Monday, October 15, 2012

California Sewin' with Heather Ross (plus your opinions on vintage bathing suits please!)

What could be better than an early February trip to Cali to help out at one of Heather Ross's famed sewing weekends? That's right, I will be guest teaching at the weekend retreat located at the renowned Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, CA. I can just hear the waves lapping and the sewing machines humming!  A few spots are still left and you can register and get more details here.

As part of my duties at the retreat, I have been recruited to do a presentation on vintage bathing suits. Luckily, this is a topic I am obsessed with. I will certainly be bringing my small collection of Rose Marie Reid suits to show off. These "sculptured sheaths" and "hourglass maillots" were built like evening dresses!

{source}
Which brings me to a question for you, readers. I sense that there is a lot of demand for a vintage-style swimsuit pattern. Am I correct? If so, what kind of pattern would this be, ideally? 50s swimsuits did not have spandex; they were made from cotton or nylon and elasticized with shirring. But as modern ladies, do we prefer a vintage style in a modern fabric like spandex? Or do you want the fully authentic thing: a "playsuit" silhouette in cotton and elastic shirring? 

Thank you for any feedback you can provide!

P.S. Also, I am lucky enough to own the swimsuit pictured in the ad below, it will definitely be coming to California with me!



99 comments:

  1. Personally - I'd rather have a cotton swimsuit pattern with elastic shirring - more authentic (and I hate sewing with stretchy fabrics!) Like the glorious 1950s swimsuit patterns that I can't afford and can't fit into anyway.

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  2. i'd rather have something i can wear, so 1950 shape/ style in modern fabrics. i reckon they'd have used lycra/ spandex in the 1950s had it been readily available anyway!

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  3. For practicality, a spandex suit would be my preference. I own several repro styles that are constructed in modern fabric and they are so much more versatile around water (and kids) and they clean more easily than cotton. I rarely wear my vintage suits because the cotton and boning is uncomfortable in the heat and the fabric takes too long to dry once damp. Also, I love the slimming effect that two layers of spandex (i.e. on modern repro suits) has on a figure, whether one has had children or not. Thanks for considering this new design!

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  4. I vote for modern fabrics too. Although I've never tried to sew lycra or spandex fabrics... Maybe there are swimsuit fabrics that aren't too stretchy? Even when sewing knits I tend to choose more stable knits or doubleknit instead of the thinner knit fabrics which curl up too much at the sides. In absence of a serger I would love to have instructions on how to sew with a regular sewing machine.

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  5. There's a great vintage-y swimsuit pattern from Ohhh Lulu. I haven't made one yet, but I can't wait to. It uses spandex fabric, and that's definitely what I would prefer, for practicality.

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  6. I would like both as an option in a pattern.

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    1. I second this. I can see me making one with lycra/spandex for real world wear and one more authentic one to just look cute in.

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  7. I was always personally crazy about the white one-piece that Marylin Monroe wore for her famous beach photo-shoot. I had tons of vintage bathing suit patterns but none were quite right so I went ahead and designed my own!
    http://mrsdepew.com/beach-patterns/one-piece-bathing-suit.html

    Most of the vintage patterns in my collection called for jersey, especially the dozen or so French ones that I have from the 1950's. They all featured jersey with zippers.

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  8. Spandex please - and Thank you!

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  9. I guess I'm one of the odd ones out, but I'd prefer a cotton playsuit pattern. I already own a (store bought) vintage-inspired suit in modern materials, so I'd love to round out my beach wardrobe with a more "authentic" piece.
    Either way, I'd definitely be interested in a Gertie bathing suit pattern!

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  10. I think it depends... If I'm just going to be lazing around the beach, an authentic suit would be so much fun! But for actual swimming... spandex, hands down.

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  11. I think that I would be incredibly interested in a cotton playsuit pattern--but I live in the Pacific Northwest where it was only warm enough this past summer to sport my swimsuit a grand three times. But, if there for convenience reasons modern materials would work best for the majority, then I would agree that information about sewing a knit would be helpful. Also, links to online retailers of swim-appropriate fabrics would be lovely:)

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  12. Personally I'd prefer a cotton boned swimsuit. The firmer construction and fabric would be much more flattering to my larger frame, especially if there was a little skirt thing going on.

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  13. Definitely spandex. The authentic version will probably not get used, unfortunately.

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  14. Go Vintage all the way! We're from California and we love anything vintage with big bold sunglasses!

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  15. Hi there....fantastic idea! I would definitely make myself a perfectly fitting vintage-style suit. Spandex is great because of its quick drying abilities, but I would make the cotton one if that was the only option....

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  16. Definitely vintage! Patterns for spandex fabric are everywhere and not that special.

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  17. Spandex! Otherwise I would never wear it. I second the request for non-serger instructions, if such a thing is possible.

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  18. I'd really prefer a spandex suit with the glamourous stylings of a vintage suit. I did water aerobics this past summer, and had lots of trouble finding a modest suit that didn't look like I was on the swim team - I believe that the vintage suit styles would be most appropriate for allowing me to feel "covered up".

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  19. I would love, love, love a vintage-inspired suit updated to be made from modern (spandex) fabrics.

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  20. That hotel is supposed to be beautiful!

    What is the project that is being sewn? Is it a a bathing suit?

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  21. Neat-o! Wish I lived in Cali right now...I vote for cotton, as there's more versatility in print and I hate the way spandex wears out. I have a shirred red velvet swimsuit from the 50's, and it's still vibrant red and looks great after all these years and trips to springs, lake, etc!

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    1. Ooh do you have a picture? I'd love to see it. Red velvet sounds gorgeous!

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  22. Whatever is easiest to sew and most flattering. It seems like the shirring and boning, etc. would be too complicated.

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  23. Ya know, I'm surprised by my own answer, but I'd prefer vintage-like materials. I'd love such a pattern for the sewing experience alone, and I'd wear such a suit when I'm following baby at the splash pad or other occasions I don't expect to become immersed in water.

    However, if I were going swimming to actually swim, I'd want modern materials with their ability to move with my body.

    So when it comes down to it, I'd prefer vintage-like materials because it's pretty rare I actually swim.

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  24. Both! Because I can't decide! I love both ideas. Please make these! and in lots of sizes!

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  25. I would like to see a vintage style updated using modern materials, more so for practical reasons. I think modern spandex fabrics move better with the body. It would be nice if the pattern had a few options for cover ups too, kind of a beach and beyond look. There are few repro patterns for separates, but they offer pretty much only dressier options. I would like to see more repro patterns with summer casual separates.

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  26. I definitely vote vintage style with modern fabrics.

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  27. I'd love a pattern but can't comment on fabric as I've never sewn with modern swimsuit fabrics. Could the pattern have both options please? And a variety of style tweaks. thanks!

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  28. Ugh, Gertie, you get a pass since you're from the East Coast (right?), but for future reference, nix the "Cali". It only sounds right coming from LL Cool J. (Bay Area born and bred.)

    I like both cotton and spandex, cotton is nice for me because it's easier to stashbust instead of having to buy new spandex!

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    1. I'M Bay Are born and bred, not LL.

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  29. Ah, that sounds like so much fun! Lucky you!

    Personally, I love the idea of modern fabrics with vintage design.

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  30. I'd love a vintage swimsuit pattern, but I'm in the camp that would like to use modern fabrics. I'd want to be able to swim in my swimsuit. However, I've never tried to swim in a vintage suit, so maybe it's not as problematic as I think it would be.

    I have a vintage-style halter one-piece suit with a shirred front and low cut legs that I love. It's the best looking, fitting and functioning swim suit I've ever had. All spandex, though.

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  31. I'll throw my hat in with the authentic vintage crowd! There's tons of patterns for modern fabrics and I'm not a fan of spandex, so a cotton shirred option would be just lovely :)

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  32. I'd like both options. On the one hand - how fun to make a real vintage suit, with vintage materials. On the other... uh, I swim. I don't burn to battle the surf while wearing 5lb of wet fabric - or finding out how fast those strapless suits fall off when a wave hits them.

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  33. Definitely Spandex. Much easier to wear!

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  34. I prefer the original "playsuit" style, much prettier! I'm not a fan of spandex.

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  35. I've always preferred cotton, and recently discovered how easy it is to use elastic shirring techniques! I feel like a cotton bathing suit has more fidelity to real vintage style, but spandex is probably more practical. I still vote cotton though! Congrats on your team up with Heather Ross :)

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  36. I understand the practicality of spandex but would it look "right"? I have several vintage swimsuit patterns and I think the stretchy factor would ruin the look.

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  37. Personally, I'd prefer a vintage styled suit in spandex. I can't imagine wanting to go in the water in cotton, etc.

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  38. I never realised it was made from different material. wow huge factor in the making of them . i have seen lots of them around lately and love them .i love the fact my but will fit in it and wont fall out when walking. I think the new material would be better for usage. Drying etc. But will it have the same amazing look .. ? eech i want one now.
    kaz xx

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  39. Yes yes yes!!! I will say I would prefer to sew it up in the spandex we are used to today. I think I would be too shy in a "regular" fabric bathing suit.

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  40. I prefer cotton for the swimsuit; I have tons of spandex since I'm a fitness freak! It would be easier for me to sew cotton as well. I adore the light pink suit with the white buttons at the very top of this post, as an example. Oh and I live in Cali so anytime you're here is great!

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  41. I would love to see a pattern in a woven fabric with all the structure and boning. I think spandex is too shiny and clingy to give the same look. I was looking into modern woven fabrics that would be water-resistant and found that board short material might be the perfect middle ground for sewing one of these vintage sun suits. It won't absorb a lot of water (and sag like cotton) and it drys quickly. There weren't a lot of options even available, but there were some nice tropical prints.

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  42. i love the playsuit style and actually had one made out of cotton pique which was darling and i'd wear it right now if it was still around.

    however, no one will care what bathing suit you're wearing for a surf lesson in february in pacific grove, because you'll be wearing a full length wetsuit, actually, you'd be better off with a dry suit like they wear in the arctic, because that water is going to be C-0-L-D...not to mention the frigid air temp...and i'm a lifelong SoCal woman...

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  43. Vintage styling in modern fabric, please! I would love to have something I could actually wear to swim in.

    And to be able to sew it on a standard machine would be wonderful!

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  44. how fabulous that in that ad the guy gives her a doll with the suit he has chosen! So much better than a gift card!

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  45. I would love a vintage style in a modern fabric — something that looks fabulous & has some practicality when it comes to going to the beach or pool. Also, I definitely like the idea (mentioned above) of a matching wrap that could go with the suit.

    Also, I would like Gertie Designs all made up that I can buy! I am in the category of loving your stuff but not being able to make it myself. I would like to support a Gertie label, please!

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  46. I love vintage bathing suits! I actually made myself one earlier this year out of lycra/spandex and picked a fabric that had a vintage look to it. Here is the link to my post and tut about it http://stitchafterstitch88.blogspot.com/2012/01/swimmin-in-teal.html This was my first time ever making a bathing suit, so it's not perfect...especially since I made it up as I was going.

    I think it would be great if you came out with a vintage bathing suit pattern using spandex!

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  47. Modern fabric! I'm old enough to have had bathing suits BSE (Before Spandex Era). They were NOT comfortable.

    I actually cut my sewing teeth on spandex making my own ice skating clothes for practice and competition. It's pretty easy to sew.

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  48. I vote for modern fabrics! I think it is the best of both worlds. Wonderful vintage styling with the practicality of spandex.

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  49. Anything wrong with a cotton/spandex fabric?

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  50. There are plenty of retro swimsuit companies around doing cute suits in spandex/stretch, but authentic cotton with boning is the real deal and real vintage ones are hard to find and getting too fragile to wear (if they're still in good condition). I do believe the comfort of spandex is an illusion, because it stretches and doesn't actually support your figure the way a properly fitted cotton suit will. Please Gertie do a 'real' 50s swimsuit!

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  51. I want a more vintage type of fabric lots of repros are already using modern fabrics or better yet how about the option to do either????

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  52. Vintage style in modern fabrics. I'd love to get tips on working with spandex. And who doesn't love a retro suit?!

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  53. I go for vintage fabrics with shirring. I can't do shirring but I'd love to learn and I love the amazing details on the suits of that era.

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  54. authenticity all the way! -- cotton totally!

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  55. Lots of companies are doing spandex vintage repros and it's not hard to find 'vintage appropriate'in mainstream brands too. Pearl is right and older suits should be preserved rather than worn, so we really need more access to quality patterns. I think the point about boning being uncomfortable may be the result of wearing something that is not tailored to your own shape, so making something would probably remedy this too. Of course if you want to please everyone you can offer both versions, they are very different beasts after all.

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  56. oops, commented on facebook, rather than here, but I will repost-

    Oh my, YES for a swimsuit. I am about to attempt my own because there are NO good ones out there (except vintage, but I have yet to find a good one for an ok price). I've found one modern one, but it's the same old Esther Williams style. We need something different! Esther Williams style are now EVERYWHERE.

    It would be fabulous to have an option for vintage style fabrics to be used, but also tips to be able to use newer materials. I swim a lot in the ocean, and need something to stay on in the waves! (I once had a one piece come off!).

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  57. For the practicality, I would like it in spandex. I have a few vintage-y suits that I bought on etsy that are made with spandex, but I'd love to be able to make one of my own. I know that burdastyle has a free swimsuit pattern that's a little vintage inspired as well.

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  58. I would love a modern fabric. I barely wear the vin gate swimmers I own because they take forever to dry!! So I'd love to recreate a more practice version!

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  59. Too bad you are not coming to LA. LACMA is showing vintage CA bathing suits, made in LA!

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  60. I vote modern fabrics. While I'm not fond of sewing stretchy materials, the idea of getting a cotton swimsuit wet is NOT appealing, and having that much fabric on in the sun means I definitely want to go swimming - not just lay on the beach.

    Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

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  61. I'm so envious you own that gorgeous swimsuit!!!! You lucky gal!
    I think I'd have to agree with some of the other readers and say that I'd like a swimsuit that I could actually swim in. I really love the old styles, but I'd like the practicality too :)

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  62. A swimsuit pattern would be uber grand! I'm in the process of making one up out of a retro 70's book on making underwear, and it's great fun but a little bit challenging! The patterns are all drawn on grip paper that you have to upscale, and then alter to fit your shape properly... It's quite the challenge. But fun nonetheless. Either way, an old school pattern drawn up in a modern way would be grand :)

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  63. I know you will get a million comments, but I'd like to add my two cents worth in :) I would LOVE a vintage style swimsuit pattern, complete with all the boning etc that make them so different from today's swimsuits. I would also like the recommended fabric to be cotton with shirring for elasticity. I have a couple of cotton swimsuits (reproduction ones) and contrary to what people think you can swim in them, because I do :)

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  64. Oh what fun! I would be so psyched for that. But in spandex please, with directions on how to sew it. I made a bathing suit in high school and the fit was a little uneven, so help with that too.

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  65. I vote for modern fabrics. I honestly think the market for people who want to make an authentic swimsuit with boning is extremely small, and if you are releasing a Butterick pattern you should probably try to appeal to a greater population. I just don't see it selling enough for it to stay in-print. However I think if you independently released a boning swimsuit that would be great!

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  66. First Time Commenting Here,

    I agree with some others, a pattern that can be done in both cotton and spandex or whatever stretchy fabric is available. I have never sewn with spandex, but my swimming suit, after maybe 1 year's worth of wear, went from a nice top and swimming shorts, to a knee-length dress and floor-length skirt. So I need a new swimsuit.

    And can you get it in a size higher than 16, say 22 (or 26 or 28)? I'm doing Gertie's Bombshell course from Crafty and it's a whole new experience upping a pattern to my very large size. Having a pattern as close to my size as possible would be excellent.

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  67. I would love a vintage style suit! I like the idea of a non-stretch one, but in practicality with boning etc I am not sure how comfortable it would be here in our climate. Summer days here are 85F+ and super humid. So therefore my vote is for wearability which means spandex. Although, if I am being greedy the option for cotton would be good too!

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  68. Take it from someone who wore those suits
    Cotton is heavy when wet
    Doesn't dry
    Restricts movement like swimming
    Yuck
    They would have been made in spandex if it existed then

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  69. This is totally happening in my city! Nothing every happens in my city!! I am beyond shocked!!!

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  70. I'm all for authentic vintage, it's far more flattering and who really "swims" anyway :}

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  71. Definitely Spandex, no question about it, it's way more practical.

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  72. One more vote for a pattern for lycra! Sometimes I'll have a daydream & search through the swimsuit section on vintage patterns wiki, but as much as I love the idea of an authentic vintage pattern, I know I'll never buy one. I have a pair of maillot bathers that I bought a while ago but would love to be able to make my own :)

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  73. I would love an authentic non-stretch pattern . I had my mother's 1960 red-cotton zip-up-the-front cossie and wore it for about 20 years till it fell to pieces. It was way more comfortable than a modern one - made from a sort of lightweight denimy cotton. So you don't have to choose between stretch and comfort - non-stretch is comfortable and looks great. (Here in the land of Oz, staying cool while not actually in the water, but still at the beach, makes cotton way better than stretchy syntetic).

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  74. omg that bottom suit is gorgious!!!! i vote for a super cute sexy retro suit in modern fabrics - tummy control and bust support anyone?

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  75. A 50's swimsuit pattern? Yes please! I have been mocking them up from evening dress bodices myself and I've used slightly stretchy cotton sateen. I think it gives a nice vintage look with the added comfort of a bit of stretch. Haven't actually worn it in the water though!

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  76. A 50s or 60s pattern (I love the shape of the 50s but the 60s also has some cool cut out styles), but yes yes yes to modern fabrics. They stand up to practical wear and there's a reason that swimsuits are made from these fabrics nowadays - wearability! In terms of actual use in the water, and re-wear. Plus, as someone said above, better for holding you in as well!

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  77. Rose Marie Reid's daughter and granddaughters are personal friends of mine. I love that you are highlighting her great accomplishments as a designer.

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  78. I would love a 50's style swimsuit, with a removable halter neck, cleverly placed rushing and other vintage goodness. However, I think a more modern fabric would be preferable.

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  79. I would love a vintage pattern in a modern fabric. I had actually never thought of making my own suit until I saw this post,what fun!

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  80. I vote for modern spandex fabrics with ruching. My weight changes too much for anything not super-stretchy. :(

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  81. Gertie, I would be happy with whatever design/fabric you come up with, but for the love of God puhLEASE put in an underwire for the bust? That is my only requirement, because I have major Boobage to contend with, and making my own vintage-style suit would be perfection!

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  82. What I love about vintage swimsuits is that they thought about cut & design to flatter the figure, precisely because they didn't have stretch/spandex to work with.
    Love this knitted version from zilderoh's blog:
    http://zilredloh.com/2012/06/22/stitchcraft-freebie-lovely-40s-bathing-suit/
    Chevron design is awesomely minimising (visual illusions!) And its not the same ol' halter/bombshell design you see everywhere (which I love, and have already).

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  83. I'm all for authenticity over here! Plus I think that the cotton has the potential to keep in all the lumps and bumps that spandex tends to put on display!

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  84. My votes for authentic 50s, with bust support and ruching in non-stretch fabric!

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  85. in the late 50's i had a bathing suit with inflatable bra cups. yes indeed.
    it was very cute. blue and white gingham with a front panel edged with white ruffles and the typical 'skirt' bottom feature. it was some kind of stretch fabric.

    the cups were made of vinyl or something and had little tubes that you blew up. then you had to hurry up and fold the tubes really tight before the air escaped. when the tubes were folded up, you tucked them into a tiny flapped 'pocket'. when you swam, you had to hope that one bra cup wouldn't lose air and the other remain blown up. if you were satisfied with your own size, you just left everything alone. of course, at 14, no one is satisfied with their own size. what a surprise!!

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/UNIQUE-VINTAGE-ONE-PIECE-WHITE-BATHING-SUIT-W-INFLATABLE-BRA-/380403539901

    this one is very fancy and mine was not. mine was just very country girl looking.

    we lived right near the beach and i went to beach every day with my friends. if my father knew what he was buying me, he would have passed out. i wish i had a photo.


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  86. If I sew a swimsuit it would be for my 18 year old daughter who has preferred vintage style swimsuits since she was 14. But she wants her suit with lycra/spandex. The best of both worlds. She likes the shaped cups of most vintage suits because she has to add a silicone bra insert to one cup.
    For sunbathing, the lycra/spandex wouldn't be necessary, but for swimming I would definitely want it.

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  87. I have a fabulous vintage "playsuit-style" swimsuit that a friend of mine gave me. I've kept it over 20 years now, and it was vintage 50s when I received it. Unfortunately, I can no longer fit into it, but it's fabulous--cotton, boned bodice and extremely comfortable. Yes, I'd much rather have a cotton swim suit. This one is too adorable to part with, even though I probably will never be able to wear it again! It's a Catalina!

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  88. I would love a vintage suit especially if it means no crazy bikini wax. :)

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  89. Fantastic article, it’s very comprehensive and exciting! it’s so helpful to me, and your weblog is very good. I am definitely going to share this URL with my friends. Just bookmarked this site.!

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  90. thanks for sharing.

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  91. I say fabric! There are plenty of spandex reproduction suits on the market already. It would be fun to make a more authentic vintage style suit.
    Regular fabric probably lends itself to more design details than spandex would, plus you could wear it with shorts or a cute skirt too.

    Oh yeah, and way more fabric choices!

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  92. Oh, please, modern fabric - I'll want to wear it all the time, and one has to think of drying times - especially with gathers and lining. If you are interested, I can find some photos we took of my Aunt's 'Hollywood' style black and white chevron swimming costume - utter divinity. It's in a museum now - one where people can access costumes for purposes of sewing inspiration - some things are so good, they HAVE to be repeated. There was a toweling beach cover up as well. I took lots of photos for the purpose of making up a new one. (jmfisher@tpg.com.au)

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  93. I took a class once from a woman who makes custom swimsuits for competition. Sewing swimsuits of spandex is a completely different skill than any other kind of sewing I have seen. I don't think just having a pattern would equip the average intermediate level sewer to be able to make a successful swimsuit -- or even most advanced sewers who did not have the special skills.

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  94. Hi Gertie,

    I love the vintage shirred bathing suits and have a couple in my collection. I'd love to be able to sew my own but cannot find suitable shirring elastic. The elastic used in the bathing suits it have is quite thick and rubbery and nothing like the thin shirring elastic that you find in stores today. Do you ave any ideas about where to find the proper elastic for these types on suits?

    Thanks,
    Paige

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  95. Dear Gertie, lots of bathing suits back in the day were made of Lastex fabric (fabric with latex rubber) which was a precursor to Spandex.
    I think having a vintage style pattern fit for todays modern fabrics is a great idea!

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  96. So this post is from Oct and I haven't seen anything about the swimsuit since then. I do hope to see a blog post about it soon. You got my hopes up in finding a vintage suit pattern.

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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