This tropical weather calls for swimwear.  And in the Fashion & Textiles Museum you get the change to learn and see more about the history of swimwear. From the English seaside to the Côte d’Azur and California, Riviera Style celebrates fashion at its most fun. With swimsuits and sarongs, brightly patterned beach cover-ups, boat neck. Bretons and beach pyjamas, palazzo pants and playsuits, bikinis and burkinis, the exhibition features over 100 years of clothes for leisure. See the style evolution. Exhibition highlights include Edwardian bathing dresses, knitted swimsuits, barely there Lycra, and a 21st century burkini. 

Sections include: Bathing Beauties 1900–20; Cling, Bag, Stretch 1920–40; Mould and Control 1940–60; The Body Beautiful 1960–90; and, Second Skin 1990–present day. Back in the nineteenth century, women were expected to wear a bathing dress that covered them from head to toe: bloomers, an over-dress, stocking, headgear and boots.

It was only in the ‘60s, when the Mediterranean resort became an affordable choice for many, did swimming garments shrink into bikinis to get that all-over suntan. Over time the beach became the place of leisure and relaxation, with cotton sundresses and multi-coloured playsuits of the 1940s and the psychedelic prints of the 1960s.

Riviera Style is curated by Dr Christine Boydell, De Montfort University and features the collections of Leicestershire County Council.

Riviera Style, 22 May – 29 August, The Fashion and Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF. 

Exhibition Dates: 22 May – 13 September 2015




Fashion illustration by Linda Zoon 


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