Swimwear devotee collects 500 costumes over 40 years

August 13, 2010 | by | 2 Comments

This remarkable set of photos charts a century of swim wear costumes – all modelled by the same devoted collector who amassed FIVE HUNDRED outfits.

Mavis Plume’s swim wear obsession was sparked by a day trip to the seaside shortly after the Second World War with her husband Derrick.

Over the next 40 years Mavis, 85, scoured jumble sales, swimming pools and even advertised in Swimming Times magazine to get her hands on hundreds of rare items.

View the full gallery here

These costumes provide a nostalgic glimpse into the traditional Great British trip to the seaside over the past century.

Delightful costumes include ball gown-style garments worn in the Victorian era to the risqué and revealing outfits from the liberal 1960s.

Smitten Derrick, 86, got his wife to pose for the camera in her array of bikinis and swim wear every time the couple went to the coast.

Son David, 58, revealed his parents were keen outdoor swimmers and the collection began on a day trip to Hunstanton in the 1940s.

Mavis, of Stamford, Lincs., posed for a photo on a classic car then persuaded her husband it would look better if she was dressed in swim wear.

Her remarkable collection of photos and swim wear have been rescued from drawers and boxes and gone on display for the first time at Southend Museum in Essex.

Proud David, of Stamford, said: ”She managed to get hold of an old swimsuit from a jumble sale and it snowballed from there.

”She was picking them up from swimming pools, jumble sales, contacting the manufacturers and word of mouth and built a great collection.

”From the 1930s she managed to get a costume from every year right up until when she stopped in 1990.

”She got the first bikini, woollen costumes, nylon ones, a fishnet costume and even one that fitted into a matchbox.

”Swimming was huge in my parents’ lives. They loved outdoor swimming and well into their 70s were still teaching handicapped kids.

”Most of the photos were taken in the 1950s and early 60s. We would all get in the car and drive to beach or a local river withal pile of 20 costumes.

”Mum and dad want a pictorial record of the swimming costumes and as he was a fantastic professional photographer, it made sense.”

Mavis’ collection grew quickly through word of mouth and occasionally even advertising in Swimming Times magazine to add to her rapidly growing assortment.

She got hold of a costume marking every year from 1930 to 1990 but finally gave up because she felt swim suits were becoming too alike.

Later she built a small business hiring out items, sometimes for carnivals and occasionally for TV.

Her collection includes a bikini which could fit in a matchbox, the world’s first topless bikini and traditional Victorian ball gown-style swimsuits.

The back of an entire Volkswagen camper van and to Southend Museum for the Life’s a Beach exhibition which started last week.

These photos show Mavis in the late 1950s and early 1960s when she was in her late 20s and early 30s.

She even won a couple of swimsuit beauty contests.

The couple, who also have a second son, Paul, 47, retired after running a wedding photography business 20 years ago to live together in Wisbech, Cambs.

Claire Fox, marketing and events officer for Southend Museums Service, said: ”As you can imagine we were delighted to be offered such an amazing collection, especially being a famous seaside town.

”We have an extremely high reputation for our costume collection within the museum world and it was following a referral and recommendation by the Victoria and Albert Museum via Mrs Plume’s son that she decided to donate the costumes to us.

”We were told there were about 200 but when we counted them the figure topped 500.”

There are currently 25 swimwear outfits on display and the exhibition will last until .

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Comments (2)

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  1. Donna says:

    I just have to say that i envy Mavis's and that she IS a bathing beauty! The pictures are great and i just love the ones with the hats! I simply LOVe and adore vintage clothings from the 30s-50s! I have been a collector and restorer for about 10 years now!

  2. Donna says:

    I just have to say that i envy Mavis's and that she IS a bathing beauty! The pictures are great and i just love the ones with the hats! I simply LOVe and adore vintage clothings from the 30s-50s! I have been a collector and restorer for about 10 years now!

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