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Topless swimsuit designed by Rudi Gernreich

Date: 1964
Dimensions:
Overall: 720 x 415 x 15 mm
Medium: Wool, cotton and elastic
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Swimsuit
Object No: 00046499

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    Description
    Rudi Gernreich (1922-1985) was an innovative designer whose futuristic creations combined fashion elitism with mass-market style. In 1964 he created the world's first topless swimsuit, known in Europe as the monokini, as a social statement about freedom.

    Diana Vreeland, editor of American Vogue magazine convinced Gernreich to produce the suit commercially. Of the 3,000 sold few were ever worn in public. Denounced by the Vatican, this bold design ignited worldwide debate over women appearing topless while swimming or sunbathing - something that was not accepted until the 1970s.

    SignificanceThis is regarded as one of the iconic swimsuit designs of the 20th century and is Rudi Gernreich's most famous swimsuit design.
    HistoryRudi Gernreich (1922-1985) was a fashion designer, futurist and gay activist. Born in Vienna he settled in Los Angeles and performed as a dancer with the Lester Horton Company in 1945.

    He moved into fabric design and then fashion design working closely with model and muse Peggy Moffitt and photographer William Claxton to push a futuristic, unisex fashion aesthetic.

    Gernreich was regarded as one of the most original, prophetic and controversial American designers of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. He championed unisex fashion combining couture elitism with mass market style. This was the world's first topless swimsuit design and was created as a social statement about freedom.

    His 1964 topless swimsuit was his most notorious design and was created as a statement about freedom. He said of his creation 'I'd gone so far with swimwear cut-outs that I decided the body itself - including the breasts - could become an integral part of a suit's design'.

    Diana Vreeland, editor of American Vogue magazine convinced Gernreich to produce the suit commercially. Of the 3,000 sold few were ever worn in public. Denounced by the Vatican, this bold design ignited world debate over women appearing topless while swimming or sunbathing - something that was not accepted until the 1970s.

    Gernreich was the first designer to use vinyl and plastic in clothes. He deconstructed the swimsuit to create garments that liberated the body.
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