In its newest exhibition, London’s Fashion and Textile Museum is chronicling the history of cruise wear, from voluminous Edwardian bathing bloomers to today’s body-sculpting swimsuits. The most striking part of the exhibition — called “Riviera Style: Resort & Swimwear Since 1900” — is a tableau of Fifties- and Sixties-era swimsuits and two-pieces, which the curators have set up on mannequins to resemble models at a beauty pageant.

The show also charts how resorts in England and the South of France crafted stylish imagery to entice the growing middle class with the promise of a glamorous resort vacation. Curator Christine Boydell noted that what unites the designs over the decades is a willingness to experiment with resort fashion. “People feel they can be glamorous in a way on [vacation] that they can’t at home,” she said. “I think it allows people to have a little fantasy life for two weeks.”

This story first appeared in the May 27, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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