Retro Swimmers: The Beauty of Water Ballet

Dear readers, Ms. Jeannie has found a new love!

While catching up on her magazine reading this week, Ms. Jeannie was flipping through the pages of the April 2012 issue of Vogue Magazine and came upon an article about the Aqualillies

In Sync – April 2012 Vogue Issue pg. 218 – Beauty Fitness

If you are unfamiliar with them – they are an L.A. based synchronized swim team that performs at parties and private events. They have held special “performances” at fashion shows, celebrity parties, hotel openings and they also made an appearence  on the tv show, Glee.

Aqualillies impressive water ballet. Photo courtesy of Erin Hearts Court

The all-girl team carry the retro theme of their sport through classic swim costumes, 1940s makeup and nostalgic song choices but also combine modern acrobatics and dance movements to their routine, which makes it seem both timeless and contemporary all at the same time.

Here’s a quick clip of the ‘Lillies performing…

Doesn’t this look completely fun? Ms. Jeannie could definitively see this being the next big Vegas act!

In addition to performing the girls also teach classes at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica.  Ms. Jeannie is going to be in L.A. for a friend’s wedding next April so she’s going to take a class while she’s there! She’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

The origins of synchronized swimming are traced back to Berlin, Germany in the the late 1800’s but it wasn’t until the Chicago World’s Fair in the 1930’s that the sport gleamed international attention.

Chicago World Fair Poster – 1933

There Kathryn Curtis organized her show, The Modern Mermaids, which she referred to as rhythmetic swimming. In the 1940’s Esther Williams, a trained swimmer,  brought water ballet to the big screen starring in such films as Bathing Beauty, Million Dollar Mermaids and On An Island with You.

Here’s the trailer for Bathing Beauty, which came out in 1944.  You can see where the Aqualillies got their inspiration!

Synchronized swimming  became an Olympic sport in 1984 and is only open to female qualifiers – no men allowed in this arena (or pool, as the case may be!) yet. With the Olympics scheduled to start in London in just a few days, Ms. Jeannie is excited to see how the US will fare in this category. Here’s a picture of the 2012 team.

2012 US Snychro National Team 1

One of the things Ms. Jeannie loves most about the Aqualillies is their style. They scour old magazine ads, newspapers and movie footage for fun swimsuit ideas and makeup trends. Retro bathing suits are very popular this year too – so if you need to spruce up your beach attire, click on each of the photos below to learn more…

The Natalie – One Piece Bathing Suit from Anthropologie
1940s/1950s Pinup Bathing Suite from MetricMod
Luxe Tortoise Keyhole Tank from JCrew
Vintage 1940s/1950s Swim Suit from SHESABETTIEBoutique
1930s Swimsuit from brerrabbitvintage

Swim caps became popular in the 1920’s as a way for women to protect their hair from the chlorinated water and to keep stray hairs from clogging pool filters. Aviator styles like this one below dominated the 1920’s:

Vintage 1920s Swim Cap from lactoseintolerart

The 1950’s and 60’s brought about more colorful, stylized swim caps adorned with flowers and frillies like these…

Vintage Swim Cap with Flowers from MommaBeeCollections
Vintage 1960s Swim Cap from plattermatter
Vintage 1960s Feathered Swim Cap

Pair any of these with some red lipstick and a classic hair style and you have one spectacular bathing beauty!

Happy swimming:)

Movie Poster for the 1944 film Bathing Beauty starring Esther Williams

5 thoughts on “Retro Swimmers: The Beauty of Water Ballet

  1. What a wonderful story, and you found such gorgeous retro suits to accompany it! My mother was a member of a synchronized swimming team in college in the early 1960s and I’ve always been fascinated by her old photos – wish they had been able to video the performances.

    Lori @


      1. Oh my…I hope I can find some of the Corquetts!… I just don’t ever remember any- actually was searching for anything on the team when I came online tonight! …nothing 😦 …I do remember the suits…at just 6-9 years old, mine had to be tied in the back. I weighed probably 35-40 lbs…kind of looked like a starving thing…lol…tan body (not something to be proud of anymore, with the skin cancers I have dealt with) & blondish hair. I loved the routines…I loved the older girls. I kept at it for years after the team, swimming summers at Camp Longhorn…loved being in the pool! And funniest? I LOVE mid-century modern…our home was built in 1960 & I just get a good feeling with that era too. 🙂


    1. Hi Lori. I too appreciate the story, videos, etc. I just turned 52 & with the Olympics on again, am feeling very nostalgic. I was on a team in the mid-sixties, in Houston, Tx. The team name was the “Corquetts”, & we had winter practices at the Dad’s Club & swam shows in the summer at the Houston Shamrock Hotel. The Shamrock had “the world’s largest pool” & hosted many shows I got to play a small part in as…the smallest swimmer on the Corquetts. The pool itself, had motorBOAT races in it, Fire-divers & other divers off the Olympic boards & platform. SO MANY fond memories. I told my stepson tonight that I remember warm-up meant swimming 2-4 lengths of that pool…I thought I would drown before practice started! I also recall the loops of girls going under…I was always the last one to go under, feet forward, then of course, the last one out…again so sure I would die!…I tiny drama princess I’m sure. We also attended the Junior Regional Olympics & I have kept them proudly all these years. So, I ramble… I just wish I could get hold of some footage from those shoes. I SO vividly remember the Mexican Hat Dance routine. I remember a diver, who lost a glass contact, running to a lanai room, trying to get in to get to a mirror…& jamming his leg through the glass to the right of the window…I could never think of his name, but you KNOW that memory will never leave. I loved those years. A Mrs. Nash was our coach, but that’s all I remember. I read tonight that ABC broadcast a radio program live every week from The Shamrock, sometime in the 50’s & 60’s…guests like Liberace, Doris Day..I knew it was big, but…had no clue as a little kid. Hope I made you & your mother smile.


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