I never thought I would find myself doing research on the history of spandex, but today I did.
It all started because I'm shopping for a new swimsuit. For fun, I've been trying to follow the guidelines in my 1950's housekeeping books while choosing one. The books tell me to check the fit of my swimsuit by doing a few things, and I have highlighted these for you underneath the picture below.
1. Sit on a chair or floor to check whether or not the suit is long enough for comfort and coverage.
Coverage? Since when is a swimsuit about coverage? I couldn't find one in stores that would pass the 1950's "coverage" standards, so I've been looking online. So far, no luck.
2. Be careful not to catch your flesh in the zipper as you work the suit up over your hips and waist.
I have never seen a suit with a zipper. That seems very strange. Also, catching your "hip flesh" in a zipper? Yowza.
3. Raise your arms in an action test to note whether or not the bra provides ample coverage in this position.
This one seems valid. I'm really over the under-cleavage that you see at beaches nowadays, although I'm pretty sure some people do this on purpose. Ew.
While searching my swimsuit options, I noted that the homemaking book tells me the best and most used fabric for making swimsuits is wool. Have you ever heard of a wool swimsuit? Apparently the professional swimmers in the 1950's used them. I couldn't figure out why the book didn't mention spandex suits, as almost all suits today are made of spandex. After researching the history of spandex, I found out that it wasn't even invented until 1959. Wow! So swimsuits in the fifties had no spandex whatsoever, because it wasn't invented yet. Also, fun fact: did you know that the inventors of spandex named it "spandex" because that's an anagram of the word "expands"? I thought that was super awesome.
So anyway, I've spent some time looking for an accurate fifties swimsuit. I can't imagine that a zippered woolen swimsuit going halfway down my thighs could be very comfortable... but I guess I'll never know because I can't find one. The only wool swimsuits I found were hundreds of dollars, and most of them were still at least partially spandex. Most of the "vintage fifties swimsuits" online are made of spandex and incredibly revealing. I guess advertisers feel that if you put polka dots on something and make the model wear cat-eye glasses, that makes it vintage fifties. Well, that's not true! I might have to make my own swimsuit this summer if I want it to be authentic...time to go buy some wool and zippers.