At Splash by Lo, we are starting a series of articles about women who changed fashion. We start the series with an Australian athlete who also triumphed in Hollywood. The first woman to take off her trousers on a beach. An unknown story that marked a turning point in the world of fashion, and indeed, the world at large.
Actress and professional swimmer, Annette Kellerman, was born in Australia in 1886. At just six years old, the actress was diagnosed with a weakening of her legs, which almost prevented her from walking, so she had to wear steel straps on her legs to strengthen them and swim for long periods.
At the age of 15, the actress’s legs were completely normal, and she won several medals in competitions thanks to her swimming training. In 1902, Annette signed up for the Melbourne competitions, setting several swimming records.
Kellerman was a sensation. In a time of restrictive corsets and long, heavy dresses, Annette paraded around in a one-piece swimsuit made by sewing black tights onto a boy’s suit. Her legs were clearly visible above the knee. Annette was arrested on a beach in Boston for wearing her one-piece suit and she was charged with public indecency. The public broadly supported her, and the newspapers echoed her cause. This marked the end of the Victorian attitude towards women’s swimwear.
At that time, it was forbidden for women to show more than 15 cm of thigh starting from the knee, and in order to comply with the Law, beaches were patrolled by what was known as the Swimsuit Monitor, a man in charge of ensuring that women did not exceed these limits. Not long afterwards, the first one-piece swimsuits bore her name, becoming known as the Annette Kellerman, which can be said to be the swimsuits that precede the modern style.
Annette Kellerman was an extraordinary figure who made female swimming popular and socially acceptable. Annette considered the emancipation of women from the restrictive knee-length swimsuit one of her greatest accomplishments. An important step in the emancipation of women.
Fashion and life go hand in hand. At Splash by Lo, we like stories about people who overcame censorship and won freedoms for people by dressing rebelliously – which is also a way of thinking. Do you know of any?