PEI

P.E.I. retro swimsuit designs inspired by vintage find

Emily Carlaw has been obsessed with vintage bathing suits since she was a child, discovering a seminal find when she was 14 — a navy-and-white one-piece sailor-styled swimsuit from the 1940s on which she's basing a new line of reproductions.

'My kinship with this bathing suit sort of acts as my muse, my anchor'

'You can get a really nice, beautiful handmade bathing suit that's tailored exactly to your body,' says Emily Carlaw of the reproduction swimsuits. (Submitted by Emily Carlaw)

Emily Carlaw has been obsessed with vintage bathing suits since she was a child, discovering a seminal find when she was 14 — a navy-and-white one-piece sailor-styled swimsuit from the 1940s on which she's basing a new line of reproductions. 

The 27-year-old fine arts graduate (she's also trained as a teacher) owns and runs a shop called Freckles and Porcelain in St. Peters Bay, P.E.I., where she sells home decor, art and clothing — including the swimsuits. 

In my dreams there's definitely maybe a bigger place for it, in time and with a lot of work.— Emily Carlaw

"I saw this bathing suit, it still had sand in it!" she said, recalling the trip she and her mother took to Port Stanley, Ont., where she found the vintage swimsuit in a little shop more than a decade ago.

"I just thought it was the neatest thing," she said. While the swimsuit was too big for her at the time and she was reluctant to part with her allowance money, she did end up buying it.

'My muse, my anchor'

After using the swimsuit to inspire her etchings, and even wearing it once a couple of years ago, Carlaw decided when she opened her shop last spring to hang it up as part of her display. 

The vintage swimsuit that started Carlaw's obsession. (Freckles and Porcelain/Facebook)

"My kinship with this bathing suit sort of acts as my muse, my anchor for the store," she shared.

"Whenever I buy something, I think OK, does it have that same sort of classic and timeless feel as the bathing suit? And that gives me a nice cohesive look in the store, and also helps me say no to things that don't quite fit."

'I knew I had something'

While she had sourced some retro-style swimsuits to sell in her shop, Carlaw couldn't find anything with the classic look and feel of the vintage suit. 

Emily Carlaw shows off one of the reproduction vintage swimsuits she commissioned from a local tailor. (Submitted by Emily Carlaw)

"It's one of the few things in the shop that really made the shop what it is," she said, noting many people admired it and asked to purchase it. Carlaw didn't want to part with it, but the inquiries planted a seed. 

"That's when I knew I had something," she said. "I think this might have potential, people are really responding to it." 

Last fall, she met with an accomplished local seamstress and asked her to reproduce the swimsuit — and last week, she delivered what Carlaw said are perfect reproductions, in both navy and red. 

'A bit of an investment'

They're for sale for $200 each, and also serve as a model for potential custom orders, which will cost up to $50 more.

Emily Carlaw's art etchings also feature vintage swimwear. (Freckles and Porcelain/Facebook)

"That way, you can get a really nice, beautiful handmade bathing suit that's tailored exactly to your body," Carlaw said. 

"It's a bit of an investment but … having one that you feel secure and beautiful in … would be really nice," she said. 

Where could the obsession with "the bathing suit" go?

"In my dreams there's definitely maybe a bigger place for it, in time and with a lot of work," Carlaw said. 

"It'll be interesting to see what happens. This bathing suit is definitely an anchor to me, an inspiration, and I would love to see it pushed further in some way." 

'The swimsuit' is even featured on a small red hooked pillow, created by Carlaw's mother. (Submitted by Emily Carlaw)