Fashion and Textile Museum explores swimwear history


London-based Fashion and Textile Museum’s ongoing exhibit ‘Riviera Style: Resort and Swimwear Since 1900’ explores the constantly evolving beachwear trends as seen in English Riviera, Côte d’Azur and California over the past 100 years.

Due to run until August 29, 2015, the display aims to chronicle how clothing designs, fabrics and people’s attitudes to modesty have changed over the years with a special focus on social history of holidays.

Speaking on the displayed exhibits, guest curator and design historian Christine Boydell said in a press statement, “A key feature of the items selected is the importance of material from early examples to produce the perfect fabric that didn’t bag or sag when wet, to more recent technical developments designed to improve fit and increase speed in the water.”

Sourced from Leicestershire County Council’s archives and private collections, the items include an array of swimwear ranging from the modest Edwardian bathing dresses, knitted swimsuits and barely there Lycra two-pieces to 21st century burkinis.

“Thanks to Leicestershire County Council, the UK is guardian to one of the world’s most significant collections of swimwear. We are delighted to be showing these rare examples in London for the first time, and to make them accessible to as many people as possible. We hope the exhibition will illuminate past and present swimwear fashions, and inspire future design directions in the industry,” head of the museum, Celia Joicey, says.

The display is divided into five themes- 1900–20 Bathing Beauties (modest one-piece garments for men and women), 1920–40 Cling, Bag, Stretch (resortwear made using elastic-based yarns), 1940–60 Mould and Control (sculpted corsetry-inspired pieces), 1960–90 The Body Beautiful (the introduction of skimpy swimsuits) and 1990 onwards Second Skin (highlighting the introduction of sophisticated fabric technology which has found its way to the beach via competitive swimming at the highest level).


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