Object of the Week

Black Lance ‘Brigadier’ swimsuit

There is something about a Black Lance ‘Brigadier’ that will tantalize customers into buying it. It’s packed with personality and styled for comfort as well as beauty. Six exclusive design star buttons hold the halter-neck top to the trunks. Easy to slip on and off. Both skirt and bust display the latest two-colour regimental stripes.

-Black Lance catalogue, 1930s, ANMM Collection

Women's Black Lance swimsuit

Women's Black Lance swimsuit, 1930s, ANMM Collection

This maillot (one-piece) swimsuit was manufactured by Melbourne company Black Lance in the 1930s. Designed by Peter O’Sullivan, the popular ‘Brigadier’ swimsuit features star-shaped buttons (which fasten the top to the trunks) and nautical stripes inspired by naval uniforms.

Featuring a halter neck and a low cut back, the slightly risqué design upheld modesty with the use of a skirt-panel. O’Sullivan’s patented ‘inbuilt trunks’ became a feature of Australian and international swimwear fashions well into the 1970s.

Made from a wool knit, the Australian designed and made swimsuit reflects the booming wool industry of the early 20th century. Australian swimwear designers and manufactures worked closely with local knitting mills, developing a range of materials in the quest for lighter, more elastic, and drier swimsuits.

The Australian National Maritime Museum holds a range of swimwear items in its collection, including Canadian style swimsuits of the 1890s, men’s Surf Life Saving Club vests of the 1930s, bikinis of the 1950s, and board shorts of the 1980s. If you would like to learn more about the development of Australian swimwear, you can search the museum’s collection on-line.

'Black Lance Water Fashions' catalogue, 1930s, ANMM Collection

'Black Lance Water Fashions' catalogue, 1930s, ANMM Collection