A great prophet named Oprah once said, “Sometimes the best way to dream big is to think small.” Her philosophy helps explain the physical shrinkage of cell phones, computers and especially, bikinis. If you’ve seen one lately you’ll notice it’s been reduced to the size of a clam shell.
The bikini was invented in 1946 by French engineer Louis Reard who named it after Bikini Atoll, a former atomic bomb testing site in the South Pacific. Apparently the atom has inspired more than just war.
Since that time, man has made bikinis not only smaller, but also more inventive. Take the string bikini. The creative process behind its design probably went something like this:
Male: “Okay, team, let’s think of some alternative uses for thread.”
Female: “Beading jewelry?”
Other female: “Tying up recycling?”
Other male: “Covering a woman’s loins?”
Call me a prude, but haven’t we come far enough in evolution to stop using animal hide, hemp or anything in the twine family to cover a woman’s naked body?
For those of us who still believe in modesty there’s the cover up, a one-piece long shirt worn over the bikini. It’s generally made of sheer or crocheted fabric and is about as effective as draping yourself in saran wrap.
Bikini advocates say bikinis are empowering. That may be true if you’re sixteen, have a body like Megan Fox, or practice liposuction. But when like me, you reach forty and the only thing on you that’s taut are the strings on your tennis racket, you start to resent the bikini and the fact that wearing one is like using a steel wire to cut through soft cheese.
“What type of bathing suit is right for my body?” you wonder.
The one-piece bathing suit seems a reasonable option until you visit the restroom where you’re faced with two equally undignified options: remove the entire suit, which requires you to thrash about awkwardly in a cramped stall or, pull the bathing suit crotch to one side and pray you don’t dribble.
Then there’s the tankini, its popular two-piece cousin, for women who don’t have washboard abs and like to use the restroom without falling over.
Around the time I discovered the tankini, a tan went from signifying manual labor, to a life of leisure, to basal cell carcinoma. I decided to ban bathing suits all together.
Still, I needed something to wear when I brought my kids to the pool. I decided to invent a unique amphibious outfit that would shield me from splashing children, protect me from the sun’s wrinkling rays, and store my People magazine. I’d name it the No-kini Atoll.
I took my ideas to a well-known designer named Martha who owns a dress shop in town. If anybody could do it, Martha could. She’d been a seamstress since the Revolutionary War, and has more metal pins on her floor than bullets in the Jockey Hollow battleground to prove it.
She heard me out and said, “Lisa, you don’t need a clothing designer, you need a herpetologist—they study amphibians. I’d suggest you visit the Turtle Back Zoo.”
So I did. And Jack, the mammal trainer, loved the idea.
“It would be the perfect uniform to train our otters!” Jack said, clapping his hands together and making loud barking noises.
The end result of our experiment was a bizarre, semi-aquatic outfit that made me look like a cross between a surfer and a duck billed platypus.
“I don’t know Jack…” I said.
“It looks great!” he exclaimed.
“I think the bottom’s too roomy, like I should lay eggs or something.”
“I can make some adjustments,” he offered.
“Do we really need the flippers on the feet?” I asked.
In the end, I decided it looked ridiculous and abandoned the invention. Jack, however, now feels at one with the otters in his no-kini and has taken his shown on the road.
As for me, I found a solution to lounging poolside with confidence. I added a private swimming pool to our backyard. Now I just need to find a fabric that breathes better when I work up a sweat. It’s not easy to blow up an inflatable pool.
What’s your swimwear of choice? One-piece, bikini, tankini, or no-kini?
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