Historical information

This swimsuit belonged to Brighton local Joyce Fuller, nee Harries (1920-2018), who wore it at Dendy Beach in the 1950s.

Ada of California was a Melbourne swimwear company founded in the early 1950s by Brighton locals Ada and Toni Murkies.

Born in Poland in 1922, Ada was 17 when the Second World War reached her doorstep. She and her family were torn from their home by Soviet soldiers and sent to a brutal labour camp in Siberia as part of a series of mass deportations. In order to escape the horrific conditions of the camp, Ada and her sister Barbara joined the Soviet-backed Polish Army. During her time in the military she became close with a handsome young Jewish officer, Lieutenant Antoni Murkies, who later became her husband.

After the war Toni was awarded 15 medals including the highest Polish military honour, the Virtuti Militari. Ada was awarded 10 medals, including the Order of the Cross of Grunwald.

Emigrating to Australia as postwar refugees in 1948, Ada and Toni arrived in Melbourne with little to their name. Working initially in garment factories and building their connections, by the mid-1950s the couple were able to start a company of their own, with Ada designing the garments and Toni managing the business. Within ten years, Ada of California swimwear was being sold in department stores throughout Australia, and the Murkies family were able to build a permanent home of their own in Brighton. By the early 1980s they had acquired several other major labels, including Watersun.

Visiting Brighton Historical Society in 2019, Ada recalled this particular swimsuit style to be a popular one, particularly with older women, as the cinched waist and pleated modesty skirt suited many body types. This was important to her, as she wanted women of all ages and sizes to look and feel good in her swimwear, and she devoted much time and attention to the fit and finish of the garments. When the company began introducing padded bras, such as the one in this swimsuit, Ada insisted on using lacy floral lining and a small ribbon rosette in the centre gore, to give women a sense of quality, femininity and care in construction.

Physical description

Blue one-piece swimsuit with waist tie and short finely pleated overskirt. Sleeveless with thin elasticised straps. Inbuilt padded underwire bra with label and pale pink ribbon rosette on centre gore. Fastens with back zip.

Inscriptions & markings

Label: "Ada / OF CALIFORNIA / 38"