My husband and I will be marking our 30th wedding anniversary in early November and we've decided to take all of Team Rosé on a beach vacation in celebration of this special milestone. Our adventure started on a beach thirty years ago so it seems fitting to launch the rest of our journey at our favorite beach location. We've rented a condo on Marco Island, FL and are looking forward to play-time with our scattered team. This fun time is fast approaching, though, and that means one thing - I have a little over a month to get myself beach ready. Two items are top priority: Weight Lifting and Knitting a Bikini! Just kidding...about the weight lifting. ;-D
Thirty years, two kids, a ton of fun, a lot of life and a few more pounds have happened since this honeymoon picture was taken. I'd say we've weathered pretty well but we certainly don't look like this in our swimsuits anymore. So - the ultimate swimsuit search is on - big time - and a knitted bikini is definitely O.U.T.
Of course, when you start an internet search for classy, stylish, yet modest swimwear all sorts of interesting e-trails emerge - from burkini controversies to heated opinions on age-appropriate swimsuit styles. According to one InStyle Magazine article, Tankinis are the equivalent of "Mom Jeans" for middle-aged women - what?!? Give a long-waisted, middle-aged woman a break! My google meanderings quickly led to some fascinating information on knitting, social change and the history of women's swimwear. I'm hooked!
Did you know that many of the leading swimwear manufacturers - Jantzen, Catalina, Cole and Speedo - track their humble, but very successful, beginnings back to the early 1900's as Woolen Knitting Mills? As someone who has always wanted to knit a bikini, I feel I should have known this but I didn't. Before the advent of modern materials such as Lycra and Spandex, women's swimsuits were actually knitted out of fine-gauge wool complete with socks, skirts and caps to make acceptably modest beach apparel. (Doesn't the joy in this delightful picture just make you happy?). Technically, I could still find a pattern and knit one of these vintage beauties for my beach appearance in November!
As this Fashionista.com article on the history of swimsuit companies points out; these swimsuits must have been a far cry from anything we would consider practical today knowing how knitted wool sags, stretches and smells when it gets wet. Ewwwww. But they surely were a vast improvement over the full-length, button-down flannel dresses, stockings and shoes women were "allowed" to wear to the beach in earlier decades. I do find it humorous that policemen used to patrol beaches back in the 20's and even into the 30's measuring bathing suits to make sure women didn't have too much skin showing. There are some interesting stories of early female swimmer-athletes who would get arrested for wearing form-fitting knitted wool suits that were deemed too risqué but that allowed them more freedom of movement in the water than dresses. Read about Annette Kellerman here. (Does anyone else find it a little bit ironic that countries today are sending out "burkini police" to make sure some women don't have too little skin showing?)
Fast forwarding through the decades - women grow bolder, more competitive and start showing their independence while swimsuits grow smaller, more form-fitting and start - well - showing more woman. Many of the later vintage swimsuits, while still knitted, can really set your classy-swimsuit-radar buzzing. Why shouldn't these fabulous vintage knitted suits from the 1940's, 50's and 60's make a comeback on Marco Island? YUMMY!
But seriously, the study of clothing through the decades is fascinating; especially vintage swimwear and the story it tells about style changes as a reflection of the way women have changed throughout history. How many of us have ever stopped to think about what the sporty, thongy, tanky, skirty, sarongy, or strappy suit under our swim coverup tells us about our evolution as women? I know I haven't until now. It is actually part of an incredible historical journey - and the journey continues - and not just for westernized women. I absolutely love the way Kimann Schultz in this Huffington Post article writes about the recent European Burkini controversy; "Westernized women didn't go from hoop skirts to hot pants in a day, so how about we give this (Burkini) issue some space? What if - what if - those Burkinis were a baby step in the right - as in correct - direction? Who is anyone to naysay a small style step for women that in the bigger picture might turn out to be an onset inch towards a giant leap for womankind?"
As for me - I WILL be hitting the gym starting today- but I've also decided I'm going to channel my inner Betty Grable on the beach this November.
These hips and thighs are headed back to the gorgeous, curvy-woman swim fashion of the 1940's thank you very much! My online searching yielded several manufacturers that specialize in vintage-style swimwear. (As much as I do love vintage knitwear, though, I'll not be sporting the saggy, wooly, knitted kind). Ahhhh - the miracle of modern high-tech fabrics combined with the vintage sizzle-appeal of high-waisted, contoured bottoms and moulded, long-line tops. The thought of this makes me a little giddy. I'm looking forward to finding the perfect one. I'm not sure what this says about the on-going woman swim-fashion journey apart from this: it's all good these days! One woman's tankini is another woman's burkini. Bikini / Burkini - whatever! We can sport whatever swimsuit style we want on whatever body we have for whatever the reason may be. The hope is that all women can keep moving in the direction of making swimsuit choices for nobody but themselves and for no other reason than it makes them happy. I still want to knit a bikini. It would make me happy - to knit it - not to wear it!
Wise Knitting my friends