Just wear a smile and a Jantzen - Decades before their 1960s slogan, the Jantzen company revolutionized the swimsuit industry. Began as the Portland Knitting Company, the genius of John A. Zehntbauer and Carl Jantzen combined to create the first practical wool bathing suit with their rib stitch in 1915. In the 1920s, they advertised swimming suits rather than bathing suits. In the 1930s, they added Lastex (rubberized yarn) for a better fit and used synthetics in addition to wool. As the years went on, even greater variety was available, including strap free, bikini styles and more colors. Their first logo of the Jantzen Diving Girl wore a daring red suit with matching stocking cap and stockings in the 1920s. As time passed, the cap was changed and she lost her stockings, but she is still an iconic figure.

Our two examples of Jantzen swimwear include a one-piece wool suit from the 1930s. It has a woven-in overskirt and an additional knitted cord to tie around the neck. It bears a Jantzen label with the Charleston retailer, Condon’s Inc, Charleston, S.C. It was worn here by Emily Ravenel Farrow (1915-2011).

The other Jantzen example is a two-piece cotton and elastic blend suit from the 1950s. The Jantzen Diving Girl appears to be wearing a strapless suit by this time. The bra-style top of this suit has ties around the neck and in back. The panty-style bottom has an elasticized shirred panel in front, drawstring at the waist. Only the shirred panel is lined with white cotton knit. This suit was worn by Mildred Zachowski (1918-2008) of Beaufort, at Hunting Island State Park beach.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday