Australia: Birthplace Of the Bikini

We pay homage to the humble bikini and trace its thoroughly Australian history, from Annette Kellerman AKA “The Million Dollar Mermaid” to Elle Macpherson, the definitive 90’s beach babe.

It was Australia’s original ‘Million Dollar Mermaid’ Annette
Kellerman who caused a splash, quite literally, by sporting a
one-piece, tight-fitting, bathing suit on public beaches in the
early 1900s.

Swimming was a therapeutic escape for Kellerman; she broke down
the restraints of a society that forced women to wear cumbersome
outfits that prevented movement. By her early twenties Kellerman
was a world-class swimmer, beating dozens of men. She felt it was
necessary to set women free to really swim, using her status to
design a range of fitted swimsuits named ‘Kellerman’s’ long before
celebrities leveraged their fame to sell clothes. A competitive
swimmer, vaudeville and movie star, she also became a celebrity
health guru before there was even such a thing; she was a
vegetarian when it was still an unthinkable concept and owned a
health food store.

A free-spirited and modern woman, for whom swimming was a
metaphor for female emancipation, Kellerman liberated women from
incarcerating outfits and began a revolution of streamlined,
one-piece costumes.

Not only does Australia seem to produce the perfect swimwear
itself, but it also seems to produce women who look really, really
good in it. Kellerman was labelled the ‘Perfect Women’ – apparently
her physical measurements made her the closet embodiment of Venus
de Milo – while Elle Macpherson is famously nicknamed ‘The Body’.
Perhaps it is just that great genes are circulating Down Under, but
the intrinsic beach culture may also have something to to do with

Kellerman liberated women from incarcerating outfits and began a revolution of streamlined, one-piece costumes

It was in Australia than the legendary Speedo, known as ‘The
Original Aussie Cossie’, was founded in 1914, pioneering every
technical advancement within swimwear ever since. Developing the
first non-wool suit, Speedo was the first company to start
producing swimwear made of nylon/elastane, which is still the most
popular choice today. Ahead of the game, it was the Aussie label
Triangl that launched a range of flattering neoprene bikinis and
took advantage of social media to market their designs. From wool
to nylon and neoprene, they lead the way again with brands like She
Made Me returning to the boho crochet styles of the past.

While it might not be the go to for the fashion conscious of
today, Speedo has also been very open to embracing and initiating
changes in style. As a result of limited supplies in the post-World
War II era, Speedo spearheaded the bikini, which was not yet
regarded as acceptable. Interestingly, high levels of exposure
seems to be retreating to more modest cuts; perhaps now having
pushed the boundaries to their limit, women feel free to choose
subtlety on their own accord. For example, the high cut neck and
high cut bottom style two-piece is currently trending.

Maybe its because of their distance from the rest of the world,
or because of their fairly recent history, but the Australians seem
less bound by tradition and are ready to challenge the status quo;
this is evident in the evolution of swimwear. Their liberal,
sun-drenched approach to dressing is as quintessentially Aussie as
their laid-back attitude to life and that is why whenever I am
choosing swimwear, the first place I look is to see what they’re
sporting Down Under.

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Berlin: Grey Matter

half-Australian, I am often exposed to the stereotypes of
Australia as a nation of pro-surfers, expert barbecuers and
crocodile wrestlers. While there might be some misconceptions about
Australia, aka ‘OZ’ or to the locals just ‘Straya’, a land of
natural beauty and lackadaisical abbreviation, it is also a nation
of innovators; think less the plastic wine cask and more Speedo
swimwear and ‘The Body’ that is Elle Macpherson.

Blessed with a famous coastline of beaches and sun-worshippers,
Australia has always had a vested interest in swimwear, and this
has been at the forefront its development. Turning what is
essentially underwear into outerwear, the evolution of the modern
day swimsuit tells an interesting story about the changing
perceptions of the female body; it expresses the zeitgeist.

In the past century, swimwear has transformed from its prudish
beginning as neck-to-knees weighty pantaloons, to the variety of
next-to-nothing styles we see today.