February 2009 Newsletter
California Girls, Swimwear and the Movie Industry
Men have always liked looking at women in swimsuits. California became the hub of the swimsuit industry from around 1918 until the early 1920's thanks to three core components: beaches, girls and the movie industry. Girls took to the beaches in their swimsuits inspired by stills from films starring Annette Kellerman, Theda Bara and Mary Pickford. The California look was slightly curvier than the sophisticated profile of the flapper on the eastern seaboard. In the early 1920's there was a profusion of Hollywood films set in jungles or focusing on showgirls or scantily clad queens. Cleopatra is a classic example.
The Sennett Girls
Mack Sennett (1880 -- 1960) began his career in 1912 and founded Keystone studios. Sennett, who not only directed but edited most of Keystone's films, is primarily remembered for a style of film comedy he virtually invented. Less well-known is the fact that he was the first to try to add a sense of glamour to the film industry and to this end he produced a series of films that introduced the Keystone Bathing Beauties, better known perhaps as the Sennett Bathing Beauties. Sennett hired Bathing Belles to promote their work and cash in on the new voyeurism. Sennett produced the Keystone Kops movies and took his Bathing Belles on promotional tours. Foxtone news also used girls dressed in Jantzen swimsuits to promote film reels. By the 1920's, swimsuit manufacturers had contracts with most of the big studios.
We've started a blog called GlamourSplash where we post daily on vintage swimwear and all things retro. We invite you to join us and welcome your comments.