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Jantzen Diving Girl logo reproduced courtesy of Skye Group

The Diving Girl

Date: 1961
Overall: (Closed) 210 x 140 x 2 mm, 36 g
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Auburn District Historical Society
Object Copyright: © Jantzen Diving Girl logo Skye Group
Object Name: Magazine
Object No: 00053283

User Terms

    Since the late 19th century the swimsuit has evolved from a practical garment for hiding the body to the revealing, colourful fashion statement we know today. It has reflected broader fashion trends and responded to changing attitudes towards the public display of the body.

    Fashion cycles have seen women's swimwear develop from the bulky bathing dresses of the 1890s to more fitted once-piece suits in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. The fabrics used for swimwear developed during the 20th century from animal and plant fibres such as cotton, wool and silk to synthetic fibres such as Nylon, Lastex , Lycra (a trademark for Elastane/ Spandex) that had greater elasticity and were quick drying after Word War II .

    Lastex was invented in the 1940s. Its rubber-cored thread enabled manufacturers to create clingy silhouettes in their swimwear lines. Jantzen used the fabric to create a group of men’s and women’s foundation separates. The line included mix and match tops and bottoms in a variety of solids and prints. The success of this line allowed Jantzen to separate the company into two divisions: men’s and women’s.

    SignificanceThese swimsuits represent the evolution of women's swimwear from the bulky cotton and woollen two- piece bathing dresses of the 1890s and 1910s to the more figure hugging one-piece suits made of elasticized fabrics worn in the 1930s and 40s. The Diving Girl magazines provide a valuable insight into the social networks of staff working at Jantzen's Lidcombe factory and the photograph of the Jantzen Ladies’ Cricket team documents Jantzen's staff sports initiatives. The plastic bags are examples of Jantzen garment packaging in the 1950s-70s.
    HistoryIn the 1850s swimming became a recognised and increasingly popular leisure pastime. The introduction of mixed bathing in public necessitated that appropriate clothing be worn for modesty. Men wore a heavy one-piece garment that covered the arms, torso and thighs while women were required to wear a yoked dress that was pleated, long sleeved and belted. Drawers that extended to the ankle were attached to the dress to ensure that the body was not exposed. These garments were generally made of wool or cotton and were cumbersome to wear and restricted movement in the water.

    By the 1870s men's bathing suits were sleeveless and resembled underwear. Women's bathing dresses became more elaborate and included corsets, stockings and shoes. These designs originated in England and Europe and were adopted in Australia and the United States.

    Australians took to swimming for sport and leisure from the early 1800s with a swimming enclosure constructed in 1828 next to Domain in Woolloomooloo Bay. Bathing costumes were home-made from published patterns or imported until a local manufacturing was established in the early 20th century to meet the increasing demand. The construction of sea baths and river pools in the 1900s and the establishment of a national surf lifesaving movement in the 1920s saw Australian's take to the water in greater numbers.

    Carl Jantzen founded the Portland Knitting Company in 1910 with John and Roy Zehntbauerg in Portland, Oregon, USA. The company initially produced woollen jumpers, gloves and hosiery. The Jantzen name was first used as a trademark in advertising in 1916 and the company name was changed to the Jantzen Knitting Mills in 1918. In 1957 it changed to Jantzen Inc and in 2008 Jantzen was a division and wholly owned subsidiary of Perry Ellis International Inc.

    The company was approached by a member of the Portland Rowing Club in 1913 with a request to produce knitted rowing trunks for use in cold weather. A one-piece rowing suit was also made and tested; it weighed a hefty 3.63 kg when wet. This soon led to a demand for a lighter weight bathing costume that offered the same freedom of movement as the rowing suit. By 1915 the company's catalogue featured a rib-knit bathing suit and a patent for a rib-knit bathing suit was granted in 1921.

    The success of these early garments led to a bold marketing plan that sought to change perceptions of bathing from a medicinal and therapeutic activity to an active recreational pastime. In 1921 Jantzen launched an advertising campaign with the 'red diving girl' logo and the slogan 'The Suit that Changed Bathing into Swimming'. This campaign saw the first use of the term 'swimming suit' which was used thereafter. In 1922 the company started National Jantzen Week as a strategy to boost sales. This subsequently became Jantzen Learn-to-Swim-Week.

    In 1928 Jantzen opened its first overseas manufacturing factory in Sydney. Australia was chosen because of its favourable swimming climate. Operating as Jantzen Australia Pty Ltd, it was in direct competition with Speedo and other Australian swimwear manufacturers such as Black Lance. In the 1930s Jantzen introduced the bra-lift swimsuit for women using Lastex rubberised yarn which gave swimsuits greater shape and structure. The 'Topper', a men's tank suit with removable zip top, was introduced in the 1930s paving the way for topless bathing for men and boys.

    The development of synthetic fabrics by DuPont, such as quick-dry nylon in 1938 and Lycra-spandex in 1959, ensured the trend to snug, form fitting garments and ongoing innovation in swimwear technology and design.

    Eagley swimsuits were manufactured by Eagley Mills in Collingwood, Victoria.

    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Women's swimwear 1900-1940s (ex Auburn District Historical Society Collection)

    Assigned title: The Diving Girl

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