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Thursday 15 April 2010

Book Review: Vintage Swimwear

Vintage Swimwear chronicles the evolution of the swimsuit in all its various incarnations over the last century, from woollen one-piece swimsuits in the 1910s to the corseted costumes worn by 1930s Hollywood screen sirens, and from the invention of the bikini right through to the use of latex, lycra and other hi-tech fabrics in today's designs.

Whilst it might seem like an unusual subject to buy a book on for anyone other than the most enthusiastic fashionistas and vintage obsessives, Vintage Swimwear actually does a lot more than it says on the tin. Gorgeously illustrated throughout with fashion photography and archive memorabilia from manufacturers, models and designers, they combine to form a fascinating isight into the the way fashion – viewed by so many as superficial and fickle – can be a barometer of its social and cultural context, our developing obsessions and lifestyle trends. For instance, the return to popularity of voluptuous, corseted costumes and the hourglass silhouette once the war was over was a symbolic way for women to celebrate their sexuality and the end of war-time frugality.

Similarly, the chronological history of the swimsuit examines the the impact and influences of the motion-picture industry, advertising, sports and travel, and includes features on pin-ups, calendar girls, the birth of the bikini and the role of the swimsuit in beauty pageants. Helpfully, there's also a directory of brands and designers seen to be the movers and shakers in swimwear designs.

So although it might seem like a strange purchase, I doubt you'll be disappointed. With summer holiday season fast approaching, this will inform your choice of swimsuit and make you appreciate today's designs and their heritage just that little bit more.

Vintage Swimwear is by journalist and fashion commentator Sarah Kennedy, and has just been released by Carlton Books. It's available from Amazon for £10.15 (RRP £16.99).

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