She has had a local park named in her honour, a cocktail named after her and is perhaps the singularly most perfect embodiment of laid-back Gold Coast beach style. She has sewn just about every kind of garment you can imagine – snow and ski wear, wedding dresses, menswear, underwear, etc. but her name is synonymous with one item – the bikini! She is so intrinsically associated with the garment that she is often referred to colloquially as “The Bikini Queen”. She is of course the iconic Paula Stafford.
Bikini: The Paula Stafford story takes it’s reader through a nostalgic tour of Gold Coast history and into the intimate folds of the Stafford family’s life. The reader garners an insight into living on the South Coast (the name the “Gold Coast” was not adopted until 1958) in the days before the development boom, when Surfers Paradise was not the concrete jungle that it is today. Paula and her husband operated a beach hire service loaning umbrellas, wind breaks, surfer-planes etc. and Paula designed and sewed swimwear and clothing whilst on the beach. In the 1940s, an era when the Gold Coast Beach Inspector considered the now everyday norm beach attire to be “too brief”, Paula’s fashion was somewhat outrageous and revolutionary and quite controversial. One newspaper ran the headline “The day Paula Stafford brought the bikini to the Gold Coast, Australian began to see a lot more of Australians!”. Due to post-war thrifty resourcefulness her scandalously skimpy designs were sometimes made of tea towels, curtains and upholstery material and were often reversible. Gold Coasters embraced bikinis and beachwear and the “Paula Stafford Tog Shop” family business flourished. Years later three generations of Stafford’s are still designing and creating fashion attire.
The Stafford family and Paula’s fashion design business have become fundamentally woven into the fabric of Gold Coast legend. This book is a truly touching memoir that would appeal to any Gold Coaster or those with a proclivity or interest in the fashion or design industry.