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Women's one-piece knitted wool swimsuit

Date: 1920s
Overall: 740 x 510 mm
Clothing size: 38
Medium: Wool
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Swimsuit
Object No: 00000972

User Terms

    This 1920s knitted swimsuit has a high scooped neckline and a full skirt over black shorts for modesty. The wearer would have stepped into the garment, which was fastened at the left shoulder with a button.

    Based on men's sleeveless tank suits, women's styles were athletic and androgynous. Fabrics with geometric patterns influenced by modernist design were a feature of swimsuits from this period.
    SignificanceThis swimsuit is a rare, representative example of the beachwear fashions and textile technologies of the 1920s. It reflects developments in Australian and international costume design.
    HistoryThe unitard, which was a one piece tubular shaped tank suit, was developed in America by Jantzen, and was famously marketed as the 'swimsuit that changed bathing into swimming'. It allowed greater freedom of movement in the water and, along with learn-to-swim campaigns, popularised swimming as a recreational pastime. Skirts rose to reveal more of the thigh, while tops became sleeveless, as neck-to-knee modesty restrictions were relaxed.

    In 1907 the Australian professional swimmer Annette Kellerman provoked a scandal by wearing a man's figure-hugging one piece swimsuit on a Boston beach. By 1920 fashion houses had adapted her concept to create the machine knitted unitard.

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