Fashion and Textile Museum has opened its doors to "Riviera Style - Resort and Swimwear Since 1900", celebrating 100 years of swim clothing

With summer fast approaching, London's Fashion and Textile Museum has opened its doors to a new exhibition that explores over 100 years of stylish swimwear, from bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis.

“Riviera Style” displays for the first time some of the rarest examples (many made by UK manufacturer R & W.H.Symington Co. Ltd). It highlights the evolution of swimming clothing – not only in terms of fashion, fabric and patterns, but how they’ve got smaller and smaller through the years, for both men and women.

Some of the most preserved and modest pieces of the past include bathing dresses, knitted styles and even the burkini, which was once seen on Nigella Lawson while on holiday.

'Alluring' and 'Bewitching' designs by Oleg Cassini, for R and W H Symington

Fabrics seem to be one of the key changes with the creation of new materials that helped avoid bagging or sagging when wet, as well as some technical developments that improved fit and increased speed in water.

“A key feature of the items selected is the importance of material”, said curator Dr Boydell.

The social life was also most influential in the development of new swimwear. From joining the jetset at the French Riviera, to playing it all surf-cool in LA, the exhibition also covers the hottest beach destinations of all-time, including the English seaside and the Cote d’Azur.

From the 1920s to the 1940s swimming costumes changed radically, from one-piece to bikinis. At the beginning it was only about bathing, but then the trend for sunbathing landed and it changed it all.

The exhibition is organised in five themes: Bathing Beauties (1900-1920); Cling Bag, Stretch (1920-1940); Mould and Control (1940-1960); The Body Beautiful (1960-1990) and Second Skin (1990 – onwards).

'Neptune' designs by Oleg Cassini, for R and W H Symington, 1969

Head of the Fashion and Textile Museum, Celia Joicey said: "We hope the exhibition will illuminate past and present swimwear fashions, and inspire future design directions in the industry."

Riviera Style - Resort and Swimwear Since 1900 can be seen at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London from today until 30 August 2015.