Decades After Falling Out, Catalina Brand Rejoins Miss America

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Live long enough, they say, and you will see history repeat itself. One swimwear brand is certainly happy to have lived long enough.

Catalina swimwear, the original sponsor of the Miss America pageant in the 1940s, is finally partnering with the contest again. For the January 12, 2013 competition, Catalina will be the official swimwear sponsor, with a Walmart tie-deal to follow. It is, as the press release states, a partnership that “celebrates the rich history of the two iconic brands.”

It is, in fact, a great irony that Miss America would have Catalina back after all the brand did to dilute the importance of the iconic competition, after splitting with the pageant in the early 1950s. [more]

From the Miss America website:

“Catalina’s design inspiration for the Miss America by Catalina collection combines retro glamour, modern styling and classic beauty. Sophisticated jewel tone colors and embellishments are central to the collection, giving the suits and contestants stage presence and the stylish ease associated with the Miss America competition. The designs include youthful and fashionable silhouettes including bandeau tops, triangle bikinis, and one-pieces with cut-outs. Catalina will provide all 53 contestants with custom-made styles, which they will select for the competition.”

With price targets under $20 per piece for separates and under $30 for one-piece suits, Catalina’s line is a good fit for Wal-Mart. The line will also be available on Walmart.com.

It’s a reunion of brands that once sat, successfully, atop the glamour pile of the 1940s. So what happened?

In 1951, Miss Alabama and the newly crowned Miss America, Yolande Betbeze (a.k.a Yolande Fox), refused to wear the Catalina swimwear at an official Miss America appearance in Wisconsin.  “To…go into Milwaukee in the middle of the winter and walk around a department store in a bathing suit,” Betbeze declared, “is not my idea of Miss America.”

Upset, Catalina withdrew its sponsorship of the Miss America pageant, which, sensing the coming wave of feminism, spun Betbeze as a new sort of Miss America, one focused less on pure physical appearance and more on education, character and intellect.

Spurned Catalina meanwhile hit back at Miss America by immediately founding the Miss USA competition, which runs to this very day and is now owned by one Mr. Donald Trump.

Obviously, the existence of both a Miss USA and a Miss America commotion caused a lot of confusion. It still does. It is hardly uncommon for winners of the Miss USA pageant to be credited for winning the title of Miss America. This dual existence caused — and causes — huge brand dilution.

More ironically, Catalina is now positioned as the “classier” act in its (re)new(ed) partnership with Miss America. As Miss USA contestants appear in lingerie, Catalina and Miss America lean on the nostalgia of old-time, comparatively covered up, glamour.

Catalina did get an immediate social media boost from some of the contestants. Miss Missouri, Miss Mississippi, Miss Maine and Miss Alabama all tweeted thanks to the brand and noted that they were, at that very moment, picking out their Catalina swimwear for the competition.

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