Elsa Takes A Dip


February of 1986

To understand why Lands’ End swimsuits fit so well, you have to know a little about Elsa Gustafson.

Elsa was the Lands’ End merchant who developed our very first suits. But first and foremost, like many of the early Lands’ Enders, she was an avid sailor. Her parents used to take her to the Jackson Park Yacht Club on Chicago’s south side, where she got acquainted with a champion racing sailor named Gary Comer, who later founded Lands’ End.

Naturally, Elsa was an avid swimmer too. But she never had much patience for suits that didn’t stay put.

“Swimsuits had gone bonkers back then,” recalls Elsa. “All cut so high up on the leg. Most women over thirty just didn’t feel comfortable with that.”





So Elsa began working with a partner from a famous swimwear company, who also happened to be an avid swimmer. How would they test their trial suits? “We jumped in the pool and swam a few laps. If the suits didn’t feel comfortable, if they didn’t stay in place like they were supposed to, we went back to the drawing board.”

They came up with a basic fit that offered sensible coverage in the seat and thighs, and tops with straps that stayed put. A superior 4-way-stretch fabric provided more comfort at ease and in action (and flattered a woman’s figure as well.) Even the colors and prints Elsa chose accentuated the positive.

(Later a Lands’ End writer in a Shakespearean frame of mind dubbed this flattering fit The Kindest Cut.)

By 1986, Elsa had several suits and a few cover-ups ready to debut in a summer catalog. Since Gary Comer had very vocal reservations about selling anything as flashy and “fashiony” as swimsuits, she was holding her breath.

But not for long. “It just exploded,” remembers Elsa. “Keeping suits in stock was like chasing a baby buggy downhill.”

Women were deeply appreciative that finally somebody was dealing with one of their great traumas – finding swimsuits they could feel comfortable in at the beach, at the pool and anywhere else.

“I’m thrilled! I’ve never felt beautiful and confident in a bathing suit until today,” wrote one woman.

Another said: “When your catalog came out bragging that you could fit anybody, I said, ‘Yeah, right!’ Then I tried it on. It fit! Thanks for a suit that fits and doesn’t cost a fortune.”

What Elsa started, her successors at Lands’ End have built into one of America’s most extensive, best-fitting collections of swimwear, with almost ten million satisfied customers so far. Each new swim season, we manage to come up with another innovation or two…

Tugless Tank. Tummy control. Regular, Petite and Long Torso sizes. Tugless Tankini. D, DD and DDD cup options. Slender Suits. Plus sizes. Mastectomy suits. Beach Living separates. SwimMini. AquaTerra. In 2012, SwimMates separates that make a woman feel comfortable even in a bikini.

And now in 2013, the most figure-enhancing suits ever – actual shapewear you swim in.
There have been innovations in the swimsuit shopping experience, too, all intended to make it pleasant rather than painful. My Virtual Model was a sensation for several years, letting our customers “try on” suits, and our current Swim Resource Guide may be the best swim shopping tool on the web.

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