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A blog with a daily splash of vintage swimwear, vintage fashion, news, designer profiles and all things retro.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Louella Ballerino for Jantzen

In our blog post yesterday about this photograph from Louise Dahl Wolfe we asked if anyone could name the designers of both the dress and the bathing suit. The dress is by none other than Claire McCardell. The swimsuit is designed by Louella Ballerino for Jantzen.

In the mid 1940s Louella Ballerino designed beach clothes for Jantzen. A major element of this outstanding collection lay in the custom prints she ordered from Bates Fabrics with inspiration from Hawaii, Africa and Polynesia.

1947 Jantzen Candy Cane ad. Note the addition of the skirt and bustle. Brilliant!

1947 Drumbeat ad for Jantzen.

In the Carte Blanche design, Ballerino paired a bra and top with a wrap around skirt or shorts (not shown).

Louella Ballerino graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in art and art history. After school she married and had two children. She was forced to find work after the stock market crash and took a position at a custom dressmaking house and went to night school to study various aspects of fashion and then began teaching. At the same time, she worked in a shop where she occasionally sold her own designs and in 1938 she went into business for herself.

Her first major success was a peasant dress of rough crewel embroidered with bright wool Tonga figures. Louella was and advocate of the 'peasant look' that was in sharp contrast to the tailored silhouette of the war years. She based her collections on styles and forms of decoration in Dutch, Aztec, Russian, Norwegian, Polish, Mayan, Chinese, Native American and South American costume and textiles. She usually employed boldly patterned materials, such as large scale prints and wide, bright stripes.

Ballerino is shown approving a sea fern pattern by Bates Fabrics in this advertisement from 1946.

Ballerino is credited with adapting the peasant apron and dirndl skirt for streetwear, decades before the craze for peasant dressing came to America in the 1960s. She was also one of the first to design mother-daughter outfits in the postwar years.


Louise said...

Those are some gorgeous swimsuits. I bet they are hard to find.

Louella said...

How fun to read this post on Louella B--my name sake and great grandmother. I wish that more of her clothing line had been saved (for me!). Alas....