The sun shone for my first visit to the Fashion & Textile Museum in south London yesterday to see their Rivera Style exhibition of resort and swimwear. Billed as charting resort and swimwear since 1900, the exhibition starts with the earliest incarnations of swimwear from the 1890s.
Cumbersome with much coverage, these wool resort designs, incidentally taking much from the nautical theme of the smaller exhibition to accompany Nautical Chic by Amber Jane Butchart – http://ftmlondon.org/ftm-exhibitions/nautical-chic-by-amber-jane-butchart/, look decidedly uncomfortable. I can only imagine the bagginess (wool isn’t known for its clinging properties after all) and stench when wet! Overdresses and knickerbockers, kept a woman well and truly covered.
As the twentieth century dawned, a more leisurely and luxurious lifestyle followed, along with developments in fabrics. By the 1920s and 1930s the fashion for skin exposure (previously a suntan was a sign of a rural or land worker) saw a dramatic reduction in the size of the swimsuit, albeit by no means as itsy-bitsy as today’s. The post-war era saw yet other changes with a move towards sculpture and the body.
The exhibition is split into chapters (covering around 20 to 30 years) to categorise the changes in fashions and lifestyle.
Whilst the Fashion & Textile Museum is a small space, I particularly loved the staging of this exhibition. The 1930s and 1940s pieces set in a Lido, with the 1950s and 1960s pieces forming part of a beauty pageant, of which both settings formed a huge part of the culture of the time.
I am sure it is no coincidence that accompanying this exhibition is a small display to promote work for fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart who explores fashions enduring love of all things nautical.
Well worth the trek from London Bridge Tube station if you have an hour to kill in the City.