|Esther in a body hugging 50s swimsuit|
Swimming Champion, Beauty and MGM Movie Star...
In the 1940s and 50s, there were few water nymphs as spectacularly watchable as US swimming champion, Esther Williams. A natural athlete, in her teens Williams had already busted through a number of national swimming records but unfortunately, the inconvenient outbreak of WW2 put a hold on her plans to take on the 1940 Olympics.
Instead, Williams joined Billy Rose's Aquacade, a swimming, dance and musical show and it was there that she was discovered by MGM talent scouts, on the look-out for a rival to Fox's sporting star, Sonia Henie (an Olympic ice-skater turned film star).
|Esther in a bright two-piece.|
There is a new girl out at MGM in Culver City named EstherWilliams (b. 1921), who is a cross between Lana Turner and a seal...Miss Williams happens to be that fortunate thing known as 'a knockout' - in looks and one of the greatest swimmers in the world. (From oldmagazinearticles.com)
After appearing in bit parts in a wholesome Andy Hardy film and 1943's a Date with Joe, which starred the equally squeaky clean, boy-next-door, Van Johnson, MGM took another tack with it's aquatic starlet. Nicknamed the Million Dollar Mermaid, (after her highest grossing film) Williams's was to emerge a unique MGM mega-star after the studio decided to utilise the swimmer's athletic talents in a series of new genre films, known as aquamusicals, The films were constructed around impressively choreographed, balletic synchronised swimming and diving scenes and while they exemplified a certain type of over-the-top Hollywood kitsch, they're still mesmerising to watch. It was also dangerous work; not only did she have to hold her breath for several minutes but more than once she found herself nursing injuries from the stunt antics that were required of her on the set.
|Stunning in the simplicity of white|
The star's swimsuits were typical of the era and reflected the voluptuous 40s/ early 50s look, with the emphasis on stiffish, built-in bras, low backs and waist-hugging hour glass shapes. Interestingly, the crotch area of the 40s swimsuit was far more modest than todays suits and invariably featured a discreet little 'skirt' of material. It was the pre-Brazilian era after all.
|Zebra flavoured two-piece|
|Leggy and lacey one-piece|
|Esther in a sexy striped number. Cross-over back straps were popular in the 1940s|
Out of the Water - Post Film Career
|Esther Williams autobiography|
Esther Williams retired from her aquamusicals in 1960 but proved to be no fish out of water. Revealing a sharp business acumen, she launched into a swimming pool business as well as a line of retro swimwear - in the latter case citing a need to contain women with less than perfect figures in form-fitting but supportive swimwear: "I don't want you to be in two Dixie cups and a fish line". At least those old swimsuits from the 50s held you in.
Retro inspired, USA made modern Esther Williams swimsuits, featuring foam cups, Lycra lining and tummy control power nets can be found here:
Official Esther Williams Swimwear
|Esther Williams classic sheath, from the Esther Williams Swimwear range|