An ersatz Dazzle swimsuit

I’ve wanted to make a Dazzle swimsuit for ages, but it’s never fit into my sewing schedule.

When I wrote the dazzle terminology post last week the old temptation rose again, but I quashed it firmly. I’ve got so much to do, and no reason to make one.

And then, the very day I published the Dazzle post, I walked past an op-shop (I wasn’t even going to go in!  I was being very good!) and there, hanging in the window, was an extremely dazzling black and white playsuit.

In rayon crepe.

With a double strap arrangement that you see on late 1910s frocks, and which I’ve also been obsessing over.

For $4.50.

By Glassons, of all people (Glassons does cheap, trendy teenager clothing).

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And, ummm, of course it came home with me!

It’s an XS, which means it fits me like a 1920s swimsuit, not a 2015 playsuit.  This also means I would never, ever, ever wear it in public just as it is.


There is a precedent for dazzle swimsuit stockings:

Dazzle stockings, Harpers Magazine, Sept 1919, NYPL Digital Galleries, PC COSTU-Bat-190

Dazzle stockings, Harpers Magazine, Sept 1919, NYPL Digital Galleries, PC COSTU-Bat-190

So, I made my own pair of Dazzle stockings to go with my ersatz Dazzle swimsuit.

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They are far from perfect, and far from historically accurate, but I’m using them to test ideas on how to make a pair that is as close to accurate as possible (unfortunately, that may mean knitting them myself, because the more I worked on them the more I suspected that the real ones had the patterns knitted in).

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So, accurate, no, but surprisingly awesome?  You bet!

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I made them up over Tue eve and Wed morning (with lots of mutterings about how sometimes sewing is too much like math), and then tossed the whole set in my car to show someone I was seeing Wed evening.

Wed afternoon I met the amazing Elisabeth of Porcelaintoy for a walk around Lyall Bay, and halfway through our walk remembered that I had my stockings (really, leggings) in the car.  Would she take some pictures?  So I wriggled into the set (thank goodness I was wearing a full skirt!) in the back of the car, and realised I even had a parasol in the car (what do you mean?  Doesn’t everyone have random parasols in their car?).

And we had the most marvelous time prancing around on Lyall Bay for an hour, taking photos and chasing seagulls.

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And, in case you are wondering, yep, it got sea tested:

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Well, I got up to waist deep, but that’s probably more sea than most Dazzle swimsuits saw!

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Not only did the whole thing hold up well, but it turns out that wearing mostly-wool leggings is quite effective for keeping you a bit warmer in the sea.  I was very surprised by how not-cold I was, considering it’s autumn, and Lyall Bay is chilly at the best of times.

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While they seem like a fad, the more I think about these, the more Dazzle swimsuits make sense as a wartime fashion: whether patchworked or knitted, they use up all your old scraps of cloth and yarn, in any colour, but particularly the blacks, whites and greys that were so common during dye shortages.  Score one for making do and being fabulously on-trend!

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The Challenge: #4  War & Peace

Fabric:  1/2m white merino-blend knit, scraps of black and white striped viscose knit and black merino knit.

Pattern:  Adapted from the Cake Espresso Leggings Pattern

Year:  1918-1920

Notions:  thread, elastic

How historically accurate is it?:  In the technical sense, not at all, but making this pair really did help me to figure out how period Dazzle stockings and Dazzle swimsuits were made, I’m  counting it as a research project and working toile.

Hours to complete:  2.5 or so – much longer than regular stockings or leggings, but still nice and quick.

First worn:  Wed April 1, for the photoshoot.

Total cost:   Less than $2 – the merino blend I picked up for $1pm at a seconds sale, and the other pieces were scraps.

Dazzle Swimsuit thedreamstress.com06

Coming up next: a post about how I made them, if anyone is interested.


  1. Lynne says

    On a day that could use a little extra fun, that outfit certainly delivers! Clever you!

  2. Awesome! Wonderful the way serendipity delivers…
    I’d never thought about the wool=warm thing before in relation to swimsuits, but now it seems blindingly obvious. (Rather like a dazzle swimsuit, eh heh heh.)

  3. That is so cool, I totally love it! Very interested in the post about how you made them 🙂

  4. Oh, how fun and providential to find that playsuit! And I would like to see how you made your leggings. Should be interesting!

  5. Love the third photo from the bottom. And I can’t believe it’s Glasson’s!!!
    (Pssst… the German student in me needs to be pedantic: it’s spelled ‘ersatz’.)


  6. I’m curious to know how you made the stockings just because I can’t figure out how you get them to stay up! I look forward to that post.

    • Ah, that’s simple! They are really leggings (some of the photographs of Dazzle stocking clearly show the women wearing swimsuits that are essentially leggings and tops, so I’ve got that part right – I’m just combining them with a completely wrong playsuit top).

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