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Undressing Kellerman, Uncovering Broadhurst : the modern woman and "un-Australia"

By Christine Margaret Schmidt

Abstract

This article explores the contributions of two unique Australian women, Annette Kellerman and Florence Broadhurst, to global fashion and aesthetics through subverting and challenging female gender roles of the early twentieth century. These two women are brought together here as a means of highlighting their markedly contrasting social tactics: undressing versus layering. Kellerman's body became an instrument in her quest for global fame, engaging in daring public "undress" in swimming and diving performances around the world that served to show case her innovative swimwear design. In contrast, Broadhurst, through repeated reconstructions of her persona and constant relayering of identities, concocted versions of herself in order to pass through Shanghai, London, and Sydney societies. Their lives exist as binaristic parallels, expressing contrasting values of un-Australianness - the disavowal of national identity; and Australianness - the promotion of national identity. Both Kellerman and Broadhurst tested the limits of body, dress and national identity as vehicles for global recognition. The recent interest in their historical roles is evidenced in the films "The original Mermaid"( 2004) and "Unfolding Florence" (2005) in addition to numerous books and journal articles. Despite this resurgent public recognition of their lives and achievements, scholarly analysis of their legacies in the fields of fashion and design are still relatively neglected. This article explores their contributions to celebrity and modernity, fashion and gender as modern un-Australian women

Topics: 190500 VISUAL ARTS AND CRAFTS, 190104 Visual Cultures, Kellerman, Broadhurst, fashion, swimsuit, women, Australian
Publisher: Berg Publishing
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.2752/175174109X467495
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.qut.edu.au:29934
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