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Reproduced courtesy of Brian Rochford

Woollen mermaid swimsuit

Date: 2008
Overall: 57 x 25 mm
Medium: Wool/elastane (Spandex or Lycra)
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Queensland University of Technology
Object Copyright: © Brian Rochford
Object Name: Swimsuit
Object No: 00047707

User Terms

    Australian swimwear designers Brian Rochford, Paula Stafford and Gloria Smythe were 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'. These Honorary designers submitted drawings which were then constructed by Queensland University of Technology fashion technicians. The swimsuits were displayed along with other swimsuits by established and emerging designers to bring together responses to the classic black one-piece swimsuit. 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.

    Stafford's Woollen Mermaids design reflects her core strength as a designer of the bikini. Here she is extending the style into a well-structured, glamorous, sparkling one-piece.

    Smythe's Woollen Mermaids one-piece design encapsulates Speedo's form of the streamlined, functional swimsuit. This piece is enhanced with subtle details such as the scooped armholes and elegant 1930s back straps.

    Rochford's sleek one-piece Woollen Mermaids design taps into the lean, athletic 1980s aesthetic. It features clever back lacing which skims the body. Cut high on the thigh, with cheeky treatments, it is a youthful and timeless design.

    SignificanceThese swimsuits show the design emphases of Australian swimwear designers Brian Rochford, Gloria Smythe and Paula Stafford and their imaginative response to the Australian National Maritime Museum's 'Woollen Mermaid' project.
    HistorySwimsuit designer Paula Stafford was designing and selling bikinis on Queensland’s Gold Coast from as early as 1946. beach inspectors battled the trend, demanding women cover up or be sent off the beaches. Wearers were not deterred and the sale of bikinis was brisk. Stafford is remembered as one of the first bikini/designer/manufacturers in Australia. She expanded her business and promoted the bikini in Sydney and Melbourne and later successfully exported to the United Kingdom and Asia.

    Gloria Smythe (now Mortimer-Dunn OAM) started working for Speedo in 1962, at a time when the company was establishing its reputation for performance swimwear. Focusing on experimenting with the cut of the swimsuit and eye-catching print designs, Smythe's attitude was always that Speedo was a global player selling to swimmers everywhere.

    Brian Rochford, known as the King of Swim, was an innovator who catered to the youth market from the late 1960s. He redesigned the bikini top, removing the underwire and experimenting with different cuts, styles and prints in lightweight lycra fabrics. Rochford closely collaborated with DuPont and Heathcote Textiles in Melbourne to create new textiles that showcased the body for fashion. Designs were embellished with innovative details including frills, jewel trims and zigzag binds.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Woollen mermaid swimsuit

    Collection title: Honorary designers Woollen Mermaid swimsuits

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