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Aug 26, 2013

1920's Pattern Score -- SWIMWEAR EDITION!



When it comes to the history of women's swimsuits in the Twentieth century, the trend has been toward short...



shorter...



shortest.



This is the edited version, obviously.  There have been so many swimsuit variations in between.









This weekend, I was thrilled to win this Butterick pattern dating from approximately 1919 on eBay.  Not only does it offer three different versions (love those ruffles) it even includes a hat!



A few of you are probably thinking, That isn't a swimsuit, it's a DRESS.  Well, yes, by today's standards it IS a dress -- a dress worn over very baggy bloomers.  You wouldn't want to swim laps in it.  But it was the swimsuit style of the period (though soon to be replaced by one-piece knit suits that revealed one's shape a bit more).

I know I haven't finished my Twenties robe/pajama set yet, nor have I even started my Twenties men's shirt with detachable collar.  Plus it's nearly autumn.  Still, this pattern looks like it would be fun to make.  And as covered as it is, it could be worse:



By the way, if you are interested in learning about the history of swimwear, a well-written, generously illustrated book I recommend is "Making Waves."  (You can see some photos from the book here.)



In closing, readers, do you agree that while vintage-inspired swimwear is popular today, swimsuits from this era (Teen and Twenties) would be considered too unflattering by most people? 

How does one find that happy medium between floor length and floss?

Have a great day, everybody!

20 comments:

  1. Ooh, Peter, what a SCORE! I think that pattern is fabulous! You know, there's a good bit of interest in vintage swimsuit styles for modern women in the last few years, and not just for the ladies of roller derby, either. Personally, I'm ready for the pendulum to swing back the other way towards swimwear with a bit more coverage and style rather than just skin, skin, skin. I wish someone in fashion would cook up a modern version of one of those swimsuits from the 1920s or 1930s, utlizing modern fabrics and construction techniques. I'll bet Jean Paul Gaultier could come up with something amazing along those lines, don't you?

    I always enjoy your posts about sewing from these old patterns. It's kind of ldike time traveling, isn't it? :-)

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    1. Just search Modest Swimwear. There is metric ton of comfortable covered up swimwear for the muslim, religious, frum, mormon, skin saving, and just plain women who want to swim covered up.

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  2. I have never been a fan of floss, less so after that photo.

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  3. wow! this is SO SO COOL!!! :)

    --Gaiana (www.trapkeybygaia.blogspot.com)

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  4. The well placed photos in this post made me laugh. Thanks for brightening my day!

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  5. when I was a little girl, my grandmother always told me it was better to leave something to the imagination when it came to swimwear and I have grown up believing that and teach that to my girls as well. It is really interesting to look at the early years of swimsuits!

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  6. To add to the alliteration of 'floor length and floss', I've never seen the point of tanning boobs and buttocks. One doesn't normally flash these areas in everyday life, so why bother to tan them unless it is just about the adolescent thrill of shocking older folks...

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  7. To add to the similar sounding word usage of 'floor length and floss', I've never seen the purpose of tanning boobs and hindquarters. One doesn't typically streak these ranges in ordinary life, so why try to tan them unless it is practically the juvenile excite of stunning more advanced in years

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  8. With the large volume of excess fabric on those baggy swim dresses, I bet a lot more women drowned back in the day...

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    Replies
    1. Agree; but from what I've been told and from what I've read, most women of those eras didn't actually swim, they paddled about in very shallow water. Probably didn't even get wet above their knees.

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  9. "Between Floor-length and Floss" would be an excellent title for a monograph and/or a History Channel documentary on the subject.

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  10. Look out for that undertow! I'd be afraid of drowning in one of those old 1910 things! I do think it would be possible to make a 20s style suit relevant today though, simply because of the boy-style/waif esthetic from that time period.
    My dream suit would be a recreation of a suit my sisters and I had in the 60s which was made in the 50s, I think. It was a 2 piece, but a full lenghth top like today's tankinis, made out of red and white cotton gingham & white eyelet trim with a bullet bra that could put an eye out!

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  11. I love the look of the old suits, but I gotta speak up for skin. It's not for flash, but I love, love, LOVE the feeling of sun and water on my skin. Now that I'm in my 60s, it's unseemly, but I would be happy to wear the teeny suit for that sensation.

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  12. I'm afraid for me anything 20's is a no go. I have curves so I like all my clothing to stick to em! In baggy stuff I look like I'm about to give birth and you know I didn't lose 60 pounds to give that impression off, haha

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  13. I just recently read a collection of Agatha Christie's journal entries and letters from her trip around the world in 1922. In Honolulu, she and her husband were among the first Britons to learn to surf standing up. She loved surfing and went everyday. There is a photo of her in her new swimsuit, which she thought a bit daring, as it showed her shape and came half way up her thigh: "A wonderful, skimpy emerald green wool bathing dress, which was the joy of my life, and in which I thought I looked remarkably well!" And she did, too.

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  14. Somewhere I saw a really cute 60s does victorian swimsuit that someone made and really, it was very modest AND wearable. I'm a bikini kind of gal but I've still got my Claire McCardell bloomer one-piece on the back burner! It's all about sewing something crazy and new, isn't it?

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  15. What? Annette Funicello not pictured here? Yes, she had nothing to do with 1920s swim fashion but you gotta admit when it comes to assessing swimwear, Annette was the best. Of course no swimming was involved as it would ruin her beautiful bouffant hairdo.

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  16. That Butterick pattern is adorable! I'd wear it in a heartbeat. Compared to the those huge numbers they used to wear before it looks downright sporty. I love those too, but don't think I'd actually dare go in the water with them... I own this book because I love the vintage look but so far have not come across too many patterns I like as much as this one. Gotta keep on looking...

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  17. I'm involved with the Spontoon Islands collective, and swimsuits of the 1920s and 1930s have been closely examined by that group of artists and writers. One thing to remember is that the USA lagged behind Europe.

    One history is at http://www.bikiniscience.com/chronology/chronology.html and warns against mistaking cinema and theatre costuming for a real beach. But this idea of two-piece swimwear was sneaking out in the 1920s, even if there was only a change of fabric colour and a belt.

    The fabrics really started changing in the 1930s, with enough stretch to allow a close fit. And maybe the pre-war two-piece design-trend would have reached the bikini more rapidly without the distractions,

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  18. I think that rocking vintage swimsuit patterns, whether full coverage and looking like a dress or Marilynesque pinup styles, is a great way to make a splash poolside. Personally, I am fond of wearing an elegant and glamorous sundress and wide brimmed hat with shades and lipstick, grabbing a chaise lounge, and skipping the sunburn. Shows an increasingly jaded society that you don't have to be nearly naked to be super sexy. Meow!

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