In the swim, by Ruth Spencer
These wild-armed mannequins are modelling the latest in Californian swimwear by Rose Marie Reid in the late 1940s. Reid famously (un)dressed Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth but for her less perfect customers she pioneered many flattering swimwear breakthroughs. She invented inner bras, tummy-tucking panels, the use of elasticated fabric and stay-down legs. Imagine a world in which your swimsuit legs don’t stay down and offer silent thanks to Reid.
Before the use of elastic, swimsuits were generally made of wool, a surprising choice given both its warmth and lack of aquadynamics. Some people even hand-knitted their togs — the trick was to make them slightly too tight when dry, so that they stretched to fit snugly. You’d think the advent of elastic would have be the end of un-swim-suitable fabrics, but in 1950 they were still toying with velvet suits. You never can tell with fashion; after all, these diamond-shaped midriff cutouts of the picture are on-trend again today, 70 years after they featured in John Court’s department store window.
John Court’s was at the corner of Queen St and Victoria St; the building currently adorned by the beloved/notorious giant Santa that heralds Auckland’s Christmas. Swimsuits were on the Christmas gift list in 1946 as the range of available goods expanded after some lean war years: a gift guide mentions “ultra-modern” swimwear in good supply, but men’s shirts still hard to come by.
That same year a window display of French swimsuits in Wellington caused confusion: would such daring suits actually be permitted on the beach? The council regretted to advise: nope, banned.
The article carries no description, so we can only surmise that they didn’t have the new stay-down legs.
Window display featuring Californian-designed Rose Marie Reid swimwear at John Court department store, Auckland.