The 1950s Hawaiian-print swimsuit was made in the Symington Building, as part of R.&W.H. Symington’s Peter Pan range of swimwear, which started production in 1937. After the austerity of the Second World War, manufacturers capitalised on the growing trend for an annual summer holiday and adopted bright, cheerful colours in their designs to counter the drab and austere clothing of WWII. Hawaiian prints became very popular in 1950s America and were quickly adopted in Britain too.
In the 1940s and 1950s, swimwear was essentially a type of out-door underwear to be worn in public, and many of the techniques and fabrics used in underwear manufacture were used to make swimming costumes. The popular ruching effect at the time was patented and developed by Symington’s. The method created a stretchable garment that could fit any size and keep its shape when wet.
Incidentally, the concept of ‘dress-down Friday’, (where an organisation’s staff come dressed in casual clothes for the last day of the week) can be traced back to the Hawaiian print. In Hawaii, every Friday is ‘Aloha Friday’ and employees can wear their favourite Hawaiian-print dress or shirt with pride!