In the middle of the Great Depression Rose Marie Yancey Reid was asked by her husband Jack, a swimming instructor and athletic manager, to design a more functional swimsuit.
He was so happy with the lace-up suit she created that he took a duplicate suit to the Hudson Bay Department Store. Impressed, Hudson Bay requested a lady's suit design and ended up ordering nearly 200.
With that 1936 order, Reid's first business, Reid's Holiday Togs, Ltd., was born. From that day until the mid-1960s the name Rose Marie Reid was synonymous with beautiful, functional, and innovative women's swimwear. Her swimsuits were advertised widely in fashion magazines and were sold in department stores in Canada, the United States,and Europe.
The BYU's L. Tom Perry Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library has just opened an exhibition on the life and work of Reid.Rose Marie Reid: Glamour By Designwill feature Reid's letters, photographs, promotional materials, and of course significant examples of her swimwear.
Reid's suits were more than fashionable. Her long-term success came from using patented fabrics and designs to improve the fit and function of her suits. She found loyal customers in some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Rita Hayworth, Jane Mansfield, and Marilyn Monroe were known to wear Rose Marie Reid suits. In 1959, Sandra Dee and the other female co-stars of the film Gidget all wore Reid's suits.
Reid's business savvy was recognized when she was named Woman of the Year by the Los Angeles Times in 1955, and her status as a top designer was sealed when Sports Illustrated awarded her the Sporting Look Award in 1958. The committee for the Sports Illustrated Magazine Sporting Look Award named Reid one of "America's top fashion authorities."
In the 1960s, Reid retired from swimsuit design and eventually built a home in Provo. Her work continues to influence modern design with vintage suits finding a strong market on eBay and artisans making new suits inspired by her work that sell on Etsy.
Rose Marie Reid: Glamour By Design will be located on level 1 of The Harold B. Lee Library on the campus of Brigham Young University. The exhibition will be open to the public and admission is free. Special Collections' hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday. Parking is free in BYU visitor parking areas near the Museum of Art and on the East side of campus. The exhibition will be in place through late spring of 2016.