London museum explores swimwear history

Over 100 years of beachwear is being celebrated at a new exhibition in London.

Riviera Style at the Fashion and Textile Museum highlights the evolution of resort and swimwear styles, from conservative Edwardian cover-ups to modern bikinis.

Opening with clothes from the 1890s, when doctors prescribed days at the beach as a health cure, the exhibition tells the story of fashion and our changing attitudes to modesty and of social change.

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“Swimwear tells many different stories about society,” said Dr Christine Boydell, design historian at De Montfort University, and guest curator of Riviera Style. “In the 1920s, for example, women did not wear trousers but the beachwear allowed them to do so. Beach pyjamas became sophisticated evening wear.

“In the 1960s, swimming costumes were named after Spanish resorts to reflect the British love of package holidays which were growing in popularity, so we include swimwear named ‘Majorca’ for example," Boydell added.

The summer exhibition also sheds new light on the manufacturing processes and the changing materials used by designers and fashion houses. Famous Leicestershire brand Symingtons, whose corsetry expertise found a new outlet as a swimwear manufacturer, features heavily.

The exhibition opened on May 22 and closes on August 30.





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