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Annette Kellerman was an Australian swimmer and actress. She was a proponent of swimming as a form of exercise and advocated for women’s participation in the sport when it was considered unladylike. Kellerman is known for her innovative swimwear designs, which revolutionized women’s fashion and helped popularize the modern swimsuit.

The Annette Kellermann (two Ns) label first sold a swimsuit which was made of wool – like the suits we are most familiar with of the 1920s – and had a second “overdress layer” which is shorter than the Victorian/Edwardian suits, but definitely reminiscent of that style. She introduced her swim tights around 1907. These swim tights covered the legs and were made of a more streamlined, form-fitting material compared to the bulky and modest swimwear of the era. Kellerman’s design allowed for greater freedom of movement in the water and was considered quite scandalous at the time. In 1907, she was arrested for indecency for wearing a one-piece swimsuit that revealed her arms and legs. Kellerman fought the charges and ultimately helped to change public attitudes towards women’s swimwear.

Written by Kristin Wojkowskii