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Reproduced courtesy Seafolly

Seafolly 'Woollen Mermaid' swimsuit and cap

Date: 2009
Medium: Wool, elastane (spandex or Lycra), beads
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Seafolly Pty Ltd
Object Copyright: © Seafolly
Object Name: Swimsuit and cap
Object No: V00046098
Place Manufactured:Australia

User Terms

    Seafolly is one of Australia's oldest established and most popular swimwear brands. Asked to participate in the Australian National Maritime Museum's 2009 'Woollen Mermaid' project, designer Genelle Walkom embraced Annette Kellerman's title of the 'Australian mermaid'. Her black woollen full length swimsuit features a bodice embellished with iridescent bugle beads and layers of overlapping fabric and has a sheer mesh and plunging V-shaped backless silhouette. A matching black woollen fitted cap is also embellished with threads of iridescent bugle beads.
    SignificanceThis swimsuit shows Seafolly's imaginative response to the Australian National Maritime Museum's 2009 'Woollen Mermaid' project.
    HistorySeafolly has been at the centre of Australian fashion since 1975, and is one of the world's most recognised swimwear and beach lifestyle brands. Designer Genelle Walkom joined Seafolly in 1983, developing a casual weekend wear range before moving onto gym wear at the height of the eighties aerobics craze. Seafolly was the first company in Australia to design and produce gym wear and Walkom's designs earned Seafolly two Australian Fashion Industry Awards (FIA).

    Following this success, Walkom progressed to swimwear and quickly stamped her mark on the Seafolly brand. She has been instrumental in the success of Seafolly over the past twenty years, and her swimwear designs are now worn by millions of women all over the world.

    As Head Designer, Walkom is involved in every element of the design process. From developing concepts, to working with graphic artists to create the latest fashion forward prints and fabrications, all of which are unique to Seafolly and most importantly inspired by the Australian lifestyle. The style and fit of each swimsuit is also crucial and Walkom works closely with Seafolly's pattern makers to ensure a perfect fit for every 'body' is achieved.

    Walkom believes that the key to designing great swimwear is to fuse Australia’s love of the beach with international fashion trends, but more importantly to understand the customer needs.

    Seafolly 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.

    Seafolly's design statement for the 'Woollen Mermaid' project states:

    'Seafolly embraces the Australian mermaid, taking inspiration from the deep, its coral textures and seagrass. We embellished the bodice with iridescent bugle beads and layers of fabric to create a texture reminiscent of the scales of the mythical mermaid. The swimsuit reflects a confident, athletic, modern day woman. The sheer mesh and plunging V-shaped backless silhouette enable our Diving Venus to shock and surprise just as Kellerman did on Revere Beach, Boston, USA in 1907'.

    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.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Seafolly 'Woollen Mermaid' swimsuit and cap

    Web title: Seafolly 'Woollen Mermaid' swimsuit and cap

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