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Why Marilyn Monroe Raved About Modest Swimsuits from This LDS Designer

Rose Marie Reid exemplified being a strong and devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints despite the glamour of Hollywood and celebrity life. As a result, she succeeded in the fashion world without straying from her beliefs about modesty.

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The daughter of Elvie and Marie Yancey, Rose Marie Reid was born September 12, 1906, in Cardston, Alberta, Canada.1 Rose Marie learned many of her designing and sewing skills from her mother. She said, “At first she [Mother] would sew and I tended the children. Then I began to sew beside her.” 2 When the family moved to Weiser, Idaho, in 1916, Rose Marie worked on the family farm and entered a beauty pageant to win money to help support her brother’s mission fund. 3

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Rose Marie Reid working with one of her swimsuit models. Image from exhibits.lib.byu.edu

In September 1925, Marie purchased a beauty salon in Baker City, Oregon, and Rose Marie worked with her mother in the salon while her brothers set up a painting studio next door. Her brothers began taking painting lessons from traveling artist Gareth Rhynhart, whom they had known in Cardston, but after two weeks, Rhynhart refused to continue to teach them unless he could marry Rose Marie. Even though she was not interested, she agreed to the marriage because she wanted her brothers to continue with their art lessons—an arrangement Rose Marie’s family did not know about until many years later. The marriage did not last long; Rose Marie divorced Rhynhart in 1935.4

After her divorce, Rose Marie moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, and began taking swimming lessons from Jack C. Reid; she soon fell in love with him, and they planned to marry. Rose Marie’s family was not so keen on the union. They did not like the idea that Reid was not a member of the Church, but Rose Marie assured them that he would join the Church. He did exactly that, and the two were married soon afterward. 5

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Rose Marie Reid with missionaries from the Denver Colorado Mission. Image from exhibits.lib.byu.edu.

Jack, who spent many hours at the swimming pool, was not happy with the swimsuits of the day. They were made of wool and when soaked in water became heavy and uncomfortable. Rose Marie decided to make a new swimsuit for Jack; she cut a pair of swim trunks from an old duck-fabric coat and laced the sides for a snug fit. Jack loved the suit and wanted Rose Marie to design similar suits for the Hudson Bay Department Store to sell. Leery of selling swimsuits, Rose Marie turned to the Lord, kneeling in prayer and asking if God wanted her to make bathing suits. The day after she received an affirmative answer, Rose Marie found some beautiful fabric with which to make a woman’s swimsuit with laces up the sides. Seeing the design, the Hudson Bay buyers ordered ten dozen men’s and six dozen ladies’ suits—and Reid Holiday Togs, Ltd., began. 6

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One of Rose Marie Reid's swimsuit designs. Image from www.mormonwiki.com

Rose Marie’s suits became very popular because they were the first to include brassieres, tummy-tuck panels, stay-down legs, and laces. 7 During the company’s first year, it featured only six styles. In later years, more than 100 styles were shown in one season. In 1946, Rose Marie decided to take her company from Canada to the United States. Triumphing over other swimsuit companies in the U. S., by 1958 the company had $14 million in sales. 8 In 1959, production went up to 10,000 suits a day, and worldwide distribution reached into 46 countries, making Reid the largest manufacturer of swimsuits worldwide. She was also named one of the Los Angeles Times 10 Women of the Year in 1955, and in 1958 she was awarded Designer of the Year. 9

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Rose Marie’s popularity grew immensely after the introduction of her swimsuits in the United States. Joan Crawford, Jane Russell, Rhonda Fleming, Marilyn Monroe, and Rita Hayworth all wore Reid swimsuits in their respective movies or pinup pictures. Marilyn Monroe gave Rose Marie “almost as much credit as Mother Nature for her pinup popularity.” 10

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Rose Marie on her way to one of her fashion shows in Florida. Image from exhibits.lib.byu.edu.

While Rose Marie achieved success in the business world, she faced trials in her personal life. Though Jack had expressed no desire to have children, Rose Marie had three children with him. As time went on, Jack became abusive to Rose Marie and their children. She also began to feel that her husband had joined the Church without any real commitment or testimony. Their marriage ended in 1946. 11

In the 1960s, Rose Marie’s business started to decline with the popularity of the bikini. She refused to design a bikini, advocating modest one-piece swimsuits. She left her company in 1962, claiming that the bikini was its “ultimate demise.” 12

After leaving her company to other designers, Rose Marie was asked by President David O. McKay—through Belle Spafford, the general president of the Relief Society—to redesign the temple garments so women would feel more comfortable and beautiful while wearing them. Rose Marie discovered while working on the garments that she was related to Elizabeth Warner Allred, who helped design the very first garments in this dispensation. Rose Marie wondered if the Lord “[kept] that privilege in our family.” 13

Rose Marie died on November 18, 1978, in Provo, Utah. 14 Due to her faith and perseverance, she showed others that you can be strong in your beliefs and not change those standards for celebrity life.


^1. Donald Q. Cannon, Richard O. Cowan, and Arnold K. Garr, “Rose Marie Reid,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2000), 991.
^2. Carole Reid Burr and Roger K. Petersen, Rose Marie Reid: An Extraordinary Life Story (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, Inc., 1995), 13–14.
^3. Ibid., 6–7, 21–23.
^4. Ibid., 25–26, 28.
^5. Ibid., 31
^6. Ibid., 32–33.
^7. Ibid., 35
^8. April Ainsworth, “Introducing Great Designers,” www.vintagevizen.com/articlesDesigners/vintageRoseMarieReid.asp (accessed November 17, 2010).
^9. Cannon, Cowan, and Garr, 991.
^10. Burr and Petersen, 94.
^11. Burr and Petersen, 39–40, 45–47.
^12. Ainsworth.
^13. Burr and Petersen, 201.
^14. Cannon, Cowan, and Garr, 991.

Lead image from exhibits.lib.byu.edu


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For generations, latter-day prophets have extolled the noble role of womanhood. Leaders often tell of the wonderful contributions that the women in their lives have made both inside and outside the home. From rearing a faithful posterity to demanding and defending rights in the halls of Congress, Latter-day Saint women have been and continue to be a powerful influence for good in shaping the destiny of future generations.

With this book we celebrate noble women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with one hundred inspiring biographies of LDS women who have accomplished the extraordinary, leaving an indelible mark on history. 

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