bathing beauties

charles w. cushman

it’s been a long while since i’ve shared some real vintage inspiration, so today i thought i’d share some vintage photos that recently caught my eye. i found them while editing posts for the modcloth tumblr at work; they’d been added to the queue by my coworker julie (you may know her from orchid grey)! i clicked-through and became instantly fascinated by these dreamy photos of women who i do no know, snapped by amateur photographer and indiana university alumnus charles w. cushman. apparently the university now has a collection of 14,500 of his kodachrome color slides dating from 1938 – 1969. i’d seen some photos from this collection floating around the web before, but something about these haunting images really struck a chord. i do admit that it feels a bit voyeuristic to be looking at ladies in their swimsuits, but something about the personal nature of them really feels like you could almost be there, experiencing a day at the beach in another time and place. but mostly i just wish they still made suits like that!

charles w. cushman
charles w. cushman
charles w. cushman
charles w. cushman
charles w. cushman
charles w. cushman

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33 Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more, I wish they still made bathing suits as beautiful and feminine as they looked in the past. But I have to say, something happened I think, this year I have seen a lot more retro inspiration in swimwear brands than it was last summer! Maybe all our vintage themed posts are to ‘blame’ for that ;) Yay!
    Ale
    x

  2. There’s something demure yet realistic about these photos. I like how they’re not too posy. I kind of want to make an adventure to that university and see the rest of his photographs!

  3. I wish bathing suits like these were still made as well. Plus, what I find interesting is that there seemed to be more different styles available then while today, you can generally only choose off very small variations. Have you noticed the little loops at the back of the plaid suit in the last photo? I’m pretty sure they’re meant for tying the straps in different manners (or that’s what I’d use them for if I had that suit hehe), so cool!

  4. These pictures are so beautiful! What I find cool is that I’m pretty sure, just from the background, that these very taken at Promontory Point on the south side of Chicago near the University of Chicago! I have spent many a weekend afternoon in grad school on those same rocks!

  5. Oh wow, what fantastic photos! And I concur with all the above comments, in that I too adore vintage style bathing costumes.

    I also love how real these women look.

  6. these cushman photo’s are extraordinary, because they are such candid counterpoints to the dominant archives of that time – fashion photography & hollywood. it may just be the unexpected kodachrome color, but cushmans bathing women so clearly indicate that these young women – who may be your grand or great grand mother – were in their day vibrant, sexy & real. it just comes as a complete window through time, that singularly cuts through the fashion/ hollywood version of that time.

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