Exposed! The story of swimwear

From neck-to-knee to next to nothing!

Woman modelling swimwear Fashion shoot with Beverly Evans. Woman modelling modern swimwear Woollen Mermaid design by Tigerlilly. 1930s magazine cover showing two women in swimwear Cover of Modern Weekly magazine, 1934.Exposed! the story of swimwear highlights the designs and designers, past and present, at the forefront of Australian swimwear fashion.Movie sirens, aquatic stars, models, bathing beauties, athletes, sporting icons, swimmers and designers all played their part in the evolution of the modern swimsuit. Blurring the boundaries between underwear and outerwear, the swimsuit continues to make shock waves. Exposed! places Australian swimwear in a global context, showing how Australian swimmers and swimwear designers responded to their environment, to the strong local swimming and beach culture, and to international fashion trends.

From the 1900s swimwear evolved from hidden, almost medicinal outfits for bathing and soaking to more functional, fashionable garments - and an essential item of leisurewear. Australian designs reflected changes in taste, customs and international trends.

Woollen Mermaids

From A (Annette Kellerman) to Z (Zimmerman) innovative Australian designers have contributed to the evolution of the modern swimsuit. To thread together the past, the present and the future, the Australian National Maritime Museum invited swimwear designers to create a one-piece black swimsuit in wool elastane using Australia's original mermaid and champion swimmer, Annette Kellerman, as muse. Some of these designs are showcased in the exhibition.

Things to see and do

  • Explore the evolution of swimwear in Australia.
  • Discover the change from bathing to swimming.
  • Explore body image and fashion trends and innovations in technology.
  • Compare the dramatic differences between swimwear of old and what we wear today.
  • View exquisite examples of swimwear.
  • Explore Australian popular culture through graphic images and stories.

Special event: Exposed! After Dark

Join us at Exposed! After Dark on 18 June to see the exhibition and stay for a fashion showcase, a fascinating panel discussion and music.

Learning Resources

Exposed! The story of swimwear is complemented with an extensive two-part Teacher Resources kit. The resource material provides a context for museum studies and is designed as a stimulus for before and/or after visit learning experiences.


Exposed is an Australian National Maritime Museum Travelling Exhibition.
This exhibition is supported by Visions of Australia, an Australian Government Program supporting touring exhibitions by providing funding assistance for the development and touring of cultural material across Australia.

Australian National Maritime Museum Australian Government: Visions of Australia

Event Details

22 May 2010 - 08 August 2010
Level 4
Exposed! The story of swimwear exhibition

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