When it comes to our fashion legacy, few pieces have had more impact than the great Aussie Cozzie. With Spring nearly here, Ellenny salutes the swimsuit, tracing its evolution from shocking to sophisticated, to becoming Australia’s favourite Summer staple.
Introducing the swimsuit! American brand Jantzen creates a woollen one-piece for rowers that becomes the prototype for the very first cozzie.
Female swimmers compete in the Olympics Summer Games in Stockholm for the first time. Australian swimmers Fanny Durack and friend 'Mina' Wylie are refused permission to compete by the NSW Ladies Swimming officials, saying it’s 'immodest'. They do so at their own expense, with Fanny becoming the first Australian female to win an Olympic Gold Medal for swimming, and from 1910-1918 considered the world's greatest female swimmer, followed closely by Mina.
With Australia's love of the beach on the rise, our swimwear industry is born. MacRae Hosiery Manufacturers expand its line to include swimwear under the name 'Fortitude', which later becomes known as iconic Aussie brand, Speedo.
The Women's Rights movement drives our demands for comfy stylish fashion. With swimming as a sport gaining popularity and a more liberal attitude towards mixed bathing, the swimwear market skyrockets.
Sunbaking is hot, and swimsuits shrink in the hope of obtaining that covetable sun-kissed glow.
In 1928, the Speedo name is created and their designs make headlines for style and performance. They launch the Racerback style, designed for comfort and practicality that makes movement in the water easier and faster.
Tanning remains popular, and women embrace stretchy shoulder straps that are lowered for a more seamless tan.
At the Los Angeles Olympic Games, Aussie swimmer Claire Dennis takes gold but causes controversy for her scandalous Speedo swimsuit that "showed too much shoulder".
Body-con fabrications, like nylon, latex, and elasticated cotton are snatched up, and the two-piece bathing suit appears but is regarded as indecent and banned by Australian beach inspectors.
Women start pushing the fashion envelope, and the midriff becomes mainstream.
Post-war, Speedo opens a new factory to keep up with our demand for swimsuits, especially the bikini.
Speedo continues to dominate competitive swimming, with an increasing number of athletes choosing to wear the brand.
Fabrications change with nylon and elastic popular for making suits stretchier and more fitted. Adornments are popular too, with buckles, ties, and ruffles embellishing bathers for pure cozzie contentment.
Melbourne designer Helene Walder starts her bikini label, Prudence Jane, advertising it using provocative images in controversial Pix magazine.
One and two-pieces enjoy global popularity thanks to Hollywood's brightest stars. Marilyn Monroe becomes the poster girl for the high-waisted brief, and Grace Kelly for her black halterneck swimsuit in To Catch A Thief. Elizabeth Taylor's relaxed-fitting white maillot in Suddenly, Last Summer merges the perfectly coiffed 1950s with the cooler style of the incoming 60s.
The social revolution sees a rebellious movement away from tradition, and the itty-bitty two-piece hits Aussie beaches from Cottesloe to Coolangatta. The two-piece is considered so shocking, it's named after the Bikini Islands where nuclear bombs were tested.
By the mid-60s, the bikini is rapidly shrinking in size and outselling the one piece. Low-slung bottoms are paired with semi-structured strapless tops. Nylon is popular, and Paula Stafford, regarded as one of the first local bikini designers, crafts hers using shower curtains from her home in Surfers Paradise.
Swimwear brands pop up everywhere, from Sandy Shaw to Maglia of Melbourne. Brian Rochford, a milliner by trade, releases his first range that sets him on the path to becoming one of our best-known designers of all time.
With one-third of the Australian workforce made up of females, we’re feeling empowered. With bikinis dominating and the one-piece under threat of extinction, women embrace thongs, cut-outs, string bikinis, and sheer swimsuits, and how!
Wallpaper florals, daises, gum leaves, and micro blooms give the tiniest of bikini’s pure flower power.
Paula Stafford's bikini business explodes nationally, and she extends her offering to matching hats, capes, beach bags and towels.
At the 1972 Munich Olympics, 52 out of the 58 nations compete in the pool wearing their Speedos.
In the summer of 1975, Aussie brand Seafolly emerges as "playful, light, different and a bit crazy…just like Australians". Quickly a household name, it eventually will be the first brand to design separates, giving women the chance to own their personal poolside style.
In 1976, Farrah Fawcett, appears in arguably the most famous swimsuit photo of all time, sparking a trend for plunging one-piece halters with little, or no lining.
The golden period for swimwear, the 80s encapsulated high-energy exuberance, aerobics, colour, and importantly, Lycra. An artificial stretch fabric, it revolutionises fashion with Seafolly the first label to use it in swimwear.
Bo Derek makes waves in the movie 10 for her nude-coloured one-piece accessorised with a golden tan and hair braids.
Designers turn up the temperature creating sexy, cool ranges with the Aussie beach babe in mind. Brian Rochford becomes famous for his high-cut cozzies, and surf-wear companies like Rip Curl, Billabong, and Mambo adapt their street style aesthetic to swimwear with extraordinary success.
In 1989, designer Jenny Kee collaborates with Speedo on a beautiful swimwear range drawing on 'the colour and forms of Australian native plants and animals, the landscape, brilliant opals and the art of Aboriginal people."
Designers focus on form-fitting shapes that show off lithe bodies honed to perfection thanks to power walking and workout videos.
Australian brand Zimmermann fuses fashion with swimwear, creating a more elegant and feminine aesthetic for the style set.
The shock factor of a woman wearing a bikini has faded and having curves is hot! Pamela Anderson drives this movement thanks to her iconic red one-piece worn in the TV series, Baywatch.
Fashion's more minimalist style filters through to swimwear with boy short bottoms and bandeau tops ruling the sandy runways. Others are seduced by the era's glam factor. Belly chains, studding, sequins, and barely-there bikinis are spotted poolside, from Sydney to St Tropez.
A breakthrough! The standard for UV protective fabrics in Australia is established. Watch this space...
Australian beaches are packed with sporty one and two-pieces in bright neon and animal prints. Thong-style, cut-outs and one-shouldered maillots take hold in the late 90s.
A new millennium, and the classic triangle bikini and 90s one-piece are back! New age wellness practices preached by celebrities are our go-to, as is a sporty and sun-safe suit.
The tankini emerges and is the stylish solution for those who crave a bikini, but want body control and a little coverage.
The sun-savvy now have sartorially acceptable options, including long-sleeve
rash guards and one-piece surf suits cut in UV-shielding fabric with 50+ credentials.
Boy shorts and mismatched bikini tops are popular thanks to actress Kate Bosworth, and the go-to for surfer girl chic.
2010s – 2020s
……and the next decade? Fuelled by our pioneering spirit, perfect coastlines, and beachy lifestyle, we can’t wait to see what Australia and the world of swimwear has in store for us next.
Ellenny is here! Born from the idea that every woman should look and feel fabulous in her bathers, designer Megan Davis creates contemporary silhouettes that flatter and support the body in a range of shades and custom prints. Offering coverage and zips for easy use and wear, her special fabrics made of repurposed fishing nets deliver a serious dose of sun protection.
Minimalist shapes and cool cut-outs set the tone for a decade’s worth of summers.
Swimwear feels a sense of nostalgia, and vintage-inspired trends like 70s crochet, hit their stride. Revealing options, like Brazilian bottoms and plunging necklines, designed for poolside posing also gain traction.
Recyclable nylon, waterproof velvet, and diversity in style are introduced to our poolside style repertoires.
Swimwear designed for the beach and the bar become popular, and are teamed with anything, from a long maxi skirt to blue jeans.
Leather-look swimwear, retro-style suits, and ribbed one-pieces make a splash! Prints also explode with exuberant florals and animal prints capturing our attention.