Dedicated Model A enthusiasts from across
British Columbia and Washington State!
Era Fashions

Make a Splash !

By Mary Carlson



Once upon a time, women at the beach were expected to be dressed modestly.   The attitude gradually changed. Fabrics used for bathing costumes evolved and became more comfortable.   Eventually, the swim suit took over from the bathing suit. 

What follows is a scant history of the sorts of garments worn to the beach, from the early 20th century until the 1970’s.



Modesty was the order of the day during the early 20th century, as beach wear for both men and women often covered the body from neck to ankle.  When women’s garments became shorter, the leg was covered with a heavy stocking.  The costumes were made of heavy cotton, wool or silk.  In addition, there was a cotton/wool blend called ‘luster’, which was considered to be ideal, as it dried relatively quickly. 


C:\Users\Mary Carlson\Pictures\Babes and Bathers\image of 1912 to 1921 bathing suits.jpg


Woman's Bathing Suits


Left Image:

Raw Silk, black with white collar

Unknown origin, c. 1917 - 1921

By the mid years of WW1 (1914-1918) conservative restrictions began to relax and women's bathing suits were usually made without sleeves.


Right Image:

Cotton, black and white polka dots.

Unknown origin, c. 1912 - 1916

As time passed, bathing suits were made with slimmer, shorter bloomers. In this suit the overskirt is slit at the sides to give more physical freedom and perhaps to add a touch of glamour.







By the 1920’s, liberality was beginning to replace conservatism.  In Canada, in 1917, women got the right to vote.  Political equality between men and women created opportunities for other expressions of equality, and it didn’t take long for fashions to change.  Swimwear became more abbreviated with less distinction between the sexes.   Suits lost their sleeves, necklines were lowered in both the front and back.  These garments were often made of body hugging knitted wool or cotton jersey.  Still, when wet, these suits were uncomfortable as they did not have any elastic in them.


 C:\Users\Mary Carlson\Documents\Scanned Documents\09-01-2014-08-53-02-366_edited-1.jpg


What's going on in this photo?

In June 1922, the Washington DC superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds, one Col. Sherrell, ordered that bathing suits (presumably women's) not be over 6 inches above the knee. Policeman Bill Norton is upholding the law at the Tidal Basin bathing beach.



 C:\Users\Mary Carlson\Pictures\Babes and Bathers\image of bathing cap.jpg


 Woman's Bathing Cap


Black silk taffeta. Machine embroidered with white braid and gold thread

England, c. 1918 - 1925


Tight fitting cloche shaped caps became popular in the 1920's when women started to 'bob' their hair.










 swim cap and shoes.jpg



The cap shown above is more ornate than those of the Model A era, which were often made of rubber and came with or without chin straps.  The swim or beach shoes were also made of rubber. 







 Wards summer 1931 bathing suits.jpg







Ward’s Little Catalogue for mid-summer 1931 features swim suits on sale.   They are all wool one piece garments.  One has appliquéd decorations, one has a striped top and another is a solid color. 










The orange and black suit on the left, below, is labelled ‘Regent Knit Seamless Crotch Patented 1927’.  This is a Canadian suit from 1927-1933.

The black suit with the orange sail boat is made of wool knit and is from 1925-1932.  

These suits have the same silhouette as the one featured on the front cover of the Simpson’s catalogue [below left] and of GG, KK and LL on page 3A-49 of the MAFCA Fashion Guidelines, as well as the suits on the previous page.  *see note



C:\Users\Mary Carlson\Documents\Scanned Documents\simpson's summer sale 1931.jpg

For the summer of 1931, the Simpson’s [Toronto, Canada] sale catalogue featured an all wool bathing suit, for only $1.69.   It was available in red or black and bust sizes 36 to 42.  Note the low-cut sun-tan top.  The bathing caps and beach shoes are made of rubber.







If you were not in the mood for swimming, you could wear beach pajamas.   See the ad for pajamas from the mid-summer 1931 Ward’s catalogue.   The bodice on that garment is similar to the bodice on the green and yellow pajamas shown below.  The green and yellow print garment featured here was from the Woodward’s Department Store [Vancouver, Canada] and was sold around 1930-1935.   The brown pajamas are also of cotton and are from the same era.    * see note

  C:\Users\Mary Carlson\Pictures\Babes and Bathers\1930- 1935 beach pajamas.jpg






 Ward's little catalogue mid summer 1931 pajamas.jpg























By the 1930’s, the Jantzen Knitting Mills of Canada Ltd company [located in Vancouver, Canada]  had been making swim suits with an elastic rib stitch on both sides, which gave the fabric some stretch, but did not overcome the problem with heat and water retention.   Jantzen had used the advertising slogan ‘the Suit that Changed Bathing to Swimming’, since 1923.



 C:\Users\Mary Carlson\Pictures\Babes and Bathers\Jantzen ad.jpg




It is said that Jantzen swimming suits forever changed how people interacted with the water and increased their level of enjoyment.   No longer was the beach just a place to enhance one’s health through sunbathing, but to indulge oneself in the sport and recreation of swimming.

The poster to the left is the color version of an image on page 141 of A Book of Fashion Facts.

C:\Users\Mary Carlson\Pictures\Babes and Bathers\rental suit.jpg



Forgot to bring your swim suit to the beach or pool?  If it was the late 1930’s and you were in Vancouver, Canada, you didn’t need to fret.  You could rent a suit.   These were a ‘one size fits all’ style – note the lacing.  This is a 1938 ‘Skintite Swim Suit’.   It is made of blue cotton.














C:\Users\Mary Carlson\Pictures\Babes and Bathers\50s and 60s image.jpg







The yellow and brown cotton bathing suit from 1954 – 1960 is labelled ‘Paradise Hawaii Made in Honolulu’.  Hawaiian patterned fabrics became popular during WWII. 


The loose romper style sun suit design was first created by the New York fashion house of Claire McCardell, in the 1940’s.  This one is from about 1950 to 1960.   It was worn loose or belted.














C:\Users\Mary Carlson\Pictures\Babes and Bathers\paper and nylon suit.jpg

In the 1940’s, 50s and 60’s, the fashionable silhouette became more buxom and curvaceous and as a result, swim suits needed to offer more support.  Fabrics were woven, rather than knitted.  Two piece suits and bikinis were wildly popular.   Spandex and Lycra appeared in the late 1950’s and were soon incorporated into the construction of swimwear.  Because the fabrics were elastic and resilient, the designers were able to create many innovative costumes.


The pink, white and blue two piece suit is made of paper over nylon and was intended to be worn only a couple of times.  It dates from 1968 to 1973.


During the 1970’s, bathing suits and other beachwear had come to extremes.  Beach fashion became more and more about sitting on the shore looking good, and less about the sport of swimming. 











C:\Users\Mary Carlson\Pictures\Babes and Bathers\woo knit suit.jpg







The knitted suits of the 1920’s and 1930’s had a revival in the 1960’s and 70’s.   The suit [on the left] is from 1963 to 1968.   It is a wool knit garment, with the label ‘Catalina, a California Creation’.  










What is the moral of the story?  Wait a while and everything comes back in style…


Note:  Should you wish to enter fashion judging in a garment based on this article, be sure that you have documentation to verify that the garment is similar to clothing that was made during 1928 to 1931 [Model A Era Image].  If you are entering in the Original category, the garment must have been manufactured in 1928 to 1931.   The photos in this article have not been verified, by the Era Fashion Committee, for the date of manufacture.  The article is intended to be entertaining and to stimulate your interest.


Sources:  A Book of Fashion Facts, MAFCA Fashion Guidelines 2012 Edition, 20th Century Fashion by Valerie Mendez and Amy de la Haye, Babes and Bathers: History of the Swimsuit exhibition at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, The Robert Simpson Eastern Limited summer sale 1931 catalogue, Ward’s Little Catalogue Mid-Summer 1931, internet images and a greeting card.



July 2014 - MAFCA National Convention - Puyallup WA.

The Lions Gate Model A Club fielded three members of the eleven person judging team that presided over the fashion judging at the 2014 MAFCA National Convention held on July 15th. There were eighteen fashion entrants covering all three categories: Original, Reproduction and Era Image. The level of competition was intense and justifiably reflected in the very high level of achievement awarded to the entrants. In addition, Best of Category and the Marshall and Veta Lewis awards were given out to selected entrants. The fashion activities were supported by a display of Model A Era fashions at the fairground, the Fashion Luncheon held the day following judging, the Fashion Boutique and one of the fashion seminars being presented by our Brian Carlson. The top results of the fashion judging were presented at the convention’s Awards Banquet on the closing evening of the festivities. Fashions were once again a major factor in the assortment of events and features that have come to be expected at a national Model A convention.


September 2013 - NW Regional Meet - Bend Oregon

Its springtime in 1929 and what is better than being at the tennis court. Julie Lansiquot is seen here at the Northwest Regional Meet at Bend, Oregon. Entered in Era Image category judging, Daytime - Active Sportswear, Julie was awarded a first place. This was Julie’s first time being judged. She is enrolled in the MAFCA fashion judging program and has participated as a fashion judge. Being a fashion entrant will give Julie credit in the program towards eventually attaining Master Judge status which requires years of study and experience. Congratulations on your award!


Lions Gate Model A Club at Hycroft
Once again, the Lions Gate Model A Club were present at a fashion show presented by Ivan Sayers. The last time we saw a similar show was at our Convention in 2010. This time, we were at Hycroft. There were 18 people in attendance, along with 7 Model A’s. Everyone in town, it seemed, was there to take our photos. The outfits were stunning and the commentary was witty and informative, as always.

Here is a link to the professional photographer's pictures Fashion-by-Ivan-Sayers/Art-Deco-Woman


It’s silent movie time!
A small number of our club members attended a fun evening - we saw the award winning movie, The Artist. The film took place in the late 1920’s and the early 1930’s and the costumes were delightful (if not totally correct....). A bonus was the huge number of Model A’s that were featured.


The Art Deco Society of California (http://www.artdecosociety.org/index.htm)

This is a great site for 20s and 30s style information.  It focuses on the Great Gatsby story to highlight many forms of style including men’s and women’s fashions, vintage cars, art and so on.   The site is large and has many sections.  Note that some sections do not seem to be connected the main home page.  The entire site is interesting and is fun to explore.  

Here is another possibly unconnected section http://www.artdecosociety.org/gatsby/index.htm.  This has four subsection tabs labelled Gatsby!, Gallery, How To Gatsby (ladies and gents, fashion do’s and don’ts, etc.), and Automobiles.  These sections are fun and useful for learning about Model A era men’s fashions.

1920s Men’s Fashions

Open the following PDF file for more good 20's and 30's style information, tips and pictures.

1920 Men's Fashions

MAFCA Fashion Events at Wilsonville, Oregon By Mary Carlson.
The NWR Meet held in Wilsonville, Oregon is now a fond memory. I am pleased to report that it was attended and enjoyed by a good number of MAFCA fashion judges and many other fashion enthusiasts. Three of the EFC members were there – Jackie Brooks, Mary Carlson and Judy Lewis. We were entranced by the two fashion seminars that were presented by our group. Brian Carlson entertained us with information on Men’s Formal Hats of the Model A Era. His collection of hats [mostly Era Image] was there for viewing. Jackie Brooks showed us how she had set Judy Lewis’s hair and then combed it out. It should be noted that hair styling was as varied as the number of individuals. Jackie had a huge display of original hair dressing items for us to view.

Brian in a Fedora, at his seminar

Before the Awards Banquet

A small part of Jackie’s display

Eleven fashion entrants participated in the Fashion Judging. We noted that they were in the Model A Era Image and Original categories. There were men, women and junior entrants. We had 10 fashion judges plus our Chief Judge, Anne Neely-Beck. Patty Brost was the Host Fashion Coordinator. The Fashion Awards luncheon was very well attended. We were delighted by the fabulous displays of hats, hat pins and other fashion items around the room, supplied by members of the Host Club, the Beaver Chapter. Of course, there were era outfits to be seen throughout the week, at events such as the Winery Tour, Welcome Social, Fashion Boutique, Grand Tour, Hot Dog Feed and Awards Banquet. As you can see, there were many opportunities to show off our fashions and dress as they would have, in the Model A era. Hope to see you at some other MAFCA event in the near future……. Don’t forget to check out the fashion pages on the MAFCA website, on a regular basis, as there is often something new being posted.

MAFCA's Era Fashion Committee frequently has new information posted on the their website. Click on the following link for the latest in Era Fashions.




Fashions Are "In" by Mary Carlson

Did you know that interest in fashions of the Model A Era is growing dramatically? If you are paying attention, you will see the action all around you. Did you notice all those great outfits that were being worn during the MAFCA 2010 International Convention, in Vancouver this year? Here are photos of some of the great outfits that earned an Award of Excellence.
This is Joan Doll, with her Best of Original award Trudy Vestal is on the left side of the picture. She was our Chief Fashion Judge

This is Geri King with her Best of Reproduction outfit

Here are Mary Carlson and Judy Lewis, with their Best of Model A Era Image, specialty and evening trophies

Marshall Lewis won Best of Model A Era Image, daytime

Tom Jeanes, Award of Excellence, Model A Era Image

Keith Collins won an Award of Excellence, Original

Sharon Ott won an Award of Excellence, Original category

Vicki Wildman, Award of Excellence, Original category

Elizabeth Bueno, Award of Excellence, Model A Era Image

Glenn Wildman, Award of Excellence, Model A Era Image

Janet Gundlach, Award of Excellence, Original

Twinkle Martin, Award of Excellence, Original

Anna Cavender, Award of Excellence, Reproduction

Cheryl Tatro, Award of Excellence, Reproduction

Dianne Cavender, Award of Excellence, Model A Era Image

Jackie Brooks, Award of Excellence, Model A Era Image

If you’d like to view the outfits that were featured in the Ivan Sayers Extravaganza, go to the following link - http://gaiapix.smugmug.com/Fashion-by-Ivan-Sayers/Model-A-Ford-Fashion-Show/Model-A-Fashions/13222582_67MwS

In order to learn more about the fashions of the Model A Era, you may read and study the articles that are posted on the MAFCA website. Go to - http://www.mafca.com/pub_fashions.html

There is a newly expanded Pattern book available from MAFCA. This is a wonderful reference piece, even if you don`t sew. Go to - https://mafca.com/cart/index.php?productID=174 http://www.mafca.com/pub_fashions.html

And don`t forget that MAFCA has two other fashion publications that are well worth having. These are the Book of Fashion Facts and the Fashion Guidelines. Please note that the Fashion Guidelines was updated and expanded early this summer. Go to - http://www.mafca.com/pub_fashions.html We encourage you to get involved in the fashion side of our fun hobby.



MAFCA 2010 International Convention - Ivan Sayers Fashion Extravaganza.
MAFCA 2010 International Convention - Ivan Sayers Fashion Extravaganza.
MAFCA 2010 International Convention - Ivan Sayers Fashion Extravaganza.
MAFCA 2010 International Convention - Ivan Sayers Fashion Extravaganza.
MAFCA 2010 International Convention - Ivan Sayers Fashion Extravaganza.
MAFCA 2010 International Convention - Ivan Sayers Fashion Extravaganza.
MAFCA 2010 International Convention - Ivan Sayers Fashion Extravaganza.
Fashion Seminar - "If The Shoe Fits, Buy It", by Patty Jones. Patty discussed foot wear worn during the Model A years and provided a handbook to help correctly identify shoes. 073109
_ pattyjones

2009 NWRM - Cottage Grove Fashions. Ingrid Young dressed in her era fashions and a hat she purchased moments before at the "Carnival". 073109

Suzanne Glen - Modeling her fun fashions at the "Fashion Luncheon". 073109

Mary Carlson modeling her outfit during the "Fashion Luncheon". 073109


Brian Carlson sporting his smart looking attire. Way to go Brian! 073109

Donna Becker modeling her 1928 day dress (reproduction), black button shoes and era purse. The cloche hat was recently purchased at "The Bay" in Victoria, B.C. 073109




Dan & Ingrid Young enjoying Canada Day in era fun fashions and their newly restored 1931 Canadian built Deluxe Roadster. 070109
Ingrid Young, Susanne Glen and Donna Becker dressed in Era fun fashions for the Canada Day parade in Sidney. 070109
Al and Susanne Glen wearing their latest in fun fashions. 070109

Dan Young and Al Glen - Sporting their latest 30's fashions. Dan's clothing and shoes came from an online company specializing in vintage style golf attire. 070109

Donna Becker wearing a 1928 Sears Catalogue (reproduction) outfit with matching hat. Beige Mary Jane Two strap Button Shoes from Naturalizers and a cream color purse from Zellers.070109

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