Carolyn Schnurer (American, born New York, 1908–1998 Palm Beach, Florida)
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Carolyn Schnurer, 1953
Not on view
During her twenty-year career in fashion, from 1944 to 1964, Carolyn Schnurer (1908-1998) was a pioneer in the newly emerging American sportswear industry. Directing her designs toward young active women, Schnurer developed playsuits, coordinates and dresses that were unfussy, required minimal foundation garments and could be worn for a variety of occasions. Particularly renowned for her culturally-inspired resort collections, rather than a blatantly costumed appearance, Schnurer's designs typically featured one or two understated thematic details in the cut or fabric, while maintaining a classic American silhouette.
This bathing suit is from Schnurer's "Gold Coast Memos" collection, for which Schnurer traveled to Ghana and South Africa. The color was inspired by the lush green landscape of the Valley of a Thousand Hills, a province located in southeastern South Africa, and the belt embroidered with elephant motif in black and white beads reflects the distinctive black and white chalk beadwork of the Zulu nation residing in the region. Schnurer lyrically describes the naturally occurring jewel-tones of the earth in the Valley of a Thousand Hills as, "'dark-bright'… indicating a certain luminous tone in the dark shades." Prominent throughout the collection are animal motifs, including giraffes, springboks and elephants, as in this bathing suit.