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Women's Meritas swimsuit

Date: 1930s
Overall: 750 x 380 mm
Medium: Wool
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Swimsuit
Object No: 00000971

User Terms

    This 1930s maroon Meritas swimsuit features a simple decorative band across the hip, a scooped back and neck, low cut arm holes and a full skirt for modesty. During this period the common use of fabric in solid colours emphasised the cut of the garment as the main design element. It is labeled 'OS' for one size.

    SignificanceThe swimsuit is a representative example of beachwear fashion designs produced during the 1930s.
    HistoryThe 1930s saw both men and women revealing more of the body, which was a trend encouraged by the new craze for sun bathing. The body's aesthetic was functional, sleek and streamlined. 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 outfit.

    Knitted one piece close fitting swimsuits, known as maillots, defined the 1930s fashion for women's swimwear. Their design, often featuring a scooping back, followed the trend of women's evening dresses of the period. 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.

    This new body shape reflected changes in the political climate of the 1930s, with the growing emancipation of women in the home and at work. Such changes were communicated through swimwear fashion, however it was not until the end of the decade that the maillot was generally accepted into public view.
    Related People
    Maker: Meritas

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