After purchasing our first vintage 1950's swimsuit, we decided to do some investigating to see how swimwear has evolved in the past 50 years. Evident by the photo, swimwear has definitely come a long way! A typical bikini today uses less than a yard of fabric, and after examining the cumbersome materials on this suit we thought it was appropriate, as swimwear professionals, to delve in to the history of swimwear.
The first fashion swimming costumes, were structured around a corset with control panels that held in the stomach. There was also a bra cup and a zipper for closure in the back, which captured the fitted look. The suit was cut straight across the top of the leg, in a style resembling an apron. This beach corset was constructed using lined cotton, stretch Lastex, elastic ruched waffle nylon, and even wool. Comfortable right? Spandex wasn't even invented until 1958! Our brown and creme colored vintage suit is pretty stiff...we can't imagine how heavy it is when it gets wet!
1950's swimwear was also highlighted by Fred Cole, who convinced Christian Dior in 1955 to design a swimwear collection. Mr. Cole, once an actor himself outfitted Hollywood actress Esther Williams in all her movies. Cole was also president of Cole of California, one of the leading swimwear retailers of the time who also published swimwear ads in Vogue.
As for bikinis...they were still thought to be a little risque, in fact they were still banned from the Miss World competition. Although bikinis were gaining popularity throughout Hollywood, it wasn't until Bridget Bardot was photographed strolling the French Riviera in a bikini did they general public catch on. The bikini's attractive reputation quickly made it a hot item throughout the 1960's. Be sure to check out our next post which is all about the 1960's bikinis!
Interested in viewing one-of-a-kind vintage swimsuits from the 50's? Here is a great website that has an amazing selection, and each suit has a historical description!