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Women's Challenge wool swimsuit

Date: 1930s
Overall: 580 x 410 x 10 mm, 0.3 kg
Medium: Wool
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Swimsuit
Object No: 00028074

User Terms

    This 1930s woollen rib-knit swimsuit features a gently ruched butterfly bust with appliquéd wool detailing at the centre. An alternating looped pattern in turquoise and pink has been chain stitched below the bust line. The design incorporates a scooped back with shoulder straps meeting at the centre of the back to form a 'v' shape, and a half skirt for modesty.
    SignificanceThis swimsuit is representative of women’s beachwear fashions produced by Challenge in the 1930s.
    HistoryThe 1930s saw both men and women revealing more of the body, a trend inspired by the new craze for sunbathing. Men finally went topless, wearing swimming trunks and belted wool knit shorts with a half skirt for modesty. Women's swimsuits went backless, and were often accessorised with coloured rubber surf caps to complete the streamlined look of the costume.

    One piece close-fitting swimsuits, known as maillots, defined women's swimwear fashions in the 1930s. Their design, often featuring a scooping back, followed the style of women's evening dresses. The look was simple and elegant, creating soft curves that contoured the body. Attention was drawn to the back by the use of different types of shoulder straps such as halter necks, cross straps and cutaway straps. The French designer Elsa Schiaparelli patented a backless maillot with a built in bra to promote strap-free tanning.

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