Up until the early 900’s, the female swimsuits did not exist, or better, the ladies beach outfit even if lighter and less bulky than everyday clothes, it was still a sort of dress going all the way to the knees, matched with a pair of puffy trousers to the calves worn with socks ad shoes, obviously.
The revolutionary, for the time, invention of a one-piece swimsuit, sort of close fitting dungarees, similar to the one used by men in that period, was made by Annette Kellerman (1887-1975), Australian swimmer who later became actress of theatre, cinema, and vaudeville shows, even though she was mainly remembered for supporting the women right of wearing a swimsuit which would leave to the women the chance of moving freely inside the water.
Her career as a swimmer is linked to a sad circumstance though: as a child, she was pushed to use steel supports for the fragility of her legs. Her parents signed her in for swimming courses through which, at the age of 13, she overcame her disability and became an great swimmer. She then attended several competitions and became, in 1902, the champion in 100 yards and mile, in Southern New Wales. Besides swimming, Annette was also great at dives and at the age of 15-16 she exhibited in various shows of such a sort both about submersion and swimming.
In 1907 Miss Kellerman moved to the US to exhibit as a “underwater dancer”, a show on synchronised swimming before it was becoming famous: in a glass-made pool, at the New York Hippodrome, she performed what is today seen as the very fist aquatic dance.
For the first time a woman would show her body in front of an audience with a one-piece swimsuit on. The even more shocking news though was something triggered the imprisonment and accusation of “obscenity”: the reason was having worn, on the beaches of Boston, a swimsuit which was revealing legs and arms.
The arrest though made the population angry, as well as pushed the situation to make sure the suit was fine. The popularity of her garment gave an idea for the creation of a line of swimsuits fr women, called right after her.
In 1912, at the 1st Olympic Games, in which women were allowed to compete in swimming, the female athletes were wearing the one-piece products of Annette Kellerman, while, in 1920 the well known fashion magazine Harper Bazaar praised the woman by saying:
“Annette Kellerman Bathing Attire is distinguished by an incomparable, daring beauty of fit that always remains refined”.7
However, in 1943 still, in the US, the “Kellerman swimsuits” were considered as an example of indecency.