Melissa over at Collector's Weekly sent me a copy of a wonderful interview they have recently done with vintage swimwear collector, Pam Fierro.
I have posted an excerpt here, and if you wish to read the entire article please visit the Featured Interview page.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
Fierro: I love Claire McCardell, and I really like Rudi Gernreich and Elsa Schiaparelli, although I don’t have anything by Schiaparelli yet. I like Christian Dior, and I would love to find a piece by Jean Patou or Chanel. Rose Marie Reid has done some fabulous pieces, as have Esther Williams, DeWeese, Catalina, and Jantzen. I have a lot of pieces by Jantzen because they have such a long history in swimwear. They were one of the first big collections that I put together.
What materials were used to make bathing suits?
Fierro: The earlier suits were often made out of jersey. Wool was popular, as was silk. Then rayon was promoted as artificial silk. Nylon came about in 1938, which was revolutionary for the swimwear market. Another innovation was Lastex, which came out in the late ’50s. In the 1960s, a lot of different fibers started coming out like Bri-nylon, rayon jersey, and Lycra. Those were very influential on the swimwear market as far as being able to dry quickly or being more form fitting and less see-through.
Were bathing suits mass-produced or made by hand?
Fierro: They were mass-produced by machines. The first wool suits were woven on machines, and then Jantzen developed the rib knit suit, for which the woolen knit was mass-produced and then made into swimsuits.