DIY Vintage T-back One-piece Swimsuit

Growing up in Oregon I often saw the Stretch & Sew patterns in thrift stores so I have a kind of nostalgic fondness for the now-vintage styles. Stretch & Sew revolutionized sewing knit fabric at home and their pattern collection is treasure trove of amazing designs. Revolutionized might be a strong word but read this article from Threads and I think you’ll agree with me. These days it’s easy to find knit fabric and notions. Plus our fabrics are really different than in the 70s. Hello double knit! We don’t need to literally stretch as we sew now but these patterns are still a great way to try out vintage designs. 

Last summer I was looking for a sporty 80s/90s style one-piece swimsuit and I found this gem on Etsy. This pattern is Stretch&Sew 1363. I did a very quick search on Etsy this week and didn’t find the same pattern but there are a TON of S&S patterns there for you to peruse.
Look at all the swimsuits! And can someone please make this dress?

DIY Vintage T-back One-piece Swimsuit, Stretch & Sew 1363 | Sew DIY

These patterns come in large envelopes with an instruction booklet and a paper pattern that you can trace your size from. I made another Stretch&Sew swimsuit about three years ago and had added too much length to it so I started this out only adding 2” to the length. I followed my measurements and traced a size 38. I cut out my fabric and basted it together and I was satisfied with the fit. So I went on constructing and then with repeated try-ons I decided it was just too damn tight. I mean getting into this t-back shape is a CHALLENGE. A big challenge. The last one I made has an open back with straps that detach and it’s a peach to put on. But this is a wiggle and tug dance. So, as I wiggling and tugging and sighing and nearly crying, I realized that my freakin’ fabric does not have as much stretch as it should. 

DIY Vintage T-back One-piece Swimsuit, Stretch & Sew 1363 | Sew DIY

Sigh. I bought this fabric from the FIDM store in downtown LA last summer. It was super cheap and I had a couple of yards so I decided to start all over because I was determined to have a watermelon print T-back one piece swimsuit. So for my second round, I cut a size 40 and added 3 inches to the length. The fit is much, much better this time. It’s still a wiggle fest but it does not feel constricting. YAY!

I lined the suit with swimsuit lining from Joann’s and used cotton swimwear elastic (similar here on Amazon). Construction was pretty easy and straightforward. The only tricky part was the point where the center back strap piece meets the part that covers the bum. It was really hard to get that right and it’s still not perfect. I used the pattern instructions to add a shelf bra and I feel like it’s quite supportive enough. If you read my last swimwear post, you know support is important for me. I just used regular elastic for the bottom of the shelf bra.

I didn’t finish this suit in time for my trip to Maui so I have not worn it swimming yet. Maybe I’ll do another beach day before fall arrives. Or maybe it will have to wait until next summer. I’m very happy to have this project done and checked off my list. And sometimes that’s most important thing. A few years ago I established a no-WIPs policy so it’s really hard for me to have an unfinished project sitting around.