swimwear 1940s style

04.21.10 {40s beachwear inspiration}

[ a darling two piece with bloomer-style bottoms (l), and a stripy one-piece (r). click for larger view. ]

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments about my 40s pinafore! My apologies that entries and email replies have been spotty this week… Sailor Husband got a week of leave and so we’ve been doing things around the apartment and hitting the beach! Now, I’m going to stipulate that I am not a beach girl. I love being by the ocean, but all the things that come with it (getting sunburned and swimsuits) leave me less than enthusiastic. lol. But, considering we’ve lived in FL for over a year and I have only been to the beaches once, we decided we need to get a little more beach time in before we have to move on.

04.21.10 {40s beachwear inspiration}

[ I love the playsuit style of both of these outfits. click for larger view. ]

None of my swimsuits are particularly exciting–just standard issue type things that I’ve picked up at the last moment when I realized I needed something. I’ve always adored swimsuits of the 40s and 50s, and now that I have a serger in my mitts, I’ve been toying with the idea of making my own swimsuit! Something that I can tailor to me and my sensibilities when it comes to swimwear. I’m kind of excited about the idea of making my own, though I need to get through a few more projects on my to-sew list before I let myself run with this one! But still, things like this are not helping my resolve… haha.

04.21.10 {40s beachwear inspiration}

[ ruffled bottoms and a lovely cross over style bra top (l). a fun one-piece with a cut-out midriff (r). click for larger view. ]

I have had a stash of images I’ve scanned from my various magazines saved for several months now–waiting until it was the right season to post! I just adore some of the playful styles modeled in these pictures. I have also been posting a ton of swimsuit images on my Tumblr this week (I guess it’s been on my mind a lot lately! lol.), and I think perhaps this may just be the first of several posts throughout the late spring and summer on the topic… Hope you enjoy a little bit of this sunshine weather inspiration!

04.21.10 {40s beachwear inspiration}

[ this bubble-bottom on the one-piece (l) remind me of one of Claire McCardell's designs. a skirted two-piece from 1947 (r). click for larger view. ]

April 21, 2010 · 28 lovely thoughts
posted in vintage inspiration · tags: , ,

ann April 21, 2010 at 07:52

I know what you mean about the swimsuit thing – they don’t make them for ‘old-fashioned’ girls anymore. Unless you want to spend a lot of money at Anthro. Good luck on making your own! And by the way, I grew up on the California beaches, and never really did the whole sunbathing/swimsuit thing. There’s more to the beach lifestyle.

Paige April 21, 2010 at 08:28

I’ve noticed a lot of retro-ish swimsuits this year. I actually got mine at Target, of all places.

Noemie April 21, 2010 at 08:38

Such a great post!! It gives me te taste to try to sew a swimsuit in those style. In the first picture, the swimsuit at the right (with stripes) gives me idea for a little summer dress! Thanks Casey! :)

Amanda Lee April 21, 2010 at 08:47

Great post! 1940s swimsuits are so flattering and glamorous; I especially adore that peekaboo midriff style. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Amy April 21, 2010 at 09:03

Do It!!! make a swimsuit! I love all the image you have posted. The vintage suits are just so much fun. I wore one in a play in HS. I loved it! I have a vintage inspired but modern suit image pinned to my board as my dream suit. I also have a nike one piece that i bought when i thought i was going to be taking swim lessons and wore once. I was thinking about refashioning it into a cute(r) bikini or something. but it kinda scares me! and I need to get my serger working well on a more consistent basis and but some wooly nylon HA!

Gabreial April 21, 2010 at 09:06

I would love a full piece ruffled bottom! I vote you start a new business making vintage style swimsuits since I can’t sew! :o )

Laura April 21, 2010 at 09:37

Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now & it’s great. I’m wondering: where in Florida do you live? I ask because I’m moving to Jacksonville in about a year and a half (& know no one!). I’m a sewer, too — in fact, I made myself an “Alison” swimsuit last year — it’s a great pattern. Thanks for all the inspiration…

Renee April 21, 2010 at 10:21

Very cute ideas. I think more coverage is so much cuter and stylish than people walking around in thongs. Sorry if I offend anyone but I just don’t want to see peoples exposed bottoms on the beach.

I worked in 2 fabric stores when I was first married and my husband gave me a sewing machine when we first got married so I was always sewing. I made a little bit of everything, bathing suits, nightgowns, tons of dresses, tops, pants.

Sarah April 21, 2010 at 11:35

Oh, I just love the photo of the two piece suits with the ruffled bottoms! Those are so cute. Every time the weather warms up and I start contemplating the prospect of making a vintage style swimsuit, I inch just a little bit closer to braving the serger.

ana April 21, 2010 at 12:57

I absolutely adore 40′s and 50′s swimsuits!
In fact I have looking for one for quite some time now, yet never seem to find anything.
I am not much of a beach person either and when I do go tho the beach I like to feel comfortable and secure of myself and only a good swimsuit can do that for you.

Holly S. April 21, 2010 at 13:15

I need a new swimsuit since I only have modern bikinis from B2C (before 2nd child). Although these frame my stretchmarks in such a lovely way, I am longing for a retro one piece suit. I am thinking of making up the BurdaStyle Alison, but it is lacking that certain something…I don’t know, but I am coveting the top-right stripey suit. It is adorable!

Sue April 21, 2010 at 14:11

I love the silhouette of the 40s swimsuit images you posted especially the fitted top and flared bottom. Very feminine and flattering. I have not tried sewing a swimsuit yet but I have been doing that silhouette for years by wearing a matching flared nylon water-resistant shorts over a fitted one-piece swimsuit when I am out of the water for modesty sake.

Tasia April 21, 2010 at 14:55

If anyone could rock a 1940′s ruffled swimsuit, it would be you! Look forward to your interpretation :)

Quincy April 21, 2010 at 17:58

ohhh, these are amazing!

Rellacafa April 21, 2010 at 19:27

I ADORE swimsuits (or bathers, as we call them in Australia) from this era too. So pretty and they work to accentuate a person’s silhouette, rather than just show their body for all its glory…good or bad!

Amanda April 21, 2010 at 21:14

I got a red retro one-piece from Popina Swimwear and I’m very happy with it! I just need some white-framed sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat to finish the look :)


Karen April 22, 2010 at 07:06

I think its time to start taking back the beach and making it a place where we can hang out in a big hat, with a feminine and not too revealing play suit! I’ve seen one too many beaches that are ruined by lack of class:)

Tamara April 22, 2010 at 20:40

I too am a fan of vintage swimsuits and would love to make my own but am a bit scared of sewing lycra. Summer here in Australia is over so I’ve got plenty of time to gain some confidence before tackling this project. Not sure if you’ve seen this pattern but with the right fabric it could become a 50s repro in no time! http://www.burdastyle.com/patterns/cindy
So cute!!

Zohar April 24, 2010 at 05:04

Oh my those are so wonderful – I wish swimsuits still looked like that today! I like it that it’s not just “skin skin skin” like our swimsuits look like.

melina bee April 24, 2010 at 12:03

oh preciousness! I can’t believe you are in Fl and don’t go to the beach every day! (I love the beach obviously). The ruffled “bikinis” are killing me here!! May I suggest a an older post of mine for mas 40s swimsuits? (these from a bit later on). I adore your blog but may die from total cuteness/skillz envy when you post pictures of yourself in your handmade bathing suit. I know you can do it!!

Ulrika / The Freelancer's Fashionblog April 25, 2010 at 02:17

I bought fabric last year to make myself, and my friend Ina, vintage-styled swimsuits. I never got started but I might give it another try now soon :) I’ll be looking forward to seeing your creation if you decide to make one!

Kathleen at Studio 1950 April 25, 2010 at 15:37

These are all soooo adorable. The actual vintage suits from that period are going up and up in price so making your own is a great idea…if you have the patience, that is.

Janey April 25, 2010 at 17:17

I love the seaside (as we call it here in the UK) but now live near Birmingham which is about as far from the sea as it is possible to be on our little island!! I also love these swimsuits, why does swimwear have to reveal as much as modern stuff does!! I would be much happier wearing some of those designs. Having said that I’m just as happy to walk along the beach paddling in whatever I happen to be wearing. I think it is the salty smell, the wind and the space of it all that I love!!

Steph (Mostaza Seed Designs) April 25, 2010 at 21:05

Loving these swimsuits. They were so much cuter and more flattering/forgiving than the ones in the stores nowadays:)

Vanessa April 26, 2010 at 15:51

These Bathing Suits Have Been Running Through My Mind But Cant Seem To Find Any!
Making One Would Be Much Easier!
With The Help Of My Mom Of Course.
I Don’t Want To Sew Through A Finger. Lol

clare April 27, 2010 at 03:47


This is one of my favourite posts i viewed this week. I made a link to this post. Great images, i love the 1940s fashion.


Dana April 28, 2010 at 03:24

I have just recently discovered your site and I feel whole heartily that I must warn you about a few things….numero uno being Burda Style’s “alison”. Let my start by saying that a long while ago I saw the Alison on their website and thought- like all of us, that it was cute and I wanted to make it. Well that was ages ago and so finally last week i decided to do it. Catastrophe. the directions are basically nonexistent, the fit is bad and the pattern doesn’t have markings. Beware before you decide to start that project.

However! and this is the cool thing…. while trying to research some real information on making swimsuits i found this very informative, if not somewhat overwhelming site:


I am going to embark on creating a swimsuit block for myself here soon and then, you know, sew one! Ha. I live in Hawaii and I go through so many suits that never fit right I figure- i can sew tons of other things so I should be able to sew a dumb bathing suit.

Best of luck!

Cheetah Velour May 5, 2010 at 20:01

I love my Esther Willaims suit!


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