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Reproduced courtesy Flamingo Sands

Flamingo Sands 'Woollen Mermaid' swimsuit

Date: 2009
Overall (Measurements taken while flat): 585 x 390 x 20 mm
Medium: Nylon, elastane (spandex or Lycra)
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Flamingo Sands
Object Copyright: © Flamingo Sands
Object Name: Swimsuit
Object No: 00046033
Related Place:Zhonghua,

User Terms

    Nicky Rowsell and Jane Hages of Melbourne-based swimwear label Flamingo Sands designed this swimsuit for the Australian National Maritime Museum's 'Woollen Mermaid' project (2009). The one-piece swimsuit features lace cut outs at the waist with strap ties and the swimwear brand's signature pink lining with flamingo motifs. This emerging Australian label is known for their cheeky, sexy and brief-cut swimsuits in the style of contemporary Brazilian swimwear. This design is a functional and feminine interpretation of the type of swimsuit Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman might have worn, and has design references to 1970s and 80s fashion.
    SignificanceThis swimsuit was created by Melbourne based label Flamingo Sands in response to the Australian National Maritime Museum's 'Woollen Mermaid' project (2009). It is representative of their 2009 range of high-end fashion swimwear.
    HistoryMelbourne-based label Flamingo Sands was launched in 2004. Designers Nicky Rowsell and Jane Hages have quickly developed a reputation for swimwear in luxurious, head turning prints with wild colour and a high fashion edge. They have crafted a signature style that is immediately identifiable, taking the every day swimsuit, splashing it with wild colour and head turning prints, creating a modern day style statement.

    Their cheeky, sexy and skimpy swimsuits are inspired by the brief cut swimwear Rowsell encountered during a trip to Brazil in 2003. Since 2004, Flamingo Sands has grown in popularity in the Australian swimwear market, with the designers suggesting many Australian women have become more open to briefer cut swimsuits.

    Based in Melbourne, Flamingo Sands stock to mainly high end fashion boutiques, boutique surf stores in Australia and high profile department store including Harvey Nichols (UK and Dubai), Fenwicks, Topshop (UK and New York City) and Selfridges.

    Flamingo Sands is one of the contemporary swimwear designers invited to reinterpret the classic one-piece swimsuit using a technologically advanced wool/elastane textile for the Australian National Maritime Museum's 2009 exhibition 'Exposed! The Story of Swimwear'. The use of this fabric articulates the technological importance of performance textiles to fashioning a modern garment, whilst acknowledging the importance of wool as a yarn to Australia and the swimsuit's history.

    In the early 20th century most swimsuits were produced in wool, in part due to its ability to reveal less of the body when wet. There was early experimentation with developing rib-like knits that were more elastic, followed by the use of Lastex, a rubber yarn that created a garment with less sag and drag. In the 21st century, advances in textile technology have resulted in the development of wool jersey fabrics with a high compression Lycra component.

    Looking to the past and designing for the future, the swimsuit designs embody a contemporary aesthetic and active glamour inspired by the original mermaid, Annette Kellerman. Kellerman (1886-1975) was the 'Australian Mermaid,' the 'Diving Venus' and the 'Perfect Woman.' Through a career as a long distance swimmer, diver, vaudeville performer and silent movie star she became a global identity associated with glamour and physical beauty. She was the first woman to attempt to swim the English Channel, and swam her way across Europe and the United States.

    Kellerman was a controversial individual. She was allegedly arrested for indecency preparing to swim along the coastline at Revere Beach, Boston in 1907 and expressed her independence and self-possession through bodily spectacle in daring swimsuits styled on the existing one-piece swimsuit design for men.

    There were initially no modifications made to the original, masculine design; no structuring to the contours of a woman's body, in particular the breast area, and it would not be until the 1930s that designers would feminise the swimsuit, and new technology would assist the development of textiles that would enhance its fit and performance.

    Kellerman's innovation was revealing the female body, which had been concealed beneath layers of clothes and corsets for centuries in the public arena. She was a role model for women, encouraging self-motivation and self-development. Kellerman extolled the virtues of exercise and a healthy diet to shape the body naturally. In 1918 her book 'Physical Beauty: How to Keep It' was published, and it promised that through a series of simple daily exercises in the home, every woman could achieve a level of physical beauty that was essential to the wearing of a body hugging one-piece swimsuit with confidence. As a prototypical Hollywood star she prefigured the celebrity culture focused on the body that has predominated since then.

    The Flamingo Sands design statement regarding the 'Woollen Mermaid' project states:

    'This one piece has a fuller 70s retro-style cut, with a low back line. It is the type of swimsuit that Kellerman would have potentially worn – sexy and alluring, but still quite functional for swimming the English Channel! The use of contrasting fabrics, in this case the stretch lace, is a Flamingo Sands signature for 2009. It has such an 80s feel and we both love that era – Madonna is definitely one of our heroes'.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Flamingo Sands 'Woollen Mermaid' swimsuit

    Web title: Flamingo Sands 'Woollen Mermaid' swimsuit

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