Tag Archives: Knitting

Swimwear fashions

First released in June 1960, at a time when bikinis were still considered as risqué, the song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini is credited with helping to make the garment more socially acceptable.

The modern bikini was launched in 1946, when two French designers produced two-piece swimsuit ranges, although illustrations can be found in a number of locations showing women from Roman times wearing bikini-like garments for athletic competitions. An increasing number of glamour shots of actresses in bikinis in the 1950s did much to make the bikini popular, as did the appearance of the teenage Brigitte Bardot in Manina, la fille sans voiles (released in March 1953). Following the appearance of Ursula Andress in a white bikini in the 1962 Bond Film Dr No, the popularity of the bikini became assured.

Multi-coloured bikini from 1993 [MS332/4/17]

Knitted bikini from 1993 [MS332/4/17]

The bikini marked a very long way forward from the serge, flannel and eventually wool long-sleeved nineteenth-century bathing dresses designed to preserve decency. Double suits were common, with a gown from shoulder to knee plus a set of trousers with leggings down to the ankles. As the century progressed ankle-length drawers replaced trousers as the bottom half of the ensemble, the top became hip length, the bottoms were shortened to knee length and both became more fitted.

As well as modest bathing costumes for women, bathing machines were developed as changing rooms on wheels. These enabled the machines to be pulled by horses into the sea, thus allowing women to enter the water without showing their bathing costume.

Bathing machines

Bathing machines, Illustrated London News, August 1888

Queen Victoria had a bathing machine at the beach near Osborne House, Isle of Wight, where she and her family spent their summers. In her journal of 30 July 1847 she notes her first experience of sea bathing:

“Drove to the beach with my maids and went in the bathing machine, where I undressed and bathed in the sea (for the 1st time in my life)… I thought it delightful till I put my head under water…”

With the dawn of the twentieth century, the yards of fabric used in Victorian bathing suits for women — which could be up to 9 yards of material — was reduced, allowing costumes to show a little more of their figures.

Sea bathing and costumes, 1910s [MS402/1/1]

Sea bathing and costumes, 1910s [MS402/1/1]

The year after the 1912 summer Olympics, when female swimming debuted and women wore costumes similar to those worn by the men, the designer Carl Jantzen produced swimwear that was a close fitting one-piece with short sleeves and shorts on the bottom.

Swimwear continued to evolve, new designs assisted by the development of manmade fibres and synthetics. In the 1930s, the tank suit, or maillot, became popular.

Swimming costumes, 1934

Swimming costumes, 1934 [MS1/7/291/22/2/27]

As swimwear developed in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, it followed the silhouette more closely. Cutaway swimsuits became popular in the 1970s and 1980s, inspired by the fitness regimes of the period.

Whilst swimming costumes might be bought, suits also were hand knitted at home. This seems to have been particularly popular between the 1930s and 1950s, although there are patterns available from the 1900s. Later patterns include those for the crocheted cotton bikini of the 1970s, which had the unfortunate habit of stretching when wet.

Knitted bikini, Barcelona, 1993 [MS332/4/16]

Knitted bikini, Barcelona, 1993 [MS332/4/16]

Possibly destined never to test whether it would stretch if it became wet, this striking yellow bikini from the Montse Stanley Collection at Southampton was a garment designed to look elegant and bring a little glamour and style to the beach.

As well as the knitted swimwear, the Montse Stanley Collection also contains a selection of French and English seaside postcards and photographs featuring swimwear, ranging from bathers at the beach to some of those glamour shots of film stars. Montse Stanley was enthusiastic for all aspects of the history of knitting, a fact reflected in the impressive array of materials that form her collection.  The collection that is a rich resource for anyone interested in the creative possibilities of knitting.

Sea bathing and costumes, 1910s [MS402/1/1]
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Unlocking an archival treasure trove

Catalogues are the key to unlocking the treasure trove of archival material. We are therefore delighted to announce that descriptions for archive collections MS 301-400 now are available on the Special Collections website:
http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archives/cataloguedatabases/webguide1.page

Totalling several thousand boxes of material, the collections MS 301-400 provide an incredibly rich and diverse research resource. A significant proportion of the collections have some Anglo-Jewish focus, complementing the extensive Anglo-Jewish Archives already held at Southampton, but overall they have a broad thematic sweep.

New collections in strongroom

New collections in strongroom

Alongside those of Jewish organisations, such as notable collections for the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain (MS 302) or the Leo Baeck College, London (MS 316), are a range of material for individuals and families, such as Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler, Sir Robert Waley-Cohen, the Henriques family, Dr Schenier Levenberg and William Frankel, who was editor of the Jewish Chronicle, to name but a few.

It is particularly pleasing to note that there has been a slight increase in the number of collections reflecting the lives and work of Jewish women. These range from the archive of Marianne Ellenbogen (MS 324), a German Jew who escaped incarceration by the Nazis after her family were arrested in Germany in August 1943 and went on the run spending two years travelling across Germany, to Trude Dub, Leicester correspondence of Jewish Chronicle (MS 325), Dr Asenath Petrie, psychologist and poet (MS 349) and papers of Gladys, Lady Swaythling (MS 383).

Photocard of Marianne Ellenbogen

MS 324 A2007/1/9 Photocard of Marianne Ellenbogen

Amongst papers of Lady Swaythling relating to her voluntary and philanthropic work, is material for the Wounded Allied Committee and Belgian refugees at Allington Manor, a home of the Swaythlings that was donated as a military sanitorium during the First World War. The collection also includes much relating to social events, and contains dinner books kept by Lady Swaythling that provide a wonderful insight into the etiquette, diet and arrangement of dinner parties in the interwar years.

Belgian soldiers and staff at Allington Manor

MS 383 A4000/6/1/13 Belgian soldiers and staff at Allington Manor

There are a number of small, but significant, collections that complement the papers of the first Duke of Wellington held by the University. The correspondence of Wellington to Sir John Malcolm (MS 308) was used in the compilation of Wellington’s Dispatches and fits perfectly with a second collection, that of the papers of Lieutenant Colonel John Gurwood (MS 321), who was the editor of the Dispatches.  Gurwood served under Wellington during the Peninsular War and distinguished himself leading the forlorn hopes at the storming at Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo.  His archive includes material on his military service, including letters to his mother, 1810-12, alongside the papers relating to his work for Wellington compiling the Dispatches.  Another interesting Wellington related collection (MS 351/6) contains the scrimshaw nautilus shell, engraved by C.H.Wood, depicting Wellington on one side and St George slaying the dragon on the other, produced in the 1850s, together with a number of Peninsular War and Waterloo related illustrations.

Wellington at Waterloo

MS 351/6 A4170/2 Lithograph of Wellington at Waterloo

The papers of Alan Campbell-Johnson, a public relations specialist, who in February 1947 became the first and only press attaché to a Viceroy of India, represent a significant addition to the material held within the Broadands Archives (MS 62). Campbell-Johnson accompanied Lord Mountbatten for the transfer of power to the newly independent India and Pakistan and remained with Lord Mountbatten, while Mountbatten was the first Governor General of India. Campbell-Johnson sustained a connection with Mountbatten for the remainder of his life and his archive provides an insight into the management of the presentation of partition to the media and, in the long term, in the managing of historical reputation.

Frank Prince

MS 328 A834/1/11//10 Frank Prince

Frank Templeton Prince was at one time a professor of English at the University of Southampton and his archive (MS 328) is just one of a number of collections with connections to the University. Prince was a poet of some renown, probably best remembered for his collection Soldiers Bathing (1954), the title poem of which is one of the most anthologised poems of the Second World War. He was admired by and influenced the New York school, a group of writers that flourished in the 1960s. His work has been somewhat overlooked more recently, however, and the archive has been a major resource in a reassessment of Prince’s poetry and legacy.

Finally, we turn to the Montse Stanley Knitting Collection. Montserrat Bayés Sopena was committed to bringing to a wider audience both creative knitting and the history of knitting. The Montse Stanley Knitting Collection at the Hartley Library comprises her working papers, photographs, postcards and illustrations (MS 331) together with a wide range of over 800 knitted objects and garments and small tools and sample yarns (MS 332): an invaluable resource for all aspects of knitting as well as for social history.

Silk purse shaped as a pineapple

MS 332/50/10/3 Silk purse shaped as a pineapple

Printed material from the Montse Stanley collection now forms part of the Knitting Reference Library at the Winchester School of Art Library.

We hope that you enjoy looking through the catalogue descriptions and perhaps find that serendipity moment when you make a delightful discovery of something unexpected.