This post is a little late… In 2016 we loaned these bathing suits from the FHM collection to the Esse Purse Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. I think they did a great job creating decade cases that put the suits in context.
British patent GB486475 (Publiation Date: 1938-06-03) for elastic fabric. SYMINGTON & CO., Ltd., R. & W. H., and BILLING, G. W. March 30, 1937, No. 9090. The invention relates to garments, particularly but not exclusively intended for bathers or swimmers, made of puckered material rendered elastic by stitching strands of rubber (Fig. 1), following the warp and weft in a zigzag manner. The material is folded and seamed (Fig. 6). The material so folded is provided with a continuous spirally run length of rubber strand e, (Fig. 2), intersecting the other strand a. The garment has a top hem f, Fig. 7, as a runner for draw-strings g.
I have since come across some images of an extant suit:
These past few months the Esse Purse Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas has been showcasing 10 bathing suits from the Fashion History Museum collection with the 1930s and up augmented with hats, sunglasses, and other fun beach paraphernalia. The show is about to end in a few weeks:
And while we are on the topic of swimwear, I thought this recently colourized picture from c. 1910 was interesting. History seems more real when it’s in colour:
I first blogged about Rose Marie Reid in my first ‘Canadian Fashion Connection’ post nearly six years ago. However, last week I found an example of the very first design she created that got her into the swimwear business. So here is a little more information about Rose Marie Reid.
Rose Marie Yancey was born into a Mormon family in Cardston, Alberta in 1906. Her first marriage brought her to Vancouver, British Columbia but that union did not last. After her divorce she took swimming lessons and fell in love with her swimming instructor Jack Reid, who became her second husband in 1935.
Bathing suits in the mid 1930s were made of wool that sagged when wet, so Rose Marie cut a pair of swimming trunks for her new husband from heavy cotton and put laces up the sides for a snug fit. In 1937 the Reids went into business after an order for sixteen dozen men’s and women’s laced suits were placed by the Hudson Bay Company department store. The suits were sold under the brand name Skintite and were made between about 1938 and 1944 (the dating is inexact in her biography.) In 1946 Rose divorced Jack Reid and moved her business to California. Rose Marie Reid went on to become the leading manufacturer of women’s swimwear in the 1950s.
As anyone who grew up in the West between the 1950s and 1970s will attest – we were told the Eastern bloc was the centre of all evil and ‘they’ wanted to destroy our way of life. ‘Those’ people lived in concrete apartment blocks (at least 2 families per unit), they wore grey clothing and had to line up for oranges and toilet paper. If you got a travel visa behind the iron curtain you were supposed to bring extra pairs of jeans for barter and never take a photograph of a bridge or airport or you would be sent to a Gulag.
Apparently this was a slight over-exaggeration.
However, Eastern bloc fashion is something that was a bit of a joke in the west at the time because it always seemed quaintly behind the times. Case in point, the seller of the bathing suit pictured (click here for listing) was asking questions on the Vintage Fashion Guild about how old it might be. It was odd because it had signs of being from the late 1960s (international ironing symbol on the tag along with the word ‘Prelana’) and yet it was a two piece knitted suit, consisting of a long top over a pair of shorts – something stylistically out of the 1930s at best! A few searches on the label information solved the answer. VFG member Leonardo da Vintage found references in former CIA documents from 1959 about Eastern Bloc industries and Prelana, an acrylic fibre developed in East Germany. It turns out that Goldfisch was an East German brand of swimwear.
This got me to thinking – there really needs to be some books on Eastern bloc fashion 1945 – 1990 because I don’t know of any on the topic other than one Taschen book of East German fashion with no dates on any of the pictures… any takers?
Murray-Kay Ltd. began when George B. Wylie set up a drapery dry goods store in the late 1840’s at 21 King street East in Toronto. The company was renamed ‘Wylie and Murray’ when Wylie took on Mr. W.A. Murray as a partner. After Wylie retired in 1858 the company was operated by just Mr. Murray and was renamed as W.A. Murray & Company. In 1872 Murray took on a new partner, a Mr. Dynan, but his name was never included in the name of the business.
Over the years the company expanded to include #23 King street by 1865, #17 & #19 King street by 1875, #25 & #27 King street by 1890, #29 & #31 King street by 1905, and #15 King street by 1920. By 1885 the company employed 300 in the importation, manufacture and retailing of dry goods, millinery, house furnishings, and carpets. However, the company specialized in clothing and period advertisements focus on their wide range of clothing for men, women, and children, millinery, fancy goods & notions, boots & shoes, sportswear, and underwear. In 1892 dressmaking was added to the list of available services, and in 1900 the company was first advertised as a department store.
In 1910 the company amalgamated with John Kay, a furniture and carpeting shop and in 1911 the company was officially renamed Murray Kay Co., Ltd. By the 1920s, the fashionable shopping area in Toronto had moved up to Bloor street from King street. Murray Kay Co., didn’t change locations which perhaps lead to the company taking on a new partner in 1923, renaming themselves as Petley & Murray Kay. However, this amalgamation closed its doors in 1925. John Kay reopened in new premises and continued to make furniture into the 1980s.