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Sunday, 6 September 2015

Last chance to visit the Riviera Style exhibition at the Fashion & Textile Museum

If you haven't already been, scoot along to this exhibition before it closes on 13 September.  The Museum is closed on Mondays but open until 8 pm on Thursdays.  Their website gives the details of opening hours etc here
 It is not mentioned in the information that Art Fund card holders get in at half price.  Also there is a very nice cafe at the side of the museum should you arrive before opening time or need refreshment.

I loved this exhibition because of all the ideas on shaping fabric to fit the body and decoration that it gave me. The pictures that follow concentrate on women's garment but the display includes men's as well.  Before you get to the main exhibition there is  a room dedicated to the display of shoes by Rayne, a prestigous shoe makers.  Most of these are suited for a lifestyle where you are not tramping the wet streets of the city, in fact you are probably not tramping much at all, but they are beautiful things to look at.  Personally the shoes I longed for are these from the 1930's included in the Riviera Style exhibition.

I loved the way braid is used to trim these early bathing costumes.  I can see this being translated into a stylish shirtdress to wear today.

And these women's swimsuits from 1920's  show further inspiration for adding decoration to a simple garment.

Here is a close-up of one of them.

This boy's costume in knitted fabric shows a good way of stabilising knits when doing buttonholes by backing the placket with a woven fabric.

These two outfits , a playsuit from 1935 and a 1930's beach outfit could be worn today.
 There were not many swimsuits manufactured during the years of the WWII; most people knitted their own and I have a pattern for one in a book published at that time.  However this is one manufactured costume, which has the CC41 utility label, and I love it for the simple shaping, bold pattern and great colour combination.

 Here is a cotton playsuit and matching jacket from the late 1940's that is very much in line with the fashion for day clothes of the time.  I have just made a cotton jacket from a vintage pattern for a day ensemble that is very similar to this jacket here.

By the 1950's there was a lot more demand for leisure clothing, and fabric designs were so imaginative.  This blouse with cuffed kimono sleeves and narrow collar has a  matching pleated skirt and is made in a super print with scenes of produce harvesting.

This rose patterned 1950's playsuit, which also has a matching skirt, shows the variety of methods used to get a skin tight fit.  From the front you can see the princess seaming and centre front seam used to shape the bodice.

And from the back ruching is used to shape the side panels with a centre back zip to allow the tight fitting garment to be taken on and off.
 Ruching (or shirring) was a popular way of creating shape with woven fabrics using elastic tread in the bobbin.  This British cotton swimsuit from 1957 uses this and makes a garment that, elongated, could be copied to create a delightful summer dress for today.

From 1960's  I liked this set that seemed so typical of the period in shape and fabric
  And now the 1970's.  The skirt of the orange costume unbuttons for ease of dressing  and the red one is in then popular "wet-look" fabric.

And, although it is not a garment, I can't resist showing you one of the bathing hats, this one is from the 1960's.

This bikini from 1980's had a caption saying it shows how small swimwear became in that decade.  Difficult as it is to believe now, when you see me, I used to wear ones even smaller than this!

The display of contemporary swimsuits show that designers have an element of nostalgia in their creations.  Even men's swimwear has a print showing a resort in the 1960's and women's suit often have the ruched style of the 1950's.

John Galliano's design has echoes of the late 1940's ensemble in pink, a little fitted jacket and a belted suit.
 And the burkini harks back to the European costumes of the early 1900's.  There really is nothing new under the sun.
 Have you visited an exhibition that you would like to blog about on this iste?  Please contact Giselle through the Meetup site of the London Dressmakers Club for more information on how to do this.


  1. Thank you so much Barbara for these fascinating photos. I do find myself wishing that we could still get away with the 1920s style swimsuits. They look so comfortable, and forgiving! If copied with modern fabrics you could put one on and forget it. It is a shame we turned the swimsuit, once a symbol of liberation, health and innocent enjoyment, into a sexual signal. Incidentally I remember from my reading of 1950s magazines that what we call now a play suit was known as a "sunsuit"

    1. I have to say that I am not with you on this one. When I am in the water I want as little fabric around me as possible. Even with light modern fabrics there is just too much material there in those old styles to enjoy the freedom of the water. I am too embarassed by my elderly body to wear anything less than a one piece but go to the South of France or Spain and senior citizens there seem to have no such inhibitions.

  2. Thank you so much for posting all these lovely photos! I didn't have the chance to go and now think that I really should before it closes.
    How clever the ruching elements are used in these! Though I must confess I like this a lot more in these vintage items than the swimsuits of today (they seem rather matronly). I also love the ribbons on the early swim suits!
    Oh and the fitting on some of these is delightful, the V shape under the bust of the CC41 cossy! Brilliant. I love all those.
    Thanks so much again!

    1. It really is worth going. I took loads more photos but didn't want to overload the post. Because we now have a closer body fit in contemporary fashion so many of the swimsuits and leisure clothes in the show could be worn today with little or no adaptation.

    2. I wish I did lots better with sewing jersey fabrics. Some are fine, but others have proved rather a nightmare! It would be so lovely to copy some of these styles and make a summer garment, if swimsuit or beachwear, or just suitable for warm temperatures!


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