This Summer’s swimsuit Part 2: The Monokini

The  Monokini has made its way back onto the beaches this summer.  Whether one finds it sexy or distasteful, it may be hard to believe that this design has made a huge splash in history.

What we know today as the one-piece swim suit adorned with several cutouts along the sides or the front, was actually much more revealing at the time of its creation.

Peggy Moffitt modeling the monokini for Women’s Wear Daily in 1962
Photo courtesy of

In 1962, the avant-garde fashion designer Rudi Gernreich created the original monokini with high-waisted bottoms and long thin straps attached around the neck.  

Society was shocked to see such a design in the 1960’s, that women could actually be arrested for wearing this piece in public. However, Gernreich described it as an expression for freedom of women.  

Being an open nudist, Gernreich designed the monokini at a time where U.S nudists were attempting to establish a public persona.  

Although the piece never took off in the U.S, the swim suit brought up the issue of allowing men and women equal exposure above the waist as a feminist issue.  

But somewhere along the lines, the monokini transformed itself into what we know it as today and Gernreich’s monokini was eventually considered just a topless swim suit.  

Miley Cyrus’s provocative swimsuit pose via Twitter.

It was last popular in the 1980’s and has come back for another round.  

Monokinis for this year have taken quite a creative route; some with graphic designs on the front or interesting cutouts.  

However, there are do’s and don’ts for choosing the perfect monokini and things to consider when buying it such as how it fits your body and size of the cut outs etc.

Not everyone is a fan of this look (as explained by Gossip Girl) because choosing the wrong one can make a big difference. 


An example of a graphically designed monokini by Norma Kamali.
Photo courtesy of


Most swim suit shops will carry this design, but Laurel Zapke recommends a few notable shops on West fourth in Vancouver.

The monokini offers something different for those looking for a unique beach look.  From the vintage-inspired looks out this year, which do you prefer?


Retro swim suits for this summer

It may be half-way through July, but there are still plenty of beach days ahead of us. If you still haven’t found the perfect swim suit yet, than look no further than the past. Many of this year’s trends are fit for any body shape and take after some of the most well-loved and scandalous styles of the past.

We have come a long way since the first official bikini in the 1940’s and the days before when women wore dresses and thick stockings to the beach. Although women may be seen wearing a lot less these days, many are clamouring for the high-waisted bottoms of the 1930’s to the ’50’s.

The first bikini in 1946 modeled by Michele Barnardini. Courtesy of

The first bikini in 1946 modeled by Michele Barnardini. Courtesy of

As both sunbathing and athletic swimming became a recreation in the 1930’s, swim suits costumed themselves to more form-fitting and breathable pieces. The v-shaped back was revealed along with cut outs in the suit. Some women even bought swim suits that exposed their midriff. This was the birth of the high-waisted bottoms.

Ava Gardener made the two-piece sexy in the 1930s Photo courtesy of

Ava Gardener made the two-piece sexy in the 1930s
Photo courtesy of

In the 1940’s the two-piece became more acceptable with fabric shortages during wartimes. Louis Reard introduced the first official bikini in Paris 1946. By the end of the decade, they could be seen on every beach.

They were often worn in generic colours, but today, they can be found in nearly every colour and pattern including floral, polka dots, stripes and animal prints. The popular retro-style site ModCloth features high-waisted bikini bottoms with a pin-up girl sprawled across the top.

The high-waisted bikini can be found in nearly every store in Vancouver including Forever 21, H&M, Change and local boutique Cuche.

Cuche bikinis.  Photo by Johann Wall

Cuche bikinis. Photo by Johann Wall

Another popular pin up style, which has found its way into our beach bags this summer, is the 1950’s one-piece which we remember best on Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe Photo  courtesy of

Marilyn Monroe Photo
courtesy of

The beauty of this swim suit (aside from the obvious) is that it fits any body shape.
Designers of the time needed a look for women of all shapes to hide any “faults” that they may have. They often came with detachable straps and are the equivalent of what we may consider a “beach corset” as described on

These swimsuits were made with boning to cinch in the waists, pop out the busts and to flatten the stomach. It sounds like much more work than needed for a day at the beach, but the look was simply undeniable. Who wouldn’t want to look like Marilyn Monroe?

Luckily, today no such boning is required. The popular colours and patterns are much the same as today’s high-waisted bottoms. In this day, you could find it in any colour or design.

For my personal favourite place with a small but great collection of retro style bathing suits, check out Change lingerie.

From Change lingerie $79.95.   Photo courtesy of

From Change lingerie $79.95.
Photo courtesy of

When it comes to swim suits for me, all I’m after is polka dots or a nautical theme, but that’s just me! What style catches your eye this year at the beach?