Paula Stafford

Paula Stafford (born 10 June 1920) is an Australian fashion designer credited with introducing the bikini to Australia.[1][2] Graeme Potter, director of Queensland Museum South Bank, called her "Australia's original bikini designer".[3][4]


Stafford was born in Melbourne in 1920.[1][2] 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.[5] In 2010, her autobiography Bikini: the Paula Stafford story was published, co-written with Ali McGovern.[1]

Paula Stafford dining out with her husband Beverley, 1949. State Library of Queensland Negative number: 151516


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.[1][6] In the 1940s, wartime shortages led to a desire to save fabric, which led to costumes becoming more skimpy.[2] When somebody saw her self-made costume on the beach in Gold Coast and asked to buy one, she began selling them.[2] 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.[5] 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.[2]

In a famous incident in 1952, model Ann Ferguson was asked to leave a beach in Surfers Paradise because her outfit was too revealing; she was wearing a Paula Stafford bikini.[5][7]

In 1993, Paula Stafford was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division for service to the fashion industry.[8]

Her work is on display at the Gold Coast Historical Society museum in Bundall, Queensland.[2] It was also displayed in an exhibition of swimwear at the Queensland Museum South Bank in 2010.[3] She was awarded Gold Coast City Council's "Legend Award" in 2012.[6][9]

In 2013 Paula Stafford was inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame.[10][11]


  1. ^ a b c d Greg Stolz, "Bikini queen Paula Stafford turns 90 ", Courier-Mail, 10 June 2010
  2. ^ a b c d e f Sara Hicks, "The mother of all cheeky bikinis Archived 24 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine", ABC Gold Coast, 23 May 2008
  3. ^ a b Katherine Feeney, "Nothing teeny or weeny about this bikini... exhibition Archived 29 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine", Brisbane Times, 28 May 2010
  4. ^ Stolz, Greg (10 June 2010). "Bikini queen Paula Stafford turns 90". News Corp Australia. The Courier Mail.
  5. ^ a b c Janet Campbell, "Paula Stafford (b 1920) Archived 28 December 2011 at the Wayback Machine", Brisbane Modern magazine, Issue 3
  6. ^ a b "'Legend' honour for Aussie bikini pioneer Archived 19 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine", ABC News (Australia), 20 January 2012
  7. ^ "Bikini Cops Archived 3 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine" (Transcript), ABC (Australia), 6 September 2004
  8. ^ "Paula Stafford | The Fashion Archives". Archived from the original on 11 February 2017. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  9. ^ Marshall, Candice (20 January 2012). "Gold Coast Legend Award: Paula Stafford". 91.7 ABC Gold Coast. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 23 October 2018. Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  10. ^ "Hall of Fame". Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame. State Library of Queensland. Archived from the original on 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame | Paula Stafford OAM". Archived from the original on 23 February 2017. Retrieved 10 February 2017.