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Exploring over 100 years of clothing worn in and by the sea, from the English coast to the Côte d'Azur and California.

The first swimsuits were entirely functional, produced for restorative day trips to the beach as doctors began prescribing 'sea air' for all manner of health problems in the 19th century. It wasn't until the 1920s, when sunbathing emerged as a trend, that there was a radical change in the design of beach attire; corsetry, cut away sections and two-piece models followed.

This exhibition explores the transformation of seaside fashion from the Victorian era to the present day through a series of swimsuits and sarongs, boat neck Bretons and beach pyjamas, playsuits, bikinis and burkinis. It not only charts developments in design and fabric, but also how attitudes to modesty and body image have changed over the last century.

Guest curator is design historian Dr Christine Boydell, whose scholarly research on Horrockses Fashions led to a national resurgence of interest in the brand. Examples are drawn from extensive archives at Leicestershire County Council and private collections, while fashion magazines and trade journals provide original source material.

Fashion and Textile Museum

83 Bermondsey Street, London, Greater London, SE1 3XF

020 7407 8664


Opening times

Tuesday: 11am - 6pm
Wednesday: 11am – 6pm
Thursday: 11am – 6pm
Friday: 11am – 6pm
Saturday: 11am – 6pm
Last entry: 45 minutes before closing

Sunday & Monday: closed

We are looking forward to welcoming you back to the Fashion and Textile Museum. Our number one priority remains the health and wellbeing of our visitors and staff.

We have made changes and introduced new measures to help keep you and our team safe during your visit. To read our Safe Visiting Guidance in full, please head to our website.

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