Sunday, 28 June 2009

Cole of California

Today I have some photos of a couple of Cole of California swimsuits. The first one (red/yellow and black) is from the 1940s. The second one is from the 1960s.
Cole was founded by Fred Cole and started out as West Coast knitting mill. Early swimsuits were made of wool. In the late 1920's Fred Cole created the first fashion swimsuit and called it the 'Prohibition Swimsuit' because it was deemed racy at the time. It had a deep neckline, dropped waist and a tiny skirt over shorts. It was embraced by the Hollywood industry but was slower to catch on in Europe. These one piece suits were known as maillots. Hollywood proved to be a powerful advertising tool for the swimwear industry and soon Cole had their own stars attached to the label. It was all about Hollywood glamourand California became the hub of the swimsuit industry.

During the war the big American swimsuit companies had to give up fabrics such as lastex, nylon and silk. Cole made parachutes and even though it was allowed to still make swimsuits it had to use 10% less fabric. The double fronted skirted looks of the 1930s were out and in came corsets and lace up sides instead of rubber or lastex.
After the war the colours became more elaborate and swimsuits had features such as ruching, wrapping, halternecks etc. Some were boned. There were problems with the fabrics used at the time when in sea water. They would often stain or get uncomfortable. The playsuit became popular for women to change in to after swimming.
During the 1950s Esther Williams, the Hollywood starlet worked with Cole as a model for their swimsuits and an annual 'Esther Williams' design was brought out. They also worked with Christian Dior in 1955 who designed a collection for the company. At the end of the 1950s Cole launched its first bikini.

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