Seen here are several examples of “water fun” throughout the decades from our archival photograph files.  Although bathing suit styles may have changed - rather drastically - the fact remains that folks still head to the nearest body of water when it gets hot, regardless of the region in which they live. Enjoy these examples from bygone eras and be very thankful that we no longer where wool when swimming!

EPHEMERA FRIDAY: Each Friday we post a selection or small collection from our Archives. Some items may be on exhibit, some may be too fragile to display and some may be too unusual to fit into our typical Lowcountry exhibit themes. We will occasionally ask for help identifying people or places in photographs that have come to us with little or no information. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on EPHEMERA FRIDAY.

Even before the explosive 1946  introduction of the bikini in France, two piece suits were gaining in popularity. This perky yellow swimsuit of elasticized fabric dates to the 1940s. In the late 1930s and 1940s, man-made fibers such as Celanese acetate and Dupont rayon were used to create a number of exciting new and practical fabrics. This suit has a Par-Form / Original label, indicating it was made by Par-Form Foundations, Inc., New York.

The bandeau top has encased elastic top and bottom and ties in back. It originally had a removable matching tie that slipped through a loop inside the front center and tied around the neck. The matching bottom has an additional gathered panel over the front along with encased elastic at waist, bottom of front panel and leg openings. There is a 7” yellow metal zipper in back with a concealed yellow plastic button at the waist.

This summery suit was worn by Audrey Nash Jordan (1921-2005) of Greenwood and Greenville, S.C.

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

Woman’s blue cotton and white eyelet bathing suit, 1959. This De Weese Design suit and matching cover-up were part of the donor’s trousseau. The suit has a back zipper and elastic smocking for fit. Mary Ellen Long married Charles Seignious Way, Jr. on August 15, 1959. The family was deeply involved with the development of area beaches as popular resorts. Mary Ellen’s father, J. C. Long, purchased 1300 acres on the Isle of Palms in 1944, forming the Beach Company and her husband, Charles, purchased Kiawah Island in 1988, making it the tourist destination it is today.

Gift of Mary Ellen Way in 2012

This suit is currently on exhibit in Seasonal Fashion: Summertime in Charleston

Mary Ann Deweese began her fashion design career in 1934 with Los Angeles Knitting Mills followed by three years at Sandeze. During her 12 years as head designer for Catalina, she received world-wide acclaim. She worked with studio designers for many of the stars and for many years designed the Miss America pageant swimsuits. In 1951, she launched her own company – Deweese Designs – creating high-fashion swimsuits and sundresses. In 1961 she designed the official US team suits for the World Water Team Championships and the Olympics in 1960.

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 new 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

Cherry red knit wool bathing suit, c. 1949, labeled Jantzen and sold at Alta Cunningham’s shop for ladies’ fine clothing at 104 Trade Street in downtown Greer, SC. It is a two-piece puckered knit suit with ties at the waist and bodice back. It was worn by Greenville resident Audrey Nash Jordan (1921-2005).

In the 1920s and 1930s, attitudes toward sun exposure were changing. Women no longer wanted the pale, delicate look and now eagerly sought a sun tan and healthy glow. Swim suits quickly reacted to that change. In the 1940s the two-piece bare-midriff suit with skirt panel over tight shorts was popular. The more extreme bikini, introduced in France, 1946, was not generally adopted by American women until some years later.

While this suit was manufactured by bathing suit giant Jantzen, home knitters could create their own bathing suit like the one pictured in the Woman’s Day 1949 Knitting Annual. Click for a printable PDF of the pattern. It is knitted in two pieces using the relatively new Lastex yarn, made with a core of rubber for elasticity.

EQ05.002.015

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 new 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

Here’s a “hot” number for beach attire - a woman’s lovely two piece bathing suit, 1890s. All made of deep blue wool, the shirt and pants are one piece with a gathered overskirt for modesty. The white trim is cotton twill tape, giving it a nautical flair. To complete the look, our bather would have worn a gathered cap, stockings, bathing shoes and perhaps a corset! Be sure to see the archival photographs from our collection in this posting to see how the ensemble would have looked.

In the 19th century, men had more freedom to actually swim, while women generally went “bathing”, by taking a dip in the water, fully clothed. As late as the 1870s, public beaches had separate times for men and women to “bathe.” By the 1890s, attitudes towards female swimming were changing and the skirt could be removed for more active swimming. Women’s swimming events were added to the 1912 Olympic games in Stockholm. Real swimsuit changes occurred in the 1920s and 1930s when suntans became fashionable and new knitted fabrics were introduced.

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 new 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