Cole of California :: Iconic & Glamorous Swimsuits

Cole of California :: Iconic & Glamorous Swimsuits

Founded by Fred Cole in 1925, Cole of California is another iconic California brand.  While Jantzen may be credited with creating the modern swimsuit, Cole of California made it glamorous.

Fred Cole’s roots in Hollywood gave him the inspiration that not only converted his knit underwear firm into a swimsuit powerhouse, but the marketing inspiration that would forever link the Cole line with glamour.  Margit Fellegi, the house designer at Cole of California, was experienced as a costume designer, and is responsible for a number of innovations in swimwear, including the use of Lastex fabric, nylon, and spandex 

During World War II, Cole was enlisted to make silk parachutes and Fellegi designed the “Swoon Suitto be made out of this same fabric.  The two-piece suit laced up the sides of the bottom and tied at the bra.  The lacing gave silk, a fabric not known for it’s stretch or control, a degree of figure control.

Fellegi also developed a process dubbed “Matletex” in which fabric was shirred on rubber based Lastex thread. This process allowed Fellegi to manipulate her designs without sacrificing a close fit.Before the advent of today’s super stretchy fabrics, Fellegi’s dressmaker tricks and her creative use of fabrics showcased the curves and hid the flaws of pin-ups and glamour girls of the ‘40s and ’50s. Today’s vintage inspired swimwear is a nod to those early suits.

Another of Fellegi’s famous suits, 1964’s “Scandal Suit,” sported a plunging v-neck front filled with black mesh. This and other of Fellegi’s designs are held in the costume and textile collections of museums, including the de Young in San Francisco and LACMA in Los Angeles.

Cole is also known for two merchandising deals—in 1950 they joined forces with championship swimmer turned film star Esther Williams. Spurred by that success, the company entered into an agreement to produce swimwear for Christian Dior; Dior’s only venture into swimwear.

Anne Cole, daughter of founder Fred, introduced the Tankini in 1998 and the innovative design quickly captured a third of the swimsuit market.  Women loved the versatility of the two-piece with the coverage of a one-piece.

Thanks to our friends at GlamourSplash and the Vintage Fashion Guild for sources for this post.