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Vintage Swimsuit Fabric Suggestions
JuleScott
JuleScott
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MD USA
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Date: 3/12/14 12:58 PM

Hello everyone, I love this site.

I have a question for people with more fabric knowledge than myself (that would be everyone).

I am about to attempt to draft and construct a swimsuit based on a 50's design. However, based on my memory of a bathing suits my grandmother, mother and aunts wore (and I now wish I'd kept) the fabric was heavy, woven, and certainly not anything that is used for swimsuits today. (I do know they were NOT wool, although I have considered it.)

At any rate, I'm hoping someone can give me some suggestions for modern fabrics that would be appropriate? I feel I need a stiff cloth for this, given I really want it to hold its shape.

Thanks!

JTink
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JTink
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In reply to JuleScott <<
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Date: 3/12/14 1:41 PM

I remember those as well. Some actually had zippers in the back. I'm sure those were the ones made from cottons.

Quickie
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Quickie
NETHERLANDS
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Date: 3/12/14 4:52 PM

In the beginning of the fifties they certainly have existed in a woollen stable knit. After that I had suits made of a fabric containing rubber. They had in my vase Tiny stripes and they had a zip in the back. Both those styles were clinging to the body. After that we had those made of cotton with elastic smockpannelsin Holland was an exhibition on fifties clothing. There were also swimsuits.mI think Google images has pictures

GoSewGirl
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Date: 3/12/14 6:25 PM

I have a vintage swimsuit from the 50's that belonged to my mother. It is made from a stretch woven fabric, has boning along the sides of the bodice lining and has a metal zipper! The fabric feels a lot like a cotton-nylon... I think a lightweight stretch woven would work to get a similar feeling.

I actually wrote a blog post about it a while ago...

blog post about vintage swimsuit

------
Liz

happytobehere
happytobehere
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Date: 3/12/14 6:44 PM

I love your mom's swimsuit and can't believe it has stood up so well after all these years.
I think you should wear it!

diane s
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diane s  Friend of PR
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Date: 3/12/14 11:08 PM

My grandma had one I really liked and it was made of cotton pique. It did have a zipper and the straps adjusted with button and buttonholes.

------
My grandmother taught me to sew when I was 10, and I've been sewing ever since.

wenznz
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Date: 3/13/14 0:16 AM

There is a post with LOTS of pictures and detail about a 30s/40s swimsuit on The Dreamstress blog that might prove helpful.
Leimomi has a historical costuming background, and her blog a wealth of good information.

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Wendy
Wellington, New Zealand

SandiMacD
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Date: 3/13/14 6:05 AM

I can recall a knitted or crocheted yarn overlay on a cotton fabric. Or another colorful fabric on top of white cotton lining. And yes it did zip up the back or sides. Most times we helped each other with those back zippers!

I also recall my first two piece that was a lined cotton. I remember some bottoms had a side zipper and in others, the waist having the same rubberized elastic as the legs and the top underside. It was like what you can buy now to put in waistbands to hold blouses tucked in. Wide with 2-3 rubber channels.

I am not sure I would return to the zipper days. Back then they were metal and got hot against the skin. And sand got in them and when they broke the suit was worthless. And the paint chipped off.

But I do like the way the cups on the top made me feel securely contained and the leg cuts were like shorts and did not ride up and expose half of my backside! (Of course, by the 60's many of us did want more exposure!) Although the clasps in the back of the tops were also metal, mostly painted over in white. And the boning! There were times we could not wait to get out of those suits- pure misery if they didn't fit well.

I think we have the best of both worlds now and can use newer fabrics for comfort and older patterns for style. I think a cotton spandex in a pant weight would work up nicely. I can see a stretch lace overlay, too. I don't know how well an invisible nylon zip would do with sand and such over time but it might be OK. Or an active wear type zip might work.

For me, wearing a fitted suit that needs zipping with my 'padding' doesn't sound at all comfortable anymore. So I am tweaking a classic style to work with elastic.

------
sewing brings joy and meaning to my life...

KathySews
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Date: 3/13/14 6:15 AM

That is a beautiful suit. Thanks so much for the internal details photos. I love the piping detail. Actually I love everything about it. I always liked the boy shorts look on vintage suits.

As a well endowed woman I am struggling to get some flattering support in a swimsuit. Maybe I should think boning or underwires.

Pamela R
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Date: 3/13/14 9:01 AM

The cotton swim suits from my childhood were lined in nylon, so if the skirt washed up with a wave it was like your undies were showing. That was in the ladies. Mine had a "bloomery" type bottom and then the shirred elastic took it in at the back. That was in the 1950s. I believe I still have pictures .
The adult ones had metal zippers.
I have a pattern for a 1960's cotton 2 piece, and lots of patterns for the 1960's one piece with the front panel.
I was a swimmer and lifeguard, too tall for what was out there so I learned to sew my own at a young age.
The cotton, of the 50's was quite thick, almost like the weave of lightweight canvas, or bark cloth, and the ones I remember had different prints, such as you would use on a quilt, but not that light weight.
-- Edited on 3/13/14 9:07 AM --

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