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Women's Paula Stafford bikini

Date: 1950s-1960s
Overall: 235 x 370 mm
Clothing size: 34
Medium: Cotton
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Swimsuit
Object No: 00006300

User Terms

    Hailed as the designer who introduced the bikini to Australian beaches, Paula Stafford was innovative in her approach to the swimsuit. Made in the 1960s, this reversible bikini offered the wearer the choice of an abstracted tartan design, or plain navy blue.

    The halter neck top is padded and shaped, with slight gathering between the cups to emphasise the bust. The short-style pants have a zip at the center, below a single button, with an elasticised back.

    Stafford is remembered as one of the first bikini designer/manufacturers in Australia, designing and selling bikinis on Queensland's Gold Coast from as early as 1946. She gradually expanded her business and promoted the bikini in Sydney and Melbourne and later successfully exported to the UK and Asia.

    SignificanceThis bikini is representative of women's beachwear fashions made in Surfers Paradise by Paula Stafford in the 1950s and 1960s, and reflects developments in Australian and international costume design.
    HistoryAustralian Paula Stafford is credited with introducing the French two-piece swimming costume to Queensland and designing the world's first reversible bikini in the late 1940s.

    Stafford's early bikinis were tied at the side or knotted at the front and were daringly brief compared to other swimwear on the Australian market. They challenged dress codes on Queensland and Sydney beaches where the bikini was banned in the late 1940s.

    In the mid 1950s Stafford opened a boutique in Surfers Paradise, the Paula Stafford Fiesta Tog Shop and organised Australia's first bikini fashion parade as part of the Holiday and Travel Exhibition at Sydney's Town Hall. Stafford then began supplying retailers such as David Jones, Myer, Georges and Buckleys as well as exporting to Great Britain, the United States and Hong Kong.

    By the 1970s Stafford employed sixty people in her Gold Coast based business. Her bikinis were sold world wide competing favourably with French designs. Paula Stafford retired in 1985.

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