Heritage & Monuments

The Stafford Bikini

Australia / The Pacific

The Stafford bikini is celebrated in heritage photographs here on Elkhorn Avenue, at the northern end of the shopping and entertainment hub of Surfers Paradise.Paula Stafford (born in 1920 and now in her 96th year) is a fashion designer credited with bringing the bikini to Australia in the 1950s. She was born in Melbourne, and originally trained in dress design at the Emily McPherson School of Domestic Economy at Melbourne Technical College before moving to Surfers Paradise in 1944. She designed many kinds of leisure wear, and began designing two-piece swimming costumes for girls when she was still a teenager, and if the creation of the bikini is credited to a Frenchman, Louis Reard, Paula Stafford made it fashionable on the Gold Coast. The bikini was partly inspired by wartime shortages in fabrics, thus inspiring more economical bathing costumes. She had a great flair for publicity. Her reputation soared when, in 1952, the Sydney model, Anne Ferguson, was asked to leave the beach by a beach inspector for wearing a bikini. Undeterred, Paula sent five models to the beach in bikinis the next day. Presently the town council relented and permitted bikinis to be worn. Paula Stafford originally sold direct from her own store, the Stafford Tog Shop in Cavill Avenue, where the bikinis were cut to order on the beach, taken to back for stitching and delivered to customers the next day. In her heyday she employed a staff of 65 at two factories, supplying stores across Australia and worldwide. She was awarded the Gold Coast City Council’s Legend Award in 2012.

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