Share this

Australia’s inventor of the bikini, Paula Stafford has died aged 102, almost 80 years after her iconic swimsuit made history on a Gold Coast beach.

Now a commonplace icon of Australian beach culture, Stafford said she had no idea her ‘two piece,’ would cause such a stir.

The self-made design made its debut in Surfers Paradise in 1943, sending shockwaves through the conservative Queensland community.

Paula Stafford who introduced the French bikini design to Australian beaches died peacefully in her sleep this morning aged 102. (Nine)

“I didn’t believe it was going to be as big as it has been or what a tremendous impact it had when I started manufacturing them,” Stafford said in a past interview.

“They started at Surfers, it’s a natural place where they should be shown – bikinis worn on the beach in Surfers Paradise and everywhere in Australia.”

The piece, known previously as the ‘French swimming costume’ was created by cutting a one-piece in half, at a time when swimsuits were becoming skimpier due to fabric shortages during WWII.

Paula Stafford (right) is credited as the woman who brought French bikinis to Australia. (Queensland State Archives)

Soon, Stafford’s pieces were being shown in places like London and New York, the designer- who previously wanted to be an architect, making a name for herself in the fashion world.

But in the 1950s, Stafford’s colourful and skimpy pieces would still garner stares.

Stafford had a boutique near Surfers Paradise Beach on the Gold Coast where she would create custom designs for Australian women. (Alexander McRobbie)

In 1952, model Ann Ferguson was asked to leave Surfers Paradise beach by inspectors while wearing a Paula Stafford two piece.

Eventually, the trend caught on, cementing Stafford’s fame as the pioneer of the Australian bikini.

“The town clerk said it’s ok and the police liked it too so all was well and Surfers Paradise became the beach that anyone could wear anything anytime,” Stafford said.

“The joy of making people happy is worth every minute of time you give, overnight… all night sometimes.”

Stafford has received an Order of Australia medal and is in the Queensland Business Leaders hall of fame for her role in shaping Queensland’s culture. (Nine)

Stafford passed away peacefully this morning.

On the Gold Coast, locals are honouring her legacy.

Baslyn Beel said Paula Stafford designed her first bikini, adding she pleaded with her family to let her wear the risque item.

“I had to convince my mother that times were changing,” she said.

“Everyone’s figure is different and she would always make them to match us.

“It was an absolute icon from a fabulous lady.”

Stafford’s designs were considered incredibly risque in the 1950s. (Nine)

Regina King said Stafford would create custom pieces from her boutique near the beach and was never afraid to push boundaries.

“She didn’t care how small she had them and that was back then,” she said.

“We’d see all the fabulous fabrics there all floral cottons and you’d pick out your colour and she’d have it made when you finished on the beach.

“Paula was buzzing around, always happy she really was a wonderful woman.”

Share this
You May Also Like

Olivia Newton-John dies aged 73

Entertainment icon Olivia Newton-John has died aged 73 at her ranch in…

Man arrested after two bodies found in Brisbane home, Stretton

A major crime scene has been established and a man has been…

Tourists stranded after China hits hotspot with snap COVID-19 lockdown

Known for its sandy beaches, luxury resorts and duty-free shopping, the city…

Olivia Newton-John dies aged 73; Tributes flow to Australian entertainment icon

Entertainment icon Olivia Newton-John has died aged 73 at her ranch in…

FIFO worker accused of raping jogger in Broome

A fly-in, fly-out worker is behind bars accused of a terrifying sex…

The vice is tightening around former US President as 2024 decision looms

“My beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege,…

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy reveals new Liberal Party chief of staff

Nick McGowan, who is Guy’s childhood friend, will replace Mitch Caitlin for…

Masked intruders claiming to be police attack woman in home invasion in Adelaide

Two masked intruders claiming to be police have allegedly stormed inside an…