Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Swimsuits: Come to the Retro Side, We Have Support

Every one of us hates swimsuit shopping. I don't know a single curvy girl who enjoys it. It's the worst of bra shopping, meets the worst of size matching (no, actually my bottom is a medium and my top is a large), meets the great fear of Cellulite in Public.

I go on holy grail hunts for companies that do sized tops (but never ever have 30 H) with bottoms I can buy separately. That's if I dare risk a bikini, which I mostly don't. Plus, I know I'm out $80 for a bikini that fits well, but it still won't fit perfectly. I have one tankini with a zipper front but it's so very sporty-looking zipped (and so very not sporty-looking unzipped) that it rarely gets an airing.

But I came to a realization (odd it took so long for a girl who wears so much retro off the beach) that perhaps I should try vintage bathing costumes. Why not? The past produced dresses better for curvy girls, why not swimsuits? One good part being that, without chlorine and with different fabrics, vintage swimsuits seem to last longer than modern ones. Also, they have such interesting patterns and necklines.

I started the hunt some three years ago and have ammassed a collection of three suits since then, perhaps not of the colors and patterns I might wish, but I'm willing to take a color risk in order to wear a good, supportive, nicely-shaped suit.

I will admit, I was afraid they might look a little, well, granny-like. However, vintage suits seem to be all over the fashion blogs and runways for summer this year. So what do you know? I'm on trend for a change.

Vintage suits seem to dictate a specific look ~ full make-up, heels on the beach, matched robes or little jackets.

(left ~ yellow form the 1960s, right ~ Carolyn Schnurer bathing suit ca. 1952 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

However, I think you can go beach chic with a vintage suit and not have to go all the way retro. Here are my three paired as possible outfits.

 (Maxine of Hollywood suit thrifted $20 a long time ago, gold ballroom Very Fine dance shoes from It's a Wrap in LA $10, sailor shorts from Crossroads in San Francisco $12)
 (Labelless suit from Bon Mar Thrift store in Sonoma $5, Union Bay cargo shorts thrifted a while ago $15, Miz Mooz sandals recent score from Crossroads in SF $25, silver cuff probubly around $10 can't remember source)
 (Roxanne turquoise tie-side skirt suit from Bon Mar Thrift store in Sonoma $5, H&M shorts $25, thrifted Apepazza flats probably from Buffalo Exchange around $20)

So there you have it, why not give a vintage suit (or a vintage inspired retro suit) a try? (Here are a bunch of retro suits from Mod Cloth. They are expensive. Please do check your vintage and thrift stores because suits do turn up. Often they are in the lingerie section.) You'll stand out in the right way. And I believe such suits provide the kind of support and coverage that gives a curvy girl those most necessary of feelings when wearing a swimsuit ~ confidence and courage!

(Claire McCardell bathing suit ca. 1957 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Next up, I hope to find the perfect (and perfectly silly) vintage bathing cap to go with my suits. I'm thinking cream with rubber flowers. Wish me luck!


  1. Glad I'm not the only curvy girl looking for retro swimsuits. Lovely pictures and may we meet on a beach one day.

  2. I always thought that choosing a swimsuit was torture! I love what you did with your swimsuits. They look so glamorous :) First one is my fave.

  3. You do have some lovely suits in your collection. Being a lover of red I'm quite partial to the third one, although I do love how the blue one ties off at the side.

    Personally I opt for tankinis because I'm a bit self conscious, though I've not found any with proper shorts on the bottom yet. I also just find swimsuit shopping frustrating because a number of shops I have been to insist that you have to buy the same size top and bottom.

    I admit though that I quite like the idea of having one of those very old fashioned swimsuits, the ones you see in old postcards which are long and stripy...they may just be for men, I don't know. But I think they are adorable and wouldn't mind one of my own.

  4. Ug! I hate swimsuit shopping! Between being plain old fat and skin cancer running in our family - not to mention the 38 DDDs - I can never find a good swimsuit. I finally just sought out a site that custom makes them. So now I have one with sleeves and a "skort" (I put a skirt on over it anyway) plus a custom made swim bra with latex free elastic.

    You'd think between what we know of UV rays and their connection to skin cancer and wrinkles, plus the old "Americans are getting fatter" trope we hear every day bathing suit designers would go back to many of the old designs to compete with companies that now make them with UV protection built in.

    As for vintage swim caps. A ton just came up on eBay. I don't know if you shop online or not but if you can't find any in the stores it might be a good last resort. Some are still in their original packaging.

  5. If you've never tried unique-vintage.com, they're an excellent site for vintage swimwear. I purchased a quilted-flowery swim cap for a play I costumed, and loved it so much that I stole it at the end of the run!

  6. i actually have a hard time finding any swimwear since i am a bigger girl. but torrid.com has some great vintage looking swimwear which surprised me.

  7. Nice if you can afford them: http://www.revampvintage.com

    They are sturdy and wear well.

    I like repro vintage for anything remotely athletic. It's nice not to feel that you're potentially destroying anything.

  8. I ended up ordering 2 retro, one piece suits on-line. Can't remember what site but I've had them for over 2 years and they are wonderful! Very flattering to the post, 2 baby body.

  9. Did you ever see the article in, I think it was Life magazine, of the little girl who's father bought a swimsuit when she was born, circa 1950's, and took her picture in it once a year until she was all grown up? She ended up looking fabulous in a classic, vintage black bathing suit in the 70's.

  10. I found a great retro looking suit at jc penny in december ( I live in fl so we have them year round). You might want go take a look

  11. Thanks for the tip on the swim cap, I've just ordered one. I hope it fits me.


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