• Soulmatte

DIY 1940’s beauty pageant costume

Updated: Mar 7, 2020

You can find this free pattern on my website!

Inspiration: Radio Queen

Nowadays there is much more and much stranger costumes than this one. Somehow, looking in these 20th sanctuary photos it makes more sense. It wasn't weird just for the sake of being weird. It was the costume for Radio Queen, which we can agree, clearly should look something like that. I think the problem is that I don't go anywhere where I could see this kind of costumes in real life. I went to a comicon this ear and all though it looked interesting, it didn't "spark joy" as much as these pictures do. Maybe because these pictures aren't real. I mean it's usually in black and white, I can't see clearly Is that beads, paints, carton, I can't see the quality of the fabric. And those missing pieces let me think, that it's probably is the best it could be:)

And how about sexiness? Is this costume sexy? I think is sexy as much as it is funny or ridiculous at the same time. Nowadays I don't think that any girl wants to mix and match these things. Or maybe It's just my point of view and nobody thought that This costume looks ridiculous, maybe it was super duper modern look?

Yes, I understand that it's the problem of my point of view and nothing else. If tomorrow I would go to the television exhibition, I probably won't see anything like it.

This costume certainly makes me smile. It's not the style I usually like, but the energy and those long lightning fingers surely stand out. So after a day when I found this, I began to look for more information then it was written below the picture: “ Miss Radio Queen" 1939 Elmira Humphreys, the “Radio Queen,” wears a costume covered with cardboard lightning bolts. She will wear it on the Radiolympia stage. c. 1939 ” First of all, for my great sadness, I didn't found any information about Elmira Humphreys. Then I learn that Radiolympia was one of two major European radio-TV exhibits held in the mid-to-late 1930s, which showcased the new invention of television. If someone is heard something about this woman in the picture - Elmira Humphreys, it would be really interesting if You share it with me:)

In all these searches I found the most interesting articles about the beauty contest. From “Miss Beautiful Ape”, "Miss Atomic Bomb" pageant, "National Pork Queen ", "Miss Magic Marker" to “The Diaper Queen”, there are a seemingly endless variety of strange beauty contests that have been crowning queens since early 1900s.

In this context "Miss Radio Queen" makes a lot more sense:)

The last Miss Atomic Bomb, Lee Merlin 1957, and International Posture Queen 1957

Miss lovely Eyes, 1930’s

Ideas before sewing

What to keep and what to change:

Definitely this fun and an original cut will stay! I love that the waistline isn't straight, rather higher on the sides and lower in the middle. It looks quite nice, so I wonder, why it isn't popular. Maybe it’s uncomfortable? I think I definitely leave these panties cut in the front, but maybe I just should keep high waist in the back. Just for a safer feeling when someone in this costume will bend ;)

I would like to incorporate the lighting bold as the straps for the bikini top. Now I’m thinking to make these parts from silver color faux leather. If I find something really matching. Or maybe, Some kind of fabric that won’t breakdown too much while cutting. I wonder, should I use holographic leather for the bolts of lightning. It could look interesting, on the other hand, maybe it’s too bright in comparison to the main sequin fabric? Well, it just a thought.

I really hope to find this exact fabric, because it's still quite popular. I remember I had this same fabric blouse and fin jacket as a child. That really was my statement look... I recently sew one sequin knit dress for my client. It was a bit of work because I had to take out all the sequin where the seam will be because, in another way, the seam won’t bend nicely. I hope that these sequins will be easier to sew, and the seam should flat out nicely because they are quite small and rare on the fabric. We will see:)

I won't make this strange head accessory. A bit too dramatic for me :D But maybe something similar and a bit smaller from the same fabric which I will use for lighting decor? A hair band with bolts of lightning. Well okay, all this costume is a bit stranger than I usually wear, Where should I go with it? To a summer rave maybe?


For the top, I used the same pattern which I use for my designed swimsuits. I change simple straps design into the lightning bold decor. The bottom part pattern is with higher leg cut than usual, It's almost reaching the waist in the sides and properly covers the front. I decided not to make the string in front which connects both details. it looks that it won't be comfortable in reality. At the moment, I’m afraid it will flop out.

I also used some strings under the lightning for support, in this way, I could include straps regulators in the back. I usually use silver color regulators. For closure, I sew in beautiful heart shape clasp. I had it laying around from some other project, so I think It’s a good time to use it:)

I used fine linen for this bodysuit. The sequin fabric is a bit see-through, also with linen, it's more pleasant to wear. I chose beige color stretchy spandex.

Warning: I'm not trying to create an exact replica of this costume! It just for inspiration :)


Cutting panties from a pattern: the linen is cut without the seam allowances.

I cut the bolts of lightning and straps from silver vinyl. Then sewed the bolts of lightning on the soft and firm grey felt fabric. I cut the felt around the edges of the vinyl details.

I cut the bolts of lightning and straps from silver vinyl. Then sewed the bolts of lightning on the soft and firm grey felt fabric. I cut the felt around the edges of the vinyl details.

I sewed on the sides of the main fabric and linen. Then I stitch both layers together on the waist, I added a gum string on this stitch, that the panties would fit better to the body. Then I sewed on the bolts of lightning on the waistline by hand. I sewed both leg sides with overlock.

I sewed the straps with overlock. It was uncomfortable to turn inside-out such a thin string of vinyl because this fabric isn't slippery. I also cut the details for bra.

I sewed the flashes of lightning on straps by hand. I also added then on the back. I used simple metal clasp for the closure.

In conclusion

In conclusion: It was a lot of fun for me making it! It was easier to make and more comfortable than I expected.

I thought it would take a while to make these light bolds, but it was quite simple and easy. I forgot to add beads on them, which I think would add an extra shiness if somehow it isn't enough. I think I will add them someday and I will add more up to date pictures.

I make this costume much more simplified than the original. In this way, it is much easier to wear. On the other hand, maybe I lost a bit of Radio vibe. Most of the seamstress complain that they don't ever make clothes for themselves. Maybe it's because all we want to sew it this type of unpractical-fabulous clothing?

Interesting facts about beauty pageants

♥Since most mainstream adult beauty pageants have very strict ideas of beauty, there are a lot of specialty pageants - for short women, married women, plus size women, etc. ♥Backstage at pageants doesn't smell as pretty as the contestants look. A bunch of sweaty girls running around, a lot of nerves, hairspray, and fifteen different kinds of perfume don't...smell great together. This is in no way to say that Beauty Contestants aren't meticulously clean, but...athletes don't smell great in the middle of a game, either. ♥Many beauty pageant contestants will do almost anything accentuate their natural beauty. Piper Stoeckel, crowned Miss Arizona, always brings a roll of duct tape when she competes. According to her, she uses it for a lot of her “activities” for Miss America, including taping around her body. It may seem like cheating, but it works to make parts seems tighter and slimmer. ♥"Butt Glue" is a thing. It keeps your bikini bottom in place, or to keep revealing tops from revealing too much. Skin Lifting Tape is also a real and commonly used thing. ♥Those giant, sometimes weird, pageant crowns they win? Like everything these days, they're usually ordered online, and they cost the pageant from $5 (for bulk ordered participation crowns) to hundreds of dollars for the huge monstrosities that generally can't actually be worn by the contestant without them holding it on their head with one hand. ♥Sometimes the women in the finals get serenaded. On stage. Despite how romantic and lovely Disney movies and musicals have made this moment seem, it's kind of awkward. ♥The first Miss America Pageant was held in Atlantic City in 1921. Bathing suit contests had been held at beaches in Delaware as early as 1880 (those saucy Victorians!) ♥Globally, Beauty Pageants are insanely popular, with over 3,000 pageants listed on

the International Register of Pageants.

♥Many adult "Miss" beauty pageants still hold to very traditional gender roles; contestants must never have been married (Miss America now allows Divorcees), or given birth to a child. (Requirements used to say "have been pregnant," but changes were made so that women who had an abortion or miscarriage could compete.) The oldest you can be to enter the Miss America Pageant is 24, for Miss USA it's 26.

♥Contestants in beauty pageants are so serious that the vast majority will hire a special coach to guide them. Approximately 72% of Miss America contestants hire a personal coach to give them advice on what works and what doesn’t, such as what to wear and what to say. There are many subtleties to the competition that can make or break a potential winner, and many coaches make a living on teaching contestants what they can and cannot do.

♥BMI or Body Mass Index determines a person’s weight compared to their body’s proportions. Standards and perceptions of female beauty have changed dramatically throughout the years, as evidenced by the average BMI for Miss America winners in the 1930s. Their average BMI was 20.8, quite a bit higher compared to the average BMI in 2010. According to a 2010 study, the average BMI for Miss America has decreased to just 16.9 since the 1930s, even though the average BMI for an adult female is between 18.5 and 24.9.

1940s bathing suits

1940s bathing suits, like many other clothing items, was also losing its modesty. The ’40s was the era when the midriff was born, and it was shown in swimsuits as well as playsuits. 1940s swimsuits were tight, unlike the suits of previous eras, .One-piece swimsuits were still popular, but the new two-piece suit had plenty of fans too. The materials used to make swimsuits today were not invented yet, so suits were made from rayon jersey and rayon jersey blends with knit cotton linings. Many suits had accent panels of velvet-like rayon velour. Some also featured ruching on the front or side panels that were both pretty and figure flattering. Before the bikini, women started wearing two-piece swimsuits that looked just like one-piece bathing suits cut in half. The top was a full-coverage bra top, either with two thin straps or a halter top. The bottom looked like a tight mini-skirt, starting from the waistline and covering the entire backside. Another popular style of skirt for the two-piece was a flared skirt bottom of the same length. A top that started to gain in popularity was even more revealing – a bandeau top with strings attached to the center front that tied at the neck

The bikini was officially invented in 1946 and named after the Bikini Atoll in the south Pacific where the U.S. performed nuclear tests. This suit was tiny, revealing the belly button. It was essentially a string bikini. Most public beaches banned the use of this new tiny swimsuit till the ’50s. However, this wasn’t the style of two-piece that was usually worn in the ’40s – it was a little bit too revealing. By the late 1940s, one and two-piece swimsuits were losing even more modesty. The strapless two-piece was especially popular to those brave enough to wear them. By the 1950s nearly all swimsuits were strapless. More boning and elastic was needed to keep their shape and hold the girls in place. Needless to say, vintage swimsuits of the ’40s and ’50s were hardly used for vigorous swimming. A lazy day at the beach or pool was their best use.

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