The other night I was invited to a delightful vintage swimwear exhibition and cocktail party at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). The exhibit was curated by my friend, Dave Temple, who sells an extensive vintage collection called Clever Vintage and is behind one of the best vintage shows in Los Angeles, the Helms Design District Boutique. The FIDM show--called Swingin' Summer--was a capsule collection of California swimwear and swimwear-influenced clothing from the 1940s through the 1960s.
I am passionate about how significant Southern California has always been in all areas of art, but this is particularly true in fashion. Swimwear and resort wear are perhaps highest on that list. As someone who surfs the same beach that was once home of the iconic Pacific Ocean Park Pier and center of Dogtown, I am keenly aware of the influence that the surf and skate culture has had on fashion. And people often forget that Hollywood itself is a shining example of California style, which of course includes iconic examples of swimwear--from Esther Williams to Marilyn Monroe to Sandra Dee in Gidget. FIDM agrees, as the introduction to the exhibit states:
Southern California, and specifically Los Angeles, has been the center of fashion and garment manufacturing for many decades. The climate and proximity to a plethora of outdoor activities have made LA the world's undisputed leader in sportswear production, and no other influence has been greater than the Pacific Ocean and its beach culture.
The bathing suit has become synonymous with the Hollywood Starlet. And while millions were marketed to by these stars, swimwear styles affected our growing garment industry in many ways.
With influences from the global marketplace, swimwear reflected the romance and allure of travel, leisure, and fun. Conversely, swimwear and California "patio living" influenced all manner of street wear, sportswear, separates, and accessories from bold prints to briefer lines.
The museum's collection, which also includes a homemade hand-crafted vintage surfboard from 1938, features swimwear brands that often overlapped with Hollywood. This included favorite designers like Edith Head and Travis Banton working with Catalina Sportswear or stars like Esther Williams working with Cole of California. You'll also see how the swim styles influenced clothing design in the patterns and cuts as well as all the amazing accessories. So splash right in...I know you'll come away with a deeper appreciation of the styles that make our summers so hot.
Clever Vintage's Sabino Gutierrez and Dave Temple hug FIDM's Judy Yaras (above)
and I chat with My Vintage Vogue's Jessica Hastings (below, left)
Details of the top and bottom of the custom made 1938 surfboard
Everyone who came to the exhibit wore their summer best
Leaving the beautiful FIDM campus