We chat to Dianne Ludwig, a self-confessed swimwear addict, who has spent the last year curating a collection of swimwear for the New Zealand Fashion Museum’s At the Beach exhibition.
How did you come to create the At the Beach exhibition? Was there one specific piece that particularly inspired it or was it something you’d been thinking of for a while?
My love of the beach is what sparked the idea for a beach wear exhibition. It seemed like a natural fit for storytelling as beach going is such a big part of most New Zealander’s lives. Most of us have fond memories of a particular pair of togs we lived in day and night over summer and the good times we had.
What was the process for collecting all the pieces in the exhibition?
We did a public call out for beachwear a year in advance of the exhibition. From that we got most of what we exhibited along with some fantastic beach going stories and original photographs from all over New Zealand. The few missing gaps we filled by sourcing from Museums and private collections. The selection process took over 6 months.
What is your favourite piece from the exhibition?
It’s too hard to choose a favourite as we had so many amazing pieces. But one that makes me smile is a faux fur 1950s bikini which in its day would have been very daring and is the first fur bikini I have ever seen. It was one of our first finds, and came to us from Beryl Hindle who had come to New Zealand from the UK in the 1950s. For Beryl the beach in New Zealand was quite a novelty. Both during and in the aftermath of World War II beaches in the UK had been off limits. So there was a real sense of paradise found here with our beaches. Hard not to smile thinking of Beryl in her fur bikini!
What is the most unusual item in the collection?
A 1930s men’s pair of burgundy wool bathers with a detachable bib. The tight fitting bib adds very little in terms of chest coverage but clearly was just enough to be considered morally decent at the time. The detachable nature allowed for sunbathing which was in very much in vogue.
At The Beach is open now at the Maritime Museum. Find out more about it here.