Last weekend I went up to the big city to the Fashion and Textile Museum to see their latest exhibition: Riviera Style- Resort and swimwear since 1900. Here, I'm going to share some information I learned as well as give a brief preview of the different outfits on show. Let's dive in (pun intended!)
The information leaflet we were given at the start describes the exhibition as celebrating 'the rich array of clothing worn in and by the sea, and focuses on how clothing design, fabric and attitudes to exposing the body have changed since the late nineteenth century'.
Visits to the seaside first became popular in the 18th century and as the trend for visits to the sea increased, specialist clothing was developed to enable bathing whilst still preserving the wearer's modesty (this was the early 1900s!)
Women initially wore bathing dresses with bloomers, an over dress, stockings, headgear and boots- no skin on show here! Men wore short-legged drawers and later a one-piece, knee length costume.
Some of the early examples of bathing suits were made of woven flannel and serge (fabric which absorbs a lot of water). Just imagine how that would have felt after a quick dip in the sea- not for me!
As you walk through the exhibition you see an increase in exposure of the body- the women's suits slowly getting shorter and more revealing and the men's swim tops with cut out sections- testing the boundaries (or should we say, waters- sorry another pun!) of fashion and society!
It was fascinating to walk through this exhibition and see the changes of styles, fabrics and colours from the start of the bathing suit trend to the modern day. As each decade passes, something new was to be seen or developed. In the 1950s for example, more structure was added to the swimsuit to give it a more 'corseted' feel. This enabled the swimsuits to do away with straps (and therefore aided a more even sun tan!). During the 1960s elastane was developed which enabled a better fit without internal structure being added.
My favourite piece from the exhibition is this wonderful beauty...
I saw this across the room and my eyes were instantly drawn to the style lines and the fabulous colours! This was an example of a costume worn in the Miss Great Britain competitions. If only they made them like they used to!
The exhibition is open until 30th of August and I would recommend a visit if you're in London this summer. Tickets are £8.80 for adults and concessions are available.
As a side note, the next exhibition to be held at the fashion & textile museum is 'Liberty in Fashion' which looks AMAZING! I love Liberty fabrics and cannot wait to see this.
Let me know in the comments if you've seen this exhibition- I'd love to know which era of swimwear were your favourites!