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Message Board > Vintage Sewing > Making a vintage swimsuit ( Moderated by JEF)

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Making a vintage swimsuit
What kind of fabric would you use?
Sickofitcindy
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Sickofitcindy
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Date: 8/23/10 10:02 PM


I just purchased this pattern this morning and would love to make it before the summer ends. I know authentic 50s swimsuits were made with cotton. Should I go authentic or modern with lycra fabric? I'm worried that the cotton will fade quickly and chafe. On other hand, I'm concerned that the lycra would be too floppy and not look as nice. What to do?

sarah in nyc

sarah in nyc
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Date: 8/23/10 11:05 PM

My mother had a similar suit made out of cotton pique`. It had elastic on the back. She wore that suit for my entire childhood.

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goodworks1
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Date: 8/23/10 11:42 PM

My mother had a similar purchased suit (about 1957?) made of a green cotton print. It was a smooth cotton, medium weight. The print scale was very close to that of the blue suit in the pattern photo.

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3HoursPast
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3HoursPast
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Date: 8/24/10 0:27 AM

I like using vintage cuts with modern fabrics, I think that would be charming either way. If you can get your hands on it, cotton pique is a wonderful ladylike active wear fabric. I'm toying with the idea of making a vintage swimsuit from wool jersey like they did in the 20's...

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http://3hourspast.com- Vintage Style, Sewing, and Ethical Fashion

Sickofitcindy
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Date: 8/24/10 0:46 AM

Thanks Ladies! I'm doing the PR meetup here in NY on Saturday so I'll keep my eyes peeled for cotton pique. Now I'm thinking about making it a little bit longer and wearing it as a romper.

my horse
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my horse
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Date: 8/24/10 1:54 AM

If you are going for looks use cotton. If you actually want to swim in it use lycra. Having a wet mass of cotton dripping around you for eons and dragging you down while swimming will convince you of the pure luxury of swimwear fabric :>)

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She looks for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight. Proverbs 31:13 NAS

JTink
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In reply to Sickofitcindy


Date: 8/24/10 9:26 AM

I love this look. Cotton is the way to go, but I would look for a blend. Never hurts to have a bit of Poly in the mix.

mastdenman
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Date: 8/24/10 10:23 AM

There is a lycra spandex stuff that is specifically made for swimwear. I have purchased it at Joanns but don't know if they have it any more. The majority of stretch is lengthwise (versus the normal majority of stretch being widthwise). The Connie Long (Threads) book on knits has a small blurb on this.
-- Edited on 8/24/10 10:24 AM --

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Marilyn

January 2009 to January 2010 81 yards out and 71yards in January 2010 to the present 106.7 yards out and 146.5 yards in. January 2011 to the present: 47 yards out and 69 yards in.

MagpieJen
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Date: 8/24/10 11:25 AM

Such a cute pattern!

I'm curious what the pattern's fabric recommendations are. (I assume you ordered it online and are waiting for it? I would love to know what it says once it arrives.)

I'm betting the suit is designed for a woven cotton, and that would certainly be authentic and was (as mentioned already) quite common. And yeah, having worn a vintage cotton swimsuit - not as much fun to actually swim in! Cute though :-)

But I have seen original 1950s swimsuits made from stretch knits too. I'm not sure whether the fibre in those is a nylon or polyester (I think they would have called poly "Dacron" then) or acrylic or what.

But here's a good example at Glamoursurf (they sell vintage swimsuits) of a stretch knit suit from the 1950s that even has some of the same design features of your suit and is described as made from a 2-way stretch cotton-blend:

http://www.glamoursurf.com/catalog/item/4567435/5165082.htm

They also had some sort of metallic Lurex material too. Here's another example:

http://www.glamoursurf.com/catalog/item/4567435/6989859.htm

Stretch knits go far back as swimwear. 1920s-1930s suits were often wool jersey as bellelass mentioned. And there was also a charming satin knit that was popular in the 1930s-1940s. I wish I knew what the fibre content of this satin stuff was. I know they were using rubber in blends (with cotton? wool? rayon? I don't know) and calling it Lastex:

http://www.glamoursurf.com/catalog/item/4567435/6128007.htm

(I'm not affiliated with glamoursurf. I've never even bought anything from them! It's just a handy site to look at vintage suits since they have so many.)

-- Edited on 8/24/10 11:26 AM --
-- Edited on 8/24/10 11:30 AM --

Nancy K
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Date: 8/24/10 2:24 PM

Even if this is a vintage I can't imagine wanting all that wet cotton hanging, and it will hang. Also try getting this on and off when it's wet! I'd use a modern fabric.

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