Rose Marie Reid
Rose Marie Reid was a highly successful swimsuit designer popular from the 1940s through the 1960s. Her business success included customers such as movie stars Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, and Rhonda Fleming. Sandra Dee and all the female co-stars of the 1959 film Gidget wore her suits.
She was born Rose Marie Yancey on September 12, 1906, in Cardston, Alberta, Canada. Her mother, Marie, taught her to sew, and after the family moved to Weiser, Idaho, she opened a beauty salon in her home. Her mother was her partner. She then went to Boise to attend beauty school.
In 1925 she bought a beauty salon in Baker City, Oregon. While living in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, she began designing swimwear. Her first business, Reid’s Holiday Togs Ltd. began in 1936 after her then husband asked her to design him a more comfortable and functional swimsuit. The design, which laced up the sides, was not made of wool, as many suits then were. She designed a woman’s suit, and the Hudson Bay Department Store ordered ten dozen men’s suits and six dozen ladies’ suits. In her first year she only designed six suits but grossed $10,000. Ten years later, she launched Rose Marie Reid, Inc., her American company based in California. Her swimsuits dominated the market in Canada, America, South America, Europe, and Australia.
Reid was the first swimsuit designer to use inner brassieres, tummy-tuck panels, stay-down legs, elastic banding, brief skirts, and foundation garments in swimwear. She was also the first designer to introduce dress sizes in swimwear, and she designed swimwear for multiple sizes and types of bodies, rather than just producing one standard size.
She had patents for swimsuit fabrics and designs and accessories, including a suit that used elastic fabric with no buttons. She had sales offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, New York City, London, Paris, and Amsterdam, and traveled widely. She was honored with the Sports Illustrated Sporting Look Award (1958) and as the Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year (1955).
She believed that a swimsuit could be both stylish and modest. When the bikini became a trend in the 1960s, she said she would never design for a company that made them. When her corporation was acquired by another company, she left the business. She retired to Provo, Utah, in 1967.
She was married twice (Gareth Rhynhart and Jack Crossman Reid) and was the mother of three children. She had intended on leaving her career behind when she had children, but after becoming a single parent, she built her business to take care of herself and her family.
Reid was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She once told a group of LDS students, “Tell everyone you meet that you are a Mormon and then live it to the utmost of your ability.” She was a devoted missionary, especially to her Jewish friends. She wrote a series of missionary discussions aimed at Jews that was used Church-wide.
She was generous with her success. She created the “Starlight” swimsuit that featured sequins that the Relief Society sisters in the Los Angeles area sewed by hand. The profits for the suits were given for the construction of the Los Angeles California Temple. The suit was extremely popular and in 1956 Life Magazine ran a two-and-a-half page spread about the suit’s success. She donated generously to Brigham Young University. In 1959, Church president David O. McKay and Relief Society general president Belle S. Spafford asked her to redesign the LDS temple garments, creating standard patterns, sizes, and styles.
The L. Tom Perry Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU hosted an exhibit of her work in the fall of 2015 through the spring of 2016. Called Rose Marie Reid: Glamour By Design, the exhibit featured her letters, photographs, promotional materials, and examples of her swimwear.
Reid died in 1978 at her daughter Carole’s home.