I Heart Norma Kamali (A Bombshell Suit)

bombshell bathing suit

I’m not naturally a performer; that is, becoming a symbol, a larger-than-life self in front of an audience. My husband is. I’m an introverted intellectual. And so he was giving me cues about what one does taking pictures of oneself in a bathing suit standing in a hallway. Like read the New York Times? Yeah, he actually handed me a paper, shots of which did not make it to my final cut. Any prop will do, he said.

But I really wanted you to see my fantabulous swimsuit. (And after this I’m going to resume posting pictures of lingerie on mannequins (or friends, or models!).) It makes a body feel good. This is the super-glamorous Bombshell Swimsuit pattern by the lovely Heather Lou of Closet Case Files, which she just released Friday and is available here. When she asked me to test her pattern it couldn’t have come at an easier time, since I’ve been up to my ears in spandex lately.


For this pattern Heather was inspired by Norma Kamali, which made me love it all the more. I’ve long had a fascination with the queen of nylon and mesh. Kamali is a smart and adventurous businesswoman with an eye for lean production. She was the first designer to open an Ebay shop, and one of the first to offer “a try before you buy” online shopping experience and forgoes the traditional fashion week catwalk for collection releases featuring cut-out paper dolls of models and 3D displays. She’s got a flare for costume and irony–anyone remember her designs for The Wiz?–especially with her famous Victoriana dresses out of parachute nylon and “sleeping bag” coats. Every year she comes out with a new take on her classic ruched one-pieces, which you can see in action on a young Bette Midler here:

[vimeo 32116475 w=575 h=323]

I hope I look that healthy at 67.

But back to Heather and her amazing, ageless Bombshell. If you’re up for an adventure in swimsuit sewing and like a bit of oohlala retro, this suit may be your gal. It’s got a very clever design that allows it to sit low on the bum, which all comes down to the way the back back seam is shaped. And I’m of the opinion that ruching in the right places has a svelting effect on the body. But you’ll have to prepare for some swanning and answering some “where did you find that!” questions if you wish to wear this in public.

The pattern has two versions: a halter style which I’ve made, and a bandeau-top style. Alternatively, you can cut the pattern to create a high-waisted bikini and top. Heather is hosting a sew-along starting next week that will walk you through the process of each.

bombshell suit closeup

I chose a pattern size based on what I thought was my hip (an 8), but it’d been awhile since I measured myself. Oopers, I’m closer to a 10, which explains why I had to artfully wiggle to get into the bottom but it’s quite comfortable once on. The front is composed three layers, a lined flat front which is then covered with a ruched and skirted bodice. My fabric is a matte 4-way spandex which I dyed to a creamy pale daffodil. My crush on yellow is getting out of control, but at least it’s going into purchasing dye rather than fabric.

I love love this bathing suit and the pattern. And so does my husband. He followed me around for the hour complimenting me for looking as if I was on the set of a Fellini movie. Thank you, Heather!

Pattern: Bombshell bathing suit pattern from Closet Case Files
Fabric: white 4-way nylon spandex from my pile
Fabric dye: Vanilla Cream acid dye from Dharma Trading
Rubber elastic & swimsuit lining: Fabric Depot Co.


  1. Heather Lou says:

    The mental image of your man handing you random props is making me laugh really hard right now. “A melon baller? Really?!”

    Obviously I love this, as I said. It’s kind of crazy to see how well it fits everyone. Hopefully you will find a sand flea, fire ant free place to swim this summer to enjoy it!

    • Amy says:

      Fire ants, chiggers and skeeters be gone! Funny, he totally would’ve handed me a melon baller. I wish I could’ve gotten photos of him in the background jumping around giving me choreography tips. He’s a whole movie unto himself. (I do have quite a few of me dancing, just didn’t quite make it to my cut.)

  2. Eeeee! Positively stunning. Such an interesting color too. I thought I was all set on version B, but now after seeing this…back to square one with the decision making!

  3. emily marie says:

    Wow! Bold lady with the light suit! It’s absolutely stunning, flattering and well done. Your lip colour is especially lovely with the suit, too!

  4. Niki says:

    I just discovered your site after googling “how to make a bra” (mine never fit right), and am so impressed by how professional yours look! O_o Can’t wait to start mine this weekend. This bathing suit is also so lovely! I’m drafting a pattern for one right now, so it’s great to see some inspiration. Can you tell me where you found your fabric? I haven’t been able to find any matte nylon spandex in a good color, never thought of dyeing my own!

    • Amy says:

      Hi Niki! I have quite a few of these fabrics in my stash but some places I have found matte-type spandex fabrics include spandexworld.com and nyfashioncenterfabrics.com (for both of these look for “milliskin matte”–there are loads of colors). Sewsassy.com sells a white 4-way nylon stretch fabric called “pantie spandex”–it’s a good swimsuit weight and not just for panties, really. I usually test a little sample to see if it dyes, just in case there’s some kind of chlorine or resistant finish.

    • Amy says:

      I know, that’s what I’ve been saying! I hardly ever go swimming in Austin but this might give me an excuse to 🙂

  5. merche says:

    So pretty! I´m not a very vintage-y kind of person, but this swimsuit looks fantastic. All the versions I´ve seen so far are really cute and flattering. Were those gatherings difficult to achieve. I´m scared of gathering. IT is like my sewing black beast 🙂

    • Amy says:

      Hey Merche, no the gathering wasn’t too hard. Just like gathering up a skirt to match a waistband or something like that. I think the hardest part is sewing the gathered pieces together (I serged), but overall this comes together quite easily!

  6. Ramona says:

    Wow! I love this suit. You look fantastic in it. And the shade of yellow is awesome. This can’t come at a better time. My daughter actually wants a ‘retro’ swimsuit like this (bandeau) style. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Ginger says:

    This is hot hot HOT! Every single version of this suit is so gorgeous, and yours is especially lovely! I never think to dye fabric, but it’s such a great idea. Yours is a beautiful color!

  8. Sallie says:

    Ooooh You look stunning in this pale yellow bombshell!! This is really SUCH a flattering swimsuit! And it’s totally a husband favorite! Haha!

    • Sallie says:

      Also! Forgot to say – LOVE that interview with Norma Kamali. I was so fascinated I burnt my breakfast! How awesome is that dress she was wearing?! Thanks for sharing!

      • Amy says:

        Isn’t she gorgeous! Definitely made me want some kind of wrap-every-which-way pattern magic dress. Infinity dress, she calls it?

  9. Stephanie says:

    Sooo, so gorgeous. That color is unexpected and amazing. I love all of your dyeing projects. If and when I get around to this suit, I’ll make this version.

    That interview with Norma is fascinating! I’m not familiar with her designs, but I like the unique things she’s doing in the fashion industry. Good for her!

  10. Amy says:

    Oh! I’m so glad you were a tester. What a knock out swimsuit on you! I’ve just loved seeing these pop up everywhere. And, I love that so many people (including you!) have jumped into pattern making. And, that yellow – it’s so fun to know you made it via dye. That makes the possibilities for this swimsuit boundless!

  11. Megan says:

    You look fabulous in this and the colour is to ‘dye’ for! I didn’t even know it was possible to dye spandex, but it’s turned out beautifully. Lovely job 🙂

  12. Carolyn says:

    Wow, you look fabulous in your bombshell! I love that you dyed your own fabric, the colour you got is so pretty, so gorgeously retro, and so you. The husbandly antics made me laugh… reading the paper would have made a terrific picture!

  13. Kazz says:

    I’m a tad late to the party…you are a bombshell inside a bombshell, brilliant! That colour is so you and I just loved learning about Norma Kamali. Great job as always- the perfect pattern tester.

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