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Only last week I was reminded how swimsuits, as we now know them, are relatively new inventions and how popular the WOOL swimsuit was in days of old. The strict Victorians were heavily against disrobing if they went swimming in public, but then their huge, voluminous skirts and the tight woven fabrics of the time proved hard to swim in. So this was when the wool swimsuit was born. There I was face-to-face with a true designer version of the wool kind at the Tate Modern. Because the Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979) retrospective currently on there includes a lampshade, six evening coats, a pair of chevron-striped shoes edged with gleaming silver leather, endless textile designs, cover illustrations of Vogue alongside this 1928 stunning piece of swimwear.
Knitted wool swimsuit 1928
Here the lines of art and pure fashion blur as this pioneer of abstract art unraveled her true potential through a long and fascinating life. Married to the great painter, Robert Delaunay, they formed a powerful duo making their home a central gathering place for all those who needed colourful inspiration at this time.
The coat Delaunay made for Gloria Swanson, 1923-24.
As I walked around the exhibition, it struck me just how contemporary Delaunay’s designs are still today. The look is simple and immediately recognisable: circles and half-circles, rainbows, plenty of stripes, triangles and segments - all in paint-box colours. And, on top of this, how astoundingly consistent her work was too. Influences of Paris, Spain and anywhere she was living appear in some of her work but her sharp style and unfailing eye continued until she was in her 90s.
Canvas Electric Prisms 1913
A must-see for any designer, fashionista or for all those who simply love a POP of colour, this exhibition is a real reminder of the visionary, resilient woman who saw art in everything.
Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern, Bankside Until Sunday 9th August 2015