50′s style ruched swimsuit

Hello everyone! Hope you are enjoying your summers. I have long subscribed to the idea that a 50′s style swimsuit (one piece, low cut bottom) is the most flattering swimsuit ever created. I set out to recreate a$500 retro Norma Kamali suit using a vintage 80′s pattern and  A LOT of pattern modification.

I used the wrong or matte side of a shimmery emerald tricot, lined the entire thing and encased all the edges in elastic. This was my first foray into swimwear and posed a heap of technical problems but I learned a lot! Not a perfect suit by any means but a great workable muslin to refine my techniques and pattern for the next version. Anyone interested in my process or wanting to see more photos can visit my blog here.

• Meet the Author • heatherlou


Montreal based commercial interior designer & novice sewist. Obsessed with vintage patterns, bright colour and graphic prints. Trying to replace shopping with sewing. Best hobby ever.


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18 comments… add one

  • Cute – I don’t think there has ever been a more universally flattering swimsuit design than that underbutt-cut. What’s the technical term I’m looking for?

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    • I think underbutt-cut SHOULD be the technical term. I was just calling it low cut butt. High cut butts divide your bum (if you are blessed with a generous one) into 4 cheeks. What a call the 4 cheek ass disaster.

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  • Wow, you look fantastic!

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  • Not to get too far off the subject of making your own swim wear, but Esther Williams’ “classic sheath” swimsuit is basically this pattern, costs less than $100, are available in a ton of fabric choices and they are made really well (you get a better view of it from the colors & fabrics page than from the product page).
    Not to discourage you or anything, your’s looks great, it’s just an option that’s out there for those of us without $500 for a swimsuit or the patience to try and make our own.

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    • Hi Cat, I am aware of the Esther Williams suit but something about the proportions and cut weren’t quite as perfect as the $500 version. The ruching isn’t as elabourate (there is no ruching on the back of the EW) and the bust isn’t as nice. I have considered buying one a few times, but in the end this guy cost about $20 including the pattern. However, it is an amazing option if you don’t feel like spending 30 hours cursing your sewing machine and crying a few times.

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  • Yey! This looks really great! If I hadn’t so much projects in progress I would make me one right one!

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  • I absolutely love it! What a slippery fabric.
    I would go nuts. Snazzy work ;)

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  • LOVE IT!! and that color is my favorite! I’ll see your blog right now!

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  • Fantastic, I love it!

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  • Fabulous! This is inspiring, I’ve been thinking of making a classic bathing suit for a couple of years and made a failed attempt with a much too unstretchy fabric last summer – I realized that I would’ve had to insert a zipper in the damn thing, and that wasn’t quite the swimsuit I was after.

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  • This is amazing!! I’ve always wanted to try making a swimsuit & have collected several patterns to piece it together, but it’s still far daunting a project to attempt. Your effort is inspiring!

    I too found the Ester Williams swimsuits to be odd sized – the proportions between the sizing seemed to be out.

    And, yes, under-butt cut should be a technical term, I plan on spreading the word.

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  • I actually own the Esther Williams suit, and it is a good design. I also agree that the back of this style is much nicer, as the EW doesn’t have the ruching in the back. I absolutely love this suit. It is definitely a universally flattering look. Heatherlou, this is a spectacular accomplishment!

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  • This is so flattering on you! I’d love to see you put out a pattern for it.

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    • Next summer! I’m gonna need to figure out pattern grading in the meantime….

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  • This is beautiful and looks amazing on you! Great job!

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  • This is stunning. And I totally agree… .it is sooo flattering… and I am off to find out more from your blog! :-)

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  • Now this is amazing! You look stunning! x

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  • This is awesome! I read the full post on your blog as well, and I too will be really excited when you put together the pattern. I’ve been looking for a pattern for a 50s-style bathing suit for what seems like forever–this looks pretty much perfect.

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