Catalina, the coveted swimsuit line of the vintage community (for women and men). The line is classy, beautiful and as you will see in this post, truly one of a kind.
History of Catalina Sportswear:
Their history began in 1907, as Bentz Knitting Mills, a small manufacturer of underwear and sweaters. The name was changed to Pacific Knitting Mills in 1912, accompanied by the introduction of swimwear to their existing knit lines. The third and final name change came in 1928, to Catalina.
During the 1920s, Catalina broke out of the norm of producing wool knit suits that were patterned after a simple one-piece style and created baring and fashionable swimwear for both men and women. Styles like, the boldly striped Chicken Suit, men’s Speed Suit and Ribstitch “S” suits.
The 1930’s glitz and glamour of the sliver screen had Catalina adopting the slogan “Styled for the Stars of Hollywood“. They added to the prestige by using Hollywood starlets, including Bette Davis, Joan Blondell, and Olivia de Havilland in their marketing campaigns. At the time, the average Catalina swimsuit retailed between five and ten dollars, equivalent to $87–$175 today (assuming 1935 dollars) (Source).
The Miss America Beauty Pageant:
Catalina was a sponsor of the beauty pageant starting in the 1940’s, with the contestants wearing their off-the-rack swimsuits (featuring 2 flying fish logo’s, instead of the standard 1 on the hip as seen below).
In 1951 there was a bit of drama when Catalina dropped sponsorship of the pageant after the winner Yolande Betbeze, refused to pose for publicity pictures while wearing a swimsuit.
Side Note: Yolanda is pictured above (Miss Alabama), wearing a Catalina swimsuit before she was a winner so I’m so sure what the issue was (if you know please share in the comments below).
Seeing pageants as a good publicity tool, Catalina would go onto to found the Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe pageants, co-sponsoring them for decades to follow. With this came a new slogan to emphasize their growing global awareness: “Around the world… it’s Catalina” (source).
1960’s Catalina becomes a sister company to Cole of California, a swimwear manufacturer established in 1925.
- 1993 the duo joins Authentic Fitness Corporation, a subsidiary of Warnaco Inc.
- 1994 Catalina and it’s newly extended swim, active & fitness brand (thanks to its merger with Wanaco) is offered to Wal-Mart stores across America
- 2007 Warnaco sells the Catalina business to In Mocean Group
- As of 2014 you can only buy Catalina swimsuits in Wal-Mart
- Catalina is one of the oldest clothing manufacturers in California (Source).
History lesson complete, now lets check out some of the awesome advertisements!
1935’s Baby Pants, “So Very Provocative.”
A giraffe on a swimsuit?! How fantastic!
The most popular swimtrunks in America!
Families who match their swimsuits together, stay together.
“Any girl who wears a Catalina swimsuit is apt to be singled out for special attention from Mr. Cupid.”
1960’s Men’s Swimwear
“Lovelier by Design.”
1952 Miss Universe Catalina Ad.
1953-New Swim and Sun Fashions.
1948 & 1949 Ads. Fish and Ducks for men and women.
I also own a Catalina that I wore at VIVA Rockabilly Weekend in 2016, it’s not as glamorous as the ones in the ads we just saw but it’s still cute!
Lastly, If you are interested in what the Catalina Labels looked like, the Vintage Fashion Guild has a super collection of them that can be found HERE.
QUESTION TIME: Do you own a Catalina? If so please share what it looks like. If you don’t do you like the brand? Want to own one yourself one day? Do tell in the comments below.