Thursday, June 6, 2013

Basic SwimSuit Details-Vintage & Modern

Summer time is just around the corner. So naturally everyone is thinking of swimsuits! I have gotten some comments and thoughts from you guys and also noticed there isn't a lot of info available for people interested in making their own suit. So I have come up with a few things I have  learned or noticed in the process of making swimwear.This is just very basic, i'm not going into the whole process of how to do each thing that would take quite a while, but just some ideas that may help when starting this type of project.

For me i like to start with my dress form and drape exactly what i have in mind, making a pattern from there, though this does waste fabric sometimes if you aren't careful to leave seam allowance or decide to go in another direction with the design. But it does let you see your design come together and make style changes from the beginning of the process instead of in the middle. This is particular helpful if you are copying a design from a picture but don't have a pattern. I also have several simple vintage patterns that I love and have made many times that I use as a quick comparison to my newly drafted pattern to see if i need to tweak anything, you may not have a pattern to check against but you may have a swimsuit that fits you well that you can use to help.

Most people these days prefer Lycra/Spandex Swimwear Fabric- Its very stretchy, dries quickly and is forgiving if you make a little mistake in the sizing. The downside however is that spandex shows everything especially when wet and not everyone is a fan of skintight fabric.

If you are starting with a pattern not meant for swimwear fabric you will have to size down your pattern so that it will fit properly once on. Depending on how much stretch your fabric has and how snug a fit you want/need for your swimming purposes you will want to make the pattern smaller width wise. Start by measuring yourself then subtract 3''-4'' from each width wise measurement (Bust, Waist, Full Hip) this is what your suit should measure when you are finished, you may want it to fit more snugly once you try it on. If the fabric has a lengthwise stretch shorten by about 1''-2'' total. If the fabric has no lengthwise stretch do not shorten. Once you have your suit together enough to try on you will see if you will need to adjust the length and width more, its always better to cut a little big than too small, i would also wait to put in the elastic edges until after you have tried on your suit. Most of the adjustments needed should be pretty obvious once you can see it on.

For Vintage enthusiasts who do not like Spandex-

There are many options if you want to use what I call normal fabric. For vintage suits they would have used anything from wool, which i wouldn't recommend, to cotton which is much easier to work with and more comfortable. Normal fabrics do take longer to dry, some will fade faster due to chemicals in pools and some fabrics may sag when wet. So if you are a serious swimmer this is probably not the way to go.  I suggest testing your fabric to see how it behaves when wet and also see how sheer it is you may need to add an underlining especially if its a light color. wash both your fabric and underlining fabric before you start! This is very important as your lining may shrink differently than your outer fabric. As far as fitting you would want to measure yourself and add some ease just as you would any other item of clothing, most of your ease will be needed in the hip area I would allow 1''-2'' through the hip for sitting ease and about 1/2'' at the waist, the bust will need little to no ease for the best support.

Some vintage suits that I have come across will have a silky nylon panty attached inside the shorts, but they are often cut out  because they get worn/stretched and the elastic gets brittle. Many of the vintage Hawaiian play-suits have this type of panty built in. Briefs can be added to your suit or you can wear a spandex bottom/panty you already have. I have also seen swim briefs cut on the bias if using a non-stretch fabric, this helps give a better fit around the seat. Bias cut bottoms are usually attached under the skirted suits some will have a panty liner of some sort instead of the nylon panty like in the shorts, I have also seen some 1970s bikini bottoms cut this way as well. Some vintage suits will have no panty lining or brief added and they would have just worn their own panties under the suit especially under the shorts style bathers. The patterns below are available on Etsy from different shops to give you an idea of the styles of suits I have seen these details used in,  though these details are not called for in these patterns they are just examples.

Vintage bikini tops often have built in bras, i would suggest adding a bra to any vintage suit for the best vintage pinup look, obviously the thicker foam bras will tend to hold water and take longer to dry. Even if the top doesn't call for boning or elastic I like to add some just for a more secure fit. I usually cut the back band of a bikini top a few inches larger and add elastic to the top and bottom edge for some breathing room and boning to the sides of each cup. Sometime I will add boning to the center of each cup depending on the style and cut of the suit and the cup size, or add boning to each side of each breast. Below a few pics of this type of bikini top, the cups are also interfaced for more shape, this would be a great bullet bra type lining for a retro suit project.

And there you have it, just a few ideas for the pinup sewers out there, good luck with all your summer projects!

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