Thursday, March 22, 2012

Seaside fashion from the 50s


Hello, all you lovely readers! I'm finally back from from an extended trip to lovely the lovely city of Hamburg. As an apology for not posting anything the past couple weeks, I'm bringing you some photos of 1950s bathing suits on exhibit at the Hamburg Museum.

All four bathing suits were on display in a glass cabinet located at the end of a long hallway connecting a series of rooms with a variety of garments from the mid-18th century through the 1970s. I could have easily spent the whole day in that hallway alone!

Heinzelmann Orchidee One-Piece Bathing Suit

This piece was made by Heinzelmann and sold under the Orchidee ("Orchid") line. The front features elastic smocking, and the straps are adjustable. As you can see in the close-up below, the fabric is printed with colorful donkeys.

Apparently Heinzelmann produced swimwear and beachwear (Badekleidung or Bademode for you German speakers) in the 50s and 60s, but I have not found much more information than this. Caroline's Clothing Vintage Fashion blog has photos of a lovely piece in blue with trimming in white with blue polka dots. On Etsy there is one example of a fruit-themed one-piece suit. I also found a picture of some advertisements from the 50s (or possibly 40s)  photographed by nib! at ipernity.

 Vetrix Bleyle One-Piece Bathing Suit

This next suit is of the strapless variety and is sewn such that the front comes down to cover the tops of the thighs, creating an effect much like wearing a short skirt, as in this photo from 1951:

Source: Hamburg Museum

As with the Heinzelmann company, not much seems to have been written about Vetrix Bleyle, but from what I can gather they were quite popular in the 60s and made undergarments and everyday fashion in addition to their swimsuit line. You can see three advertisements at the Retro-Fashion blog and one particularly eye-catching ad at

Sunsuit by an Unknown Maker

Many of the garments in the Hamburg Museum were donated by residents of the city for whom they had a special meaning. Thus in some cases historical photographs of the clothing being worn by their original owners are on display next to the original item, as is the case with this sunsuit from 1957. Its construction is noteworthy for the extended waistline and attached bloomers. Doesn't this young woman on vacation look lovely sporting this unique piece?

Heinzelmann Orchidee Bikini

What's this? Have we finally discovered the original "itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini"? In my mind the bashful girl in that famous 1960s song could very well have been sporting this two-piece bathing suit by Heinzelmann Orchidee.

The fabric depicts whimsical scenes in bright primary colors contained in white bubbles set against a deep, lemon-colored background.

The upper piece did not lend itself to easy inspection, or else I would have checked to see whether the stiff form was characteristic of the original garment or added by the museum staff to show off the conical bust shape.

Next to the exhibit is a facsimile of an advertisement from around the same time this bikini was produced showing a garment of similar construction, including sides on the swim trunks that lace up.

Source: Hamburg Museum

Pack your bags, everyone—we're going to the beach!


Source: Vintage Everyday

Source: of esther lee


  1. I spent a good bit of time in the Hamburg Museum at the clothing exhibits too! As I remember the museum had a lovely cafe. Hamburg is pretty fab all round.

  2. Wow! Fabulous exhibit! Thanks for all the close-up photos of the lovely!

  3. Just wonderful, it makes me long for the sun and thankful for when girls had reall figures. x x x

  4. Das sind ja rolle Bademoden Bilder! Und ich habe gesehen, dass du meinen Badeanzug von Heinzelmann auch schon entdeckt hast. Danke für's verlinken :-)


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