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.

Catalina vintage label

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 $87โ€“$175 today (assuming 1935 dollars) (Source).

Catalina swimsuits by orry kelly vintage ad
Source: Glamoursplash

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).

miss America pageant vintage swimsuit contest image

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).

1951 vintage catalina swimsuit ad

1960’s Catalina becomes a sister company to Cole of California, a swimwear manufacturer established in 1925.

cole of california 1950s vintage swimsuit ad hawaii

  • 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!

1940s Catalina Vintage Swimsuit Ad
Source: Flickr

1935’s Baby Pants, “So Very Provocative.”

1930s vintage Catalina Swimsuit Ad
Source: Pinterest

A giraffe on a swimsuit?! How fantastic!

vintage 1940s Catalina Swimsuit ad


1949 Catalina Vintage Swimsuit Ad

The most popular swimtrunks in America!

1955 Catalina Swimwear Ad for men
Source: Flickr

Families who match their swimsuits together, stay together.

1950s vintage family swimwear Catalina Ad

“Any girl who wears a Catalina swimsuit is apt to be singled out for special attention from Mr. Cupid.”

1950s vintage Catalina swimsuit ad
Source: VintagePrecious

1960’s Men’s Swimwear

1960s mens Catalina swimsuit vintage ad

Schiaparelli’s design.

Catalina vintage bathing suit / swimsuit ad, 1949 advert

“Lovelier by Design.”

1950s Catalina Vintage Swimsuit Ad

1952 Miss Universe Catalina Ad.

1952 Miss Universe Catalina Ad
Source: Glamoursurf

1953-New Swim and Sun Fashions.

1953 Catalina vintage swimsuit ad
Source: Etsy

1948 & 1949 Ads. Fish and Ducks for men and women.

Vintage Catalina Swimsuit men and womens ad
Source: Glamoursurf

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!

The Vintage Inn Blog at viva rockabilly weekend tiki pool party 2016

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.


10 comments on “Summer is here! Vintage Catalina Swimsuit Ads”

  1. Great post i dont own a catalina yet, but one day. The adds are amazing and your suit is lovely. Vintage suits are so much better then modern ones. I own a key print 50s bathing suit and a solft gold repro vintage suit both new to me this summer

  2. Gorgeous swimming costumes! I particularly love the Baby Pants one and the one with the fish on the skirt part. Oh, and don’t you look stunning in yours! You look so perfectly dressed for VIVA Rockabilly. xx

  3. Hey Liz! Great post you did with this article!
    So you know (or anyone else) where I can find knitting patterns from Catalina swimwear? I am trying to reknit old patterns and I am horribly in love with these swimwear and would love to reproduce then or design some inspired by them from Catalina.
    Pls answer on email or facebook or
    Fb JauntyJo Hill

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