GALVESTON — As the 2013 Galveston Island Beach Revue celebrates its fifth year, women from across the nation are searching for the perfect retro, vintage and vintage-inspired swimsuits for the annual Bathing Beauties Contest.
The event replicates the original 1920s “Pageant of Pulchritude” with a vintage swimwear competition, which has become a tradition every third weekend in May since 2009.
“Our biggest inspiration for bringing back the event was that this was such an iconic event that had its roots in Galveston and was something that people across the nation recognized,” said Adrienne Culpepper, who, with her husband, Michael, organize the event through the group Islander by Choice.
The Bathing Beauties Contest’s primary focus is intricate vintage and vintage-inspired styles from as far back as the late 1800s all the way to the 1960s.
Contestants can choose from whatever era they like, which brings diversity into the competition.
Although some contestants hand-craft their own swimwear, there are many popular stores in the Galveston area where you can purchase vintage-styled suits.
“We carry a wide variety of original, unique swimwear that is available in the store year-round,” said Scotty Hanson, owner of Antique Warehouse, 423 25th St. on the island.
“My swimsuit was really neat because it was corduroy with these really cute flowers that were yellow, red and orange and really seemed to match my skin tone,” contestant Milozi Scott said of her Antique Warehouse suit.
“The moment I tried it on, I knew that would (be) the swimsuit I would be competing in at the contest.”
Another popular store for past and present contestants is Haunted Heel, 503 Bradford Ave., in Kemah, which carries pinup-style and vintage-inspired clothing and swimwear.
Lisa Beselt, owner of Haunted Heel, describes the swimwear as, “nostalgic fashion with a modern flame.”
The swimwear retains the original style but is made with modern fabrics, she said.
Many past and present contestants chose a different route to purchase their swimwear by going online to Etsy.
Leslie Thompson, 2012’s fourth-place winner and winner of “Most Beautiful Back,” purchased her swimwear through Etsy and is featured in the advertisements for the Bathing Beauties Contest.
“My suit was an actual 1940s rusty brown vintage swimsuit,” Thompson said.
“I highly recommend Etsy to future contestants. They are known for their full vintage and handmade section on the website.”
Another popular online source for past and previous contestants is California-based Unique Vintage, which offers many retro and vintage-style swimwear options.
There are important aspects besides the suit that can greatly enhance your chance of placing at this year’s Bathing Beauties contest, contestants and judges said.
“In the beauty industry, you can tell who has done the research to pull their vintage look together,” said Megan Carpenter, 2012 Bathing Beauties Contest Crowd Pleaser and 2013 judge.
“The contestants also need confidence to make the crowd and judges respond. You need more than an original swimwear to be a bathing beauty.”
Frank Billingsley, KPRC Chief Meteorologist and emcee of the contest, said the two main ingredients are “authenticity and personality.
“When you look at those wonderful photos from the original bathing beauty contests, you’re immediately drawn to how amazing the swimwear looked despite the Victorian conventions of the day,” Billingsley said.
“You also see a truly sincere warmth in the face of each girl — big and bright eyes and very happy smiles, as if they realized just how lucky they were to be living on the Galveston coast.
“So I tend to be a real sap for who is having the most fun with the whole idea and can convey that enthusiasm to the audience.”
Adrianne and Michael Culpepper both agree on their vision for The Galveston Island Beach Revue for the next decade, which is to keep the “vintage” focus and gain national recognition.
At a glance
WHAT: Galveston Island Beach Revue’s fifth annual Bathing Beauties Contest
WHEN: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. May 18
WHERE: 52nd Street at Seawall Boulevard
COST: Free to the public
423 25th St., in Galveston
11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays
Noon to 5 p.m. Sundays
503 Bradford Ave., in Kemah
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.