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Reproduced courtesy Trackerjack Pty Ltd

Watersun 'Woollen Mermaid' swimsuit

Date: 2009
Clothing size: 10
Overall: 400 x 45 mm, 225 g
Medium: Fabric with metal clasps and buttons
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Trackerjack Pty Ltd
Object Copyright: © Trackerjack Pty Ltd
Object Name: Swimsuit
Object No: 00046041

User Terms

    Watersun was established during the 1960s in Melbourne and is Australia's oldest privately owned swimwear label. Designer Rebecca Graham created this woollen swimsuit for the Australian National Maritime Museum's 'Woollen Mermaid' project, featured in the exhibition 'Exposed! The Story of Swimwear' (2009). The black one-piece v-neck halter suit has five central buttons and a ruched overskirt with white stitching. It epitomises the athletic and feminine essence of the modern day Australian woman.
    SignificanceThis Watersun swimsuit was created in response to the Australian National Maritime Museum's 2009 'Woollen Mermaid' project. It is representative of swimwear designed by Australia's oldest privately owned swimwear company.
    HistoryDavid Waters, founder of Watersun first began producing swimwear in 1952. Working in a knitting factory during the day, he cut garments at night, selling them through his mother's stall at Melbourne's Victoria Markets. Waters established his company after experimenting with a small swimwear line, which he had trialled successfully at the markets. Watersun, Australia’s oldest privately-owned swimwear and beachwear brand grew into an iconic Australian swimwear label and in 2009 was still operating successfully.

    By 1959 Watersun was exporting to Singapore and Hong Kong, and regularly featured in Vogue during the 1960s. At this time the company also used clever public relations stunts to promote its products. In 1963, when the internationally renowned entertainer Eartha Kitt toured Australia, she was presented with a Watersun Bri-nylon tiger-print swimsuit. She wore the swimsuit during her stay, and encouraged the emerging trend for exotic prints and new fabrics during the 1960s.

    In 2009 Watersun was a subsidiary of Trackerjack Australasia. The company's 2009 range, released by designer Rebecca Graham, focuses on glamorous silhouettes and dynamic separates. Graham's swimwear incorporates crochet trims and a tropical colour palette in patterns that are both solid and floral.

    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.

    Watersun 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.

    Rebecca Graham made this design statement for the Watersun costume:

    'With active glamour and sexy sophistication, this creation is a combination of an ultra modern look with an athletic feel, inspired by the figure-hugging, athletic bathing costumes of the 1920s and 30s. The panelling and seaming give the swimsuit a vintage freshness. Glimmering zig-zag lurex stitch highlights and antique silver buttons complement a sexy plunging button-through look, which gives the swimsuit a balance between sporty detailing and a feminine cut'.

    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.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Watersun 'Woollen Mermaid' swimsuit

    Web title: Watersun 'Woollen Mermaid' swimsuit

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