Sunday, June 28, 2009
Gernreich’s monokini consisted of a black knit suit that extended from the midriff to the upper thigh, employing two thin black straps to hold it in place over the shoulders. According to folklore, the model, Peggy Moffit, had only agreed to model the extremely controversial garment if her husband photographed it.
Laetitia Casta (right)wears a vintage 1967 Greneich monokini for Sports Illustrated in 2000.
Ancient Egyptian and Greek art showing women in water scenes wearing short cotton skirts that were waisted just below the bust and held up by the same two straps present early versions of the modern monokini. There have also been a number of much earlier undergarments and tummy control devices that look identical in outward appearance.
The Traditional Monokini
The traditional monokini has a rather interesting history. It emerged in an era of American history when the country was on the turning point between the placid, conservative 1950s and the turbulent, explosive 1960s.
Into this climate, European designer Rudi Gernreich presented his new swimsuit design in June of 1964 to mixed review from fashion critics, government officials, and church dignitaries. What he did was suggest wearing the total outfit to make a political statement.
Rudi Gernreich's intention was to 'free' the female breast in an age that forced breasts into unnatural shaped cups. While not often considered, the other part to Gernreich’s monokini principle was simplicity. A garment should have minimal construction and detailing to ensure the body remains the focal point.
Gernreich invented the name, and the word monokini is first recorded in English in 1964.
Despite the reaction of fashion critics and church officials, shoppers purchased the monokini in record numbers that summer, though very few monokinis were ever worn in public. By the end of the season, Gernreich had sold 3000 swimsuits at $24 a piece, which meant a tidy profit for such a minuscule amount of fabric. It was not very successful in the USA, but took the rest of the world by storm in the early 70s.
As a side note: Gernreich also credits himself with having invented the thong, something else that is shown in the art of many ancient societies and was at the time a current Japanese undergarment.
The Modern Monokini
Arguably the modern monokini is regarded as the sexiest swimsuit a woman could wear. It looks nothing like Rudi Gernreich’s 1964 monokini (see image) which, while astoundingly controversial, was technically nothing more than a maillot cut off just below the bust with a couple of supporting straps. The term monokini refers to a bikini bottom held in place by two straps which, at least partially, cover the breasts.
Like all swimsuits, the monokini bottom portion of the swimsuit can vary in cut. Some have g-string style backs, while others provide full coverage of the rear. The bottom of the monokini may be high cut, reaching to the waist, with high cut legs, or may be a much lower cut, exposing the belly button. The modern monokini takes its design from the bikini, and is also described as ‘more of a cut-out one-piece swimsuit’ with designers using fabric, mesh, chain, or other materials to link the top and bottom sections together, though the appearance may not be functional, it can certainly turn a few heads!
While none dare like the original, sex still sells.
Summer 2009 features the monokini in a variety of over the shoulder and cut-out versions.