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Articles on Vintage Swimwear > Margit Felligi and Cole of California

3 Jun 2011

Glamoursurf eNews

June 2011 Newsletter

Margit Felligi & Cole of California

1950s Jantzen Novelty Print Swimsuit

Have you heard of Margit Felligi? Have you heard of Cole of California? Fred Cole was a silent film actor in the 1920s. His parents, Edith and Morris Cohn, were
the children of blue jean garment manufacturers (the Boss label owned by grandfather Cohn who changed his name to Cole). Fred gave up acting and persuaded his parents to start a swimwear line in their 'West Coast Knitting Mills' company. On
May 15, 1925, the mills swimwear division opened. The original line of knitted socks and long johns quickly diminished in favor of swimwear production and on January15, 1941 the company name was changed to Cole of California. Cole wanted to bring Hollywood glamour to the swimwear business.

Ok, so who is Margit?

Cole hired Margit Felligi as head designer from 1936 - 1972. Margit had been designing for Hollywood already and she brought many innovations to the table.

Felligi had developed a “Matletex process,” which allowed any natural fiber fabric, primarily cotton, to be shirred on rubber based Lastex thread. This process allowed Felligi to manipulate the style lines of her swimsuit designs without sacrificing a close fit. Felligi’s combination of distinct patterns, vibrant colors, and unusual design lines caught the eye of both film stars and average women.

Felligi as also responsible for designing the first side laced swimsuit called the "Swoon Suit", dubbed in honor of the young Frank Sinatra. The suit was offered in one and two piece styles form the same silk Cole was stitching into parachutes for the war effort. It's side lacing was not only sexy, it served to give silk the figure controlling characteristics of a rubber girdle. It was one of the few styles produced by Cole and designed by Felligi during the war years.

1944 Cole of California Swoon Suit

Felligi had an eye for the shock value of unusual fabrics that often seemed more suitable to the ballroom than the beach. She adapted luxury fabrics like velvet and lame, and discovered how to inset rhinestones so that they wouldn't degrade in the water.

"Women no longer should feel undressed in a bathing suit," says Margit Fellegi, designer for Cole. "After all, more and more social functions are centered around swimming pools and beach clubs. I try to make a woman feel lovely and elegant without making her aware of how naked she is."

Margit Fellegi - 1965

Cole's Hollywood connection would become the firms distinctive approach to beachwear. Through the following decades, the relationship between the manufacturer and Hollywood costume designers would only grow stronger with Cole crafting suits for film stars and cinema costumers designing suits for Cole.


Cole of California, Margit Felligi Recent Acquisition

We've recently launched this black velvet late 1940s swimsuit which we attribute to Margit Felligi for Cole of California. It's also one of the earliest Cole labels we've seen and have added it to our label resource.

1940s Swimsuits


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