Life's a Beach

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As we come upon the last few weeks of summer, I find myself remembering a past exhibition we had when I was still in college and just a volunteer here.  It was called Life’s a Beach and I thought it was just fantastic!  Part of why I enjoyed it so much is that it made you feel as though you were at a beach, although perhaps in various periods of history.  Below are some pictures our awesome photography department sent me of the exhibition.

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Although not very visible in these photographs, there was a boardwalk for people to walk along in the exhibition, from one display to another.  We had a hut where clips of beach movies were playing (seen in the second to last pictures).  Different sections throughout the gallery talked about various beach fashions or life-saving techniques throughout the years.  It’s very interesting to compare beach-goers back then to those today.  The bathing suits we had were truly amazing to see, and most were acquired just for this exhibition, but of course now we have them if we ever want to do something with them in the future.

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The blue suit is from Fiji and was apparently made in 1943, as that is stitched on it.  It doesn’t look very comfortable to me, but for some reason it makes me laugh every time I open the box where it is stored.  The one on the right is probably a woman’s bathing suit, ca 1920-1925.  It was made by Wanamaker’s, an early department store.

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The striped suit is a woman’s “California style” bathing suit, ca 1921, made by Jantzen, a company still in business today.  It is a one-piece made of wool (that would be heavy in the water!).  The other is a woman’s bathing suit, ca 1950, made by Cole Company who, along with Janzten and Catalina, were able to mass produce and therefore cut down the cost of bathing suits, bringing them to a larger demographic.

But speaking of Jantzen, I don’t know if any of you watch Mad Men, but we have an ad that can be seen in Peggy’s (Peggy is awesome!) first office, the one she shared with the copy machine.  It is a Janzten ad that ran in Life Magazine in 1955.  Of course Mad Men also met with Jantzen in the fourth season, and that went very badly when Don yelled at them because he felt they were being too conservative and he couldn’t work with them.  Anyways, if you don’t remember seeing the ad, go back and check it out!

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So get out there and enjoy the beach or whatever summer activity you enjoy before fall is here!  And I enjoyed writing about a past exhibition, so I will probably do this again.  If anyone has a favorite they would like me to write about, just let me know.

2 thoughts on “Life's a Beach”

  1. I just came across a jantzen manninkin modeling a vintage swim suit and would like to contact someone with expertise on jantzen as I cannot find any manikins from jantzen! It must be super rare! Can you help!? Suzane vlach

    1. Hi Suzane,
      Sounds like you have something interesting there. Unfortunately we don’t have anyone on staff who specializes in this area, but I will email you soon with some ideas of who might be able to help you.

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