Friday, August 12, 2011

Happy Birthday to “America’s Mermaid”

Esther Williams is a famed movie star known for her “aqua musicals” but she is also a retired competitive swimmer having set many national and regional records in her late teens. In 1940 she participated in the National Swimming Championships for Women and the 1940 American Olympic Tryouts at Jantzen Beach Pool in Portland, Oregon. She also appeared in Jantzen’s 1942 swimsuit catalog as a model.

In the 1950s Jantzen was the official suit worn at the beautiful Cypress Gardens in Florida, the sight of many photo shoots, television specials and water show performances. Esther appears at a pool named for her in a suit called “Chez Monaco”. It is from Jantzen’s 1957 line and features shoe button fastenings at the halter neckline.

She also wears “Summer Shimmer”, a shiny knit lame suit made with Mylar yarn that stays bright and flexible in the water. Additional Jantzen suits from 1957 can be seen around the Cypress Gardens pool.

In 1958 Esther visited Jantzen while taking part in Portland’s well known Rose Festival. She is pictured with Paul DeKoning (L) and founder J.A. Zehntbauer.