Monday, 30 June 2008

Vintage...swimsuits (or rather swimdont's) glorious technicolour!

My bestest buddy from college days and I, used to dress in vintage clothes from the 1950s..we spent the best part of our late teen and early twenties living our lives like we were in a 50s B-movie surrounded by Hotrods and alcohol and having a whole stack of 50s style fun.
Each Saturday we would visit Birmingham's rag market to purchase a new vintage outfit to wear out, or fabric to sew an outfit or dress copied from a movie star from that era.
Here's some of my old swimsuits...
naughty nautical!

glass fancy buttons,industrial strength boning and super-sized zip!

One phase we went through was to wear vintage swimsuits with vintage Levis....hmm... sounds dubious I know, but at the time our group of people all did it too.. so it was a normal occurrence. Even in winter.


Vintage swimsuits were always available cheaply at the rag market so we had quite a stash between us..perfect we though to wear to the swimming baths one day...
Off we tootled with our vintage kit thinking we looked cute and kitsch and fabulous (oh to be 20 again!!) and took a swim in our vintage swimsuits...

hmmm..the culprit!

Not so long after we looked at each other in absolute horror..our 'swimsuits' had stretched to twice their original size..(oh behold the joys of modern lycra, for '50s swimming costumes have none!) the drag was like wearing a costume made of disposable nappies.. it took all our strength to swim back to the side before we sank forever under the weight of all that worn out elastane.We only hoped that small boys in goggles, swimming nearby..didn't see any 'girl stuff'.. for fears that they would be scarred for life!

plain and sensible

The next part was the worst..we had to work out how to get out of the pool, which bit of costume to hoist up,which bits to hide which bit of the pool ladder to grab..oh the trauma! When we finally rustled up the courage to go for it, it felt like a hundred tons of water were in our pants..our gussets were by our knees and the fabric was SO unbelievably heavy! we scuttled away in total embarrassment,swearing never to show our faces at the baths again.Ever.

my favourite...cheeky tulips!

(Or at least not in a 40 year old bathing suit with worn out elastic!)


  1. I think we are a similar age as I had a collection of old swimming costumes – however having had a whole childhood of swimming costume humiliations never wore them as an adult.
    I can even remember seeing a lot of knitted costumes at jumble sales… must have been a riot in the old days – so much accidental flashing going on- not wonder going to the seaside was so popular!

  2. I can imagine the full horror of it and feel the heat of your blushes from here..
    I love the retro swimsuit look but alas with my thighs and derriere they will not see the light of day ...


  3. So funny - I guess that's why so many of those 1950's photos just have the girls posing on the side of the pool - they had more sense than to get the things wet!!
    Can't wait to see your collection - I have one red 50's swimsuit that I have hanging in my bathroom - just as decor!
    I remember Mum making me a swim suit from an old towel when I was about 3 years old - what was she thinking?!!

  4. Thats such a funy story! The images in my head as I was reading the post........!
    I must admit I would love a costume that had a skirt, no more embarrassing hairy moments!
    Hope you don't mind but I have tagged you to show the view from your kitchen, enjoy!

  5. I'm impressed! I only ever got as far as modelling those wonderful flowery swim hats and they were painful to wear but not so revealing! Although if anyone has a photo of me in one the embarrassment level might be similar - Also, I want to see a picture of the towelling suit Niki's mum made - I bet there's a picture in the family album somewhere!

  6. Hi S,
    Thanks for your comments! I'm sure I have a photo of the towelling swimsuit somewhere in the attic - I shall try to find it when I get a moment and post it on my blog!! (if I dare!)
    Have a great day,
    Niki x

  7. I think vintage swimsuits with vintage Levis sounds great and would look good today! I have a photo of my father wearing a knitted all in one swimsuit as a child!! Yes, thank goodness for lycra and modern fabrics - some changes are for the best!

  8. What a scream! Oh..the folly of youth - you think you can get away with anything. When I think back to some of the disasters I wore in the 80's..cringe! (given my age away now)
    (sorry to hear about you losing another chick) x

  9. I have spent too much of this morning reading most of your posts and looking at your photos on flickr, I should be painting. but i hae so enjoyed reading it all and looking at your photos. There are too many for me to comment individually but I shall add you to my favourites so that I can return.

  10. I think I have a photo of me in a lovely vintage swimsuit, when I was quite young.I would look ridiculous in it now...correction..I doubt I would fit into it ;-)

  11. That is so funny, I haven't laughed so much in ages! (Sorry about chicky though).
    Lucy x

  12. Shame you have not shown us some piccies!!!my Mum's knitted swimsuit went like your one!
    Hotrods? do you mean the cars that raced?
    Carol x

  13. Oh what a fun post
    Love the cheeky tulips(:)
    Hope you have a great 4th..
    hugs Patty

  14. oh hahha!! A lovely tale from your past and what delightful swimsuits you have shown us too!

  15. Hi,In Absolutely Beautiful Things decorating blog, it shows a framed collection of vintage swimsuits.

  16. this is hilarious! i ran across your blog and looked around and the vintage suits caught my eye. i love pictures of girls in them from then, and have always wanted them to come back in style! they'd be perfect for being flattering, but hiding my stretch marks! what a fun story to remember. i wish i could find some, but i'll make a mental note to not try them out! haha.

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  18. i have been looking everywhere for vintage style swimsuits! i think its probably more the 'wear with levis' than swim in but i cant seem to find them anywhere! i live just outside of london and i've not once found a swimsuit as nice as these- do you have any ideas as to where i could find them?

  19. hello anonymous! I hope you get to read this, I'm afraid I wouldnt know of anywhere to buy these vintage swimsuits today, we used to buy them from jumble sales and markets,20 years ago there were lots around.I would think eBay is your best bet these of luck!

  20. Hey there discerning ladies. Take a look at My Sister Pat ( designer label) authentically 1950's fashioned swimsuits: Its a little vintage living in a modern world: Cotton; lined with quick drying polyester: totally swimable: traditional rubber shirring, which withstands the harsh elements of salt water and chlorine.
    Some things DO stand the test of time: Elegant regards MY SISTER PAT


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