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Annette Kellerman - Swimming Star

Posted by Deco London on

As our thoughts turn to lazy days spent beside the pool, spare a thought for Annette Kellerman; the sportswoman who designed and pioneered the one-piece bathing suit for women.
Annette Kellerman - early 1900's wearing her one-piece bathing costume - the 'Kellerman Swimsuit'

Born in Sydney, Australia in 1886, Annette Kellerman was one of the first women to attempt to swim the English Channel in 1905, aged 19.  Although unsuccessful, she swam three-quarters of the way across in 10½ hours, which was a record at the time, and in doing so, she captured the attention of the world.  

Early 1900's swimming outfit

So she could swim competitively, Annette designed a one-piece bathing suit that gave her freedom of movement and exposed her legs and arms. Her suit was 'shocking', as it challenged the Victorian social norms, that made women wear full length woollen bathing dresses and stockings to bathe. 

Annette modelling her one-piece swimsuit

Whilst wearing her swimsuit, Annette was famously arrested for indecency in 1907, on Revere Beach in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Annette manufactured her bathing suit, called the 'Kellerman Swimsuit', and by 1910, it had become the accepted attire for women swimmers, inspiring the costumes used by women taking part in the 1912 Olympics.  Unfortunately, in many parts of the US, one-piece bathing suits for women continued to be banned well into the 1920s.

During the 1920s, Annette championed exercise routines, breathing and relaxation techniques and healthy living,  She wrote articles and books, appeared in educational films, and toured America and Europe advocating exercise and health.  She opened a health food store in San Diego and established a chain of health spas. Annette was truly a lady ahead of her time.

Annette Kellerman died in 1975, aged 89.
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