Exhibit of the Week: 1930s bathing costume, Beck Isle Museum, Pickering

1930s blue Jantzen swimming costume is just one of the items on display in a new exhibition at Beck Isle Museum, Pickering, which opens its doors after a winter break on Saturday February 10.
1930s blue Jantzen swimming costume is just one of the items on display in a new exhibition at Beck Isle Museum, Pickering, which opens its doors after a winter break on Saturday February 10.

As the Beck Isle Museum, Pickering re-opens its doors on Saturday February 10 for the new season after its winter break, visitors can look forward to a new exhibition of holiday fashion through the ages, including a range of swimwear, from a late Victorian bathing 
suit to a 1960s halterneck swimsuit.

One of the items on display in the exhibition is a bathing costume purchased from Greensmith and Thackwray Ltd (Scarborough) in August 1934 by Captain C Davies.

This navy Jantzen swimsuit is made from ribbed jersey. Jantzen were an American company founded in 1916 and first appeared in the city of Portland, Oregon. They became leaders in swimwear, recognisable worldwide by their famous logo, the ‘Red Diving Girl’.

During the inter-war years of the late 1920s and early 1930s the company 
established overseas manufacturing facilities and sales teams, notably in Europe.

Jantzen revolutionised swimwear by using stretchy ribbed jersey rather than wool, which was more comfortable and made it easier to swim.

They also promoted the idea of a swimsuit as opposed to a bathing suit, as swimming became a more popular pastime. This style of one-piece costume, with a ‘Y’ shaped back, was gradually replaced with other styles of costume during the 1940s. The company’s fashion lines expanded during this decade to include sweaters, girdles and activewear. The bikini was introduced in France in 1946 to set the style for brevity in swimwear and became a worldwide fashion classic.

Along with the bathing suit is a letter from Captain Davies to ES Lobb Esq at Greensmith and Thackwray. The bathing suit was purchased for ‘peaceful bathing at Scarborough’ but with the outbreak of the Second World War and other overseas tours it was worn in West Africa, South Africa, Egypt, Libya, Crete, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, Franco-Jordan, Greece, Italy, Isle of Capri and Gibralter.

Captain Davies finishes the letter by declaring ‘I think you will agree that its colour and condition is in excellent shape considering its trials.’

Sun, sea and sandals – holiday fashion through the ages exhibition runs until Saturday November 24 at Beck Isle Museum, Pickering.

The museum is open daily from 10am-4pm (February, March, October, November) and 10am-5pm (April through to September).

For more information please visit www.beckislemuseum.org.uk or call 01751 473653.