Swimwear in Vogue

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'Gone are the days when a bathing suit was simply a covering that would wring out well. Today, one's individuality must be considered.' Various interpretations of the black and white geometric mode.


I have been traveling and researching through Europe all summer and am eager to get back into the swing of things for my column here at Shrimpton Curated. I decided to post extracts from the 1981 published book 'Swimwear in Vogue - since 1910' by Christina Probert. The book quotes heavily straight from the pages of Vogue magazine. In this first of a series of articles, we will focus on the 1920's.

Prior to the 1920's, women were governed by old-established rules of etiquette. Now, the body was liberated from the constraints of the Victorian Era, and were on show at all the smartest beaches. Bathing beauties were clad in the newest, knitted, clinging fabrics. Liberty could be taken in the choice of colours and fabrics. But, warned Vogue, 'let good taste set the rules.'



PS. Stay tuned for my next column when we take a look at the 1930's...


(L) 'That Madame prefers her smart wrap of black and white stripes, to the more brilliant cover-ally's of her neighbours (R) is a matter she makes no attempt at all to disguise. But then, with an aristocratic nose like hers, one must find something to look down.'  Illustrations 1-3 by Ann Fish for British Vogue, 1922.


The long, lean look: tubular trunks and tops on masculine lines, under suits and wrap over too, maillots. Patou's designs are bright, like the suit (far left), in orange crepe marocain with white appliquéd patterns, or black and white, like his one-piece manlike suit for the energetic swimmer. The flowing cape, smart since the onset of revealing suits, is still à la mode, but in lighter fabrics. Patou's third suit is Chinese influenced, with its Mandarin neckline, side-buttoning, slightly flared skirt. Illustration by L. Fellows for American Vogue, 1924.


More and more skin on display: the body on show at all the smartest beaches clad in the newest knitted, clinging fabrics. During the twenties, as swimming became a fashionable occupation, Haute Couture began to take the leading role in designing new styles for all beachwear: a role played earlier in the twentieth century by spinal dressmakers and large stores. The result of this change are immediately apparent: two tailored jersey suits, designed to fit both in and out of the water. Illustration by S.C. Martin for a French Vogue, 1926.


Haute Couture designs for summer 1928: swimwear editorials like this had become the norm in all Vogue's editorials. Patou (L) and Lanvin (R) were both using patterned jerseys with toning plain knits for two-piece suits.


Schiaparelli's suit had matching stripy top and socks, plain shorts.


Beer used triangles of silk for Cape and swimsuit. Colours for the season we're strongly contrasting duos. 6-9 photographed by Hoyningen-Huené for French Vogue, 1928.

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