Paula Stafford (born 10 June 1920) is an Australian fashion designer credited with introducing the bikini to Australia. Graeme Potter, director of Queensland Museum South Bank, called her "Australia's original bikini designer".
Stafford was born in Melbourne in 1920. After school she studied dress design at Emily McPherson School of Domestic Economy, a part of Melbourne Technical College. She now lives in Gold Coast. In 2010, her autobiography Bikini: the Paula Stafford story was published, co-written with Ali McGovern.
The bikini is generally credited to Louis Reard in 1946, but two-piece swimming costumes had existed before then. Stafford had been making them for herself since the 1930s, but only gradually turned this into a business. In the 1940s, wartime shortages led to a desire to save fabric, which led to costumes becoming more skimpy. When somebody saw her self-made costume on the beach in Gold Coast and asked to buy one, she began selling them. Her styles became popular in Gold Coast and in Melbourne. She began manufacturing operations with a machinist working in her attic, but later built a factory, and opened a shop, called the Tog Shop, and also sold mail-order. The firm also expanded into leisurewear for men and women. She sold her clothes to stores including British retailers Selfridges and Liberty of London, and in Australia Myers, Georges, Buckleys and David Jones. She also founded a modelling agency and a hotel.
Her work is on display at the Gold Coast Historical Society museum in Bundall, Queensland. It was also displayed in an exhibition of swimwear at the Queensland Museum South Bank in 2010. She was awarded Gold Coast City Council's "Legend Award" in 2012.
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