What You Need to Sew a Retro Bathing Suit

Two women in bathing suits posing


I know swimwear sewing can be intimidating. There’s a lot to learn, but we’re going to teach you!

We’ve compiled a list of materials we used in the making of the Esther Swimsuit. We tested several variations of fabrics, elastics, and linings to perfectly replicate that vintage swimwear look. It may look intimidating at first, but if you take things one step at a time, you’ll have the retro swimsuit of your dreams in no time!

Our full length video tutorial for sewing the Esther Swimsuit is available if you join our Patreon!

Materials you’ll need

Swimwear fabrics: For your outer fabric, use a blend of 80% poly or nylon, with 20% lycra. There are a lot of swimwear specific fabrics out there, but any spandex fabric for activewear and dance wear will do! We sourced one from KnitFabric.com and another from Etsy. 

Power mesh: To replicate the feel and control of vintage swimsuits, we underlined the Esther Swimsuit with a layer of power mesh in key parts of the swimsuit. Note that power mesh comes in a variety of weights, to get the look and control in our photos, use the heavy weight. We liked this one from Spandex World. 

Lining Fabric: This specialty swimwear lining is great for adding opacity and soft structure to your swimsuit. We sourced ours from Sew Sassy and Etsy

Hook and eye tape: Vintage suits had zippers in them, but we devised a simpler invisible closure for the back using hook and eye tape which still gives you a vintage silhouette. We got ours from Amazon

Foam for cups: Create structure and support in the inner bra with the use of this thin foam lining. We used this poly laminate foam from Sew Sassy. 

Swimwear elastic: Swimwear elastic is blended with rubber and meant to be resistant to chlorine and salt so your swimwear will last longer. We sourced ours from Sew Sassy. 

3/4″ plush elastic: Using this elastic on the interior bra will give you great bust support. We sourced ours from Sew Sassy. Note: item number is PE580

7/8″ to 1″ Swimwear Clasp: We designed this swimsuit with a bra back to give you tons of bust support. Use a pretty metal closure–– we liked these from Etsy. 

¼” wide Spiral steel boning: Spiral steel boning gives excellent structure to your vintage swimwear. And don’t worry, it’s pre-treated so it won’t rust! We sourced ours from Corsetmaking.com.

Boning Channeling: This is a cotton twill tubing that creates a channel for your spiral steel boning. We sourced ours from Corsetmaking.com.

Boning Tips: Use this to finish your boning ends. Alternately, you can use Teflon plumbing tape from the hardware store to wrap the ends of your bones. We used these from Corsetmaking.com.