Dressing Up, Dressing Down

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1965-1969 bathing robe (1980.201)
beach suit 1983.410
beach suit 1947.2527
beach suit jacket detail 1947.2527

People have worn distinctive clothing for promenading at the seaside and on the beach since the middle of the nineteenth century, when the seaside holiday first became popular among the burgeoning middle classes. (see fashion plate below) During that time, beachwear followed fashionable lines but differed significantly from ordinary clothing in both materials and cut, usually being looser and more casual, resembling walking outfits or even clothing worn for a sport like croquet. During the 1920s when sun bathing and beach holidays abroad first became fashionable, women wore stylish beach suits or pyjamas, comprising short bolero tops with long flared trousers, and often very boldly trimmed with contrasting braid or ribbon.

Today, people still wear clothes for the beach that they would never think of wearing in cities, often in flamboyant colours and patterns, and including short skirts, clingy sarongs, and eye-catching hats and sunglasses. This bright turquoise and green beach robe follows the 1960s fashion for short skirts but its fabric, colour and decoration set it clearly apart from everyday sixties styles. Made of cotton towelling to absorb moisture from bathing, and printed with a large-scale garish scallop pattern, this garment is fun and funky leisurewear.

Full item descriptions:

"bathing robe & beach suit" [1980.201], Bijou
"beach suit & pyjamas" [1983.410]
"beach suit & pyjamas" [1947.2527], Becker fils

Related Themes:

Men's Swimwear Since the 1960s
Women's Swimwear Since the 1920s
Early Swimwear
Sports and Leisure