute! And she posted a great Ruby Pattern Translation over at her blog. Check it out if you plan to make these some time.


Ali's Rubys came out fabulously! I only hope mine are similarly successful. I'm still crossing my fingers and hoping that the length will be okay. I'd like these shorts to be more mid-thigh, and so far signs are good.

In any case after Tuesday's Vinspiration this week I was struck with a thought. I know nothing about swimwear pre-1940s. I could go on and on and on about frocks, tennis suits, hats, even unmentionables from the 1920s and 1930s. I'm even planning on putting an authentic 1920s make-up tutorial on my blog, but I really only had a vague picture of swimwear of the time in my head. What did ladies wear to the beach once they'd thrown off their corsets and layers of petticoats?  Have I been missing some fabulous fashion statement all this time? Is there a 1920s swimsuit design out there somewhere that desperately longs to be recreated? I had to know!

So I sat down, did a little research, found some really cute photos and decided to share. I present to you swimsuits of the 1920s.

First a little history. Sorry. You guys know me by now. I have to do it. In the 1900s bathing suits tended to look like the photo above. Long skirts, paired with long bathing stockings and bathing shoes.  I have to say that these would make a very cute day dress today, but I digress. The suits were normally made out of wool or mohair and were normally black or very dark blue with a little colored trim. I have trouble picturing wearing one of these in the heat of summer under the intense beach sun. All I can think is "oh goodness, hot." But they are cute, really cute. I could picture one of these suits in a lightweight cotton and wearing it on a boating trip today.  

As the 1910s progress hemlines get shorter and more colors begin to appear. A long tunic top with a pair of knee length shorts seems to be a popular style post WWI. Black goes almost entirely out fashion, though white with black stripes becomes quite popular. The sailor suit has a moment in the sun during the 1910s are well. 

Bathing suits begin to really shorten in the early 1920s. Pants suits or play suits become more popular and began appearing on beaches all over the country. 

The suits really seemed to have looked like the men's bathing suits of the past decade. They definitely fit within the square boxy lines of the fashionable 1920s lady's silhouette. There's a definite de-emphasis on the breasts and waist. Bathing stockings become shorter bathing socks, revealing the legs around the knee area. Swimsuits were still being made of wool, but they definitely look much more comfortable for beach going. I'm a big fan of the lady second to the left. If I were to make an early 1920s swim suit, I would definitely base it on hers. The white stripe around her collar and skirt hem is just darling! 


As the 1920s progress the suits shorten even further revealing the upper thigh. Necklines begin to lower. Quite scandalous to the older generation I am sure. 


By 1925 the general shape of the swim suit for the next two decades was fully formed. These ladies above have obviously already been in the water and you can see a definite design flaw with the suits of the time. Stretch. Wet wool is very heavy and I can just imagine that these suits got longer and longer as the day progressed. If I were a lady of the time I don't think I'd ever get in the water. I'd have rather sat on the beach and looked pretty all day. By the late 1920s wool was still by far the most used swimsuit material. I suppose because of it's natural ability absorb moisture. 

I must say that I found my swimsuit expedition very fun. The overall shape of the 1920s swimsuit is not very flattering to the modern eye. That's mostly due to the fashions of the time and the limitations of the swimsuit materials. Still I can definitely envision one of these in my future just for the pure fun of it. The girls in this photos look so full of life and energy. I love it!



4 comments:

Lisette said...

The best part is those early sailor suits became a brief trend again in the 60s and while hard to find, there are patterns for them!

Persuaded said...

What a sweet blog you have here! I just adore vintage fashions, so there's lots here to interest me☺ I am actually thinking of making myself a swimsuit for this summer.... more of a swimdress type thing, I think. But still have lots of planning and designing to do as, obviously, there are not a whole lotta patterns out there for such garments;-D

Ali said...

Ah, thanks on the Ruby-love, and great post on the 1920s swimsuits! Love the photos.

I've tagged you in a game of eight questions, shall you care to play :)

http://wardrobereimagined.blogspot.com/2010/06/morning-paper-bag-skirt-eight-questions.html

Nancy said...

Lisette: I love those 1940s sailor suits. Might have to make myself one of those. Summer jumper?

Persuaded: So glad you enjoy my blog! Isn't vintage the best? And you should do the vintage swimsuit thing. There are a lot of great swimsuit dress patterns from the 1960s out there. The patterns are going to be expensive this time of year though. I find it's best to purchase swimsuit patterns in the winter months.

Ali: Thanks for the tag! I'll play tomorrow.