“A girl in a bikini is like having a loaded pistol on your coffee table. There’s nothing wrong with them, but it’s hard to stop thinking about it.” — Garrison Keillor
Cathy Lynn’s customers can’t stop thinking about — and buying — bikinis from the 1950s. The founder of the company Get Go Retro, Lynn has found a niche that has attracted the attention of women from around the world. She thinks there’s a good reason for the increased focus on how the past has, once again, found its way to the future.
“To be honest, I think the 1950s bikinis are [classier],” Lynn said. “It leaves a little to the imagination.”
She started the online business in 2007, originally selling a variety of vintage clothing in sizes from petite to plus: Capri jeans, high-heeled bowling shoes, classic dresses and, of course, swimsuits. “It just took off,” said Lynn. This year, she and her daughter, who helps run the business, decided to focus more on swimsuits.
Based out of Lynn’s Savage home, the business has grown as a source for vintage clothing and as a partner for clothing designers and models who are breaking into that genre of fashion.
It’s gratifying to see how many partnering businesses have cropped up over the years, said Lynn, noting the company works “with a lot of tailors, a lot of cottage industry companies, people working from home and people operating small businesses.”
Without the overhead of a retail space, Lynn invested in building an effective web site (www.getgoretro.com) and a Facebook page, as well as finding business owners who help her maintain her unique niche.
“I’m always looking for a little more diversity. It’s a win-win for both of us when I partner with another small business. I get a product that nobody else is selling, and they get their name out there,” she said, pointing out that Get Go Retro sells costumes on Broadway, as well as to the drama departments of schools across the country.
A signature characteristic of the company’s swimsuits, besides more coverage than current styles, is custom sizing. “If you’re a curvy girl, you’re not going to fit into a regular size 12,” said Lynn. “We try to balance custom sizing and still make the purchases affordable.”
Buying a swimsuit from Get Go Retro isn’t the same as picking one out at a larger retail outlet. Domestic orders take up to two weeks to arrive. Ranging from about $39 to $189, the 1950s swimsuits represent an entire culture, she said. “There are a lot of people out there who live the 50s life, [such as] the rockabilly people who go to shows all around the country. There’s a whole tattoo culture centered around that era. They also go to the hot rod shows.”
Black Cat Bikinis
Joanna Luge, a seamstress and designer based in Fort Lauderdale, sells her original creations through Get Go Retro, among other outlets. Her most popular designs are a retro halter top paired with a high-waist skirt front bikini, and an underwire monokini, both classic “pin-up” 1950s styles.
Her business began, she said, when she melded her “love of old Florida, mid-century, tiki, Polynesian pop, classic hot rods and pin-up gals.”
Luge, who started her business in 2011, finds strength in the partnerships she cultivates with others. “I definitely think that small business owners benefit when linking up together with other web sites,” she said.
Lynn seeks out designers like Luge who share her love for 1950s feminine, “old Hollywood glam” styles that were worn by silver screen icons, such as Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth and, of course, Esther Williams, who said: “I was the only swimmer in movies. Tarzan was long gone, and he couldn’t have done them anyway; he could never have gotten into my bathing suit.”
In addition to small designers, Get Go Retro also sells more well-known designers such as Stop Staring, Lolita, Bettie Page and Ujena.
‘It Could Go Really Far’
More than 3,000 miles away, across the North Atlantic in Bournefield, England, Starla DuPres also has a tie to Get Go Retro. She models for the company’s promotional photographs.
“I started specifically retro modeling and came across Get Go Retro from doing a Google search,” said DuPres. “I loved what they sold and said that I would love to model for them.”
Years later, DuPres, who also co-operates a curiosity shop in the United Kingdom, considers Lynn not only a business associate, but a friend.
“I also really believe in the brand and think that with the right push it could go really far,” she said. “I love how Cathy tries to cater for everyone, no matter how much money you have or how skinny or curvy you are. She has a great eye for fashion.”