Monokinis are a hybrid one piece and bikini bathing suit that has large cut-outs on the front and back or on the sides. They are being sold by brands like Guess, Roxy, Kenneth Cole, and Billabong, and of course, my fave, ViX Paula Hermanny.
The story of the evolution of monokinis is captivating. The original form of the monokini was a topless swimsuit exposing women’s breasts. Obviously, this has changed over time so that the monokini look is available to more modest beach goers. I was shocked to find out that the topless monokinis have been around for over a quarter of a century. In fact, on June 16, 1964, 5 Manhattan retail giants, including Lord & Taylor, Henri Bendel, Splendiferous, B. Altman & Co., and Parisette, made lines of the topless monokini. They did so in secret of course! A store representative was quoted as saying, “We will not promote or display it. If a customer asks for it, we will take her into a fitting room and show it to her. Please don’t quote me.” There was a monokini underground. You could not find one unless you were in the know.
In an effort to live up to their slogan, “Don’t say you can’t find it until you’ve shopped A. & S”, Abraham & Strauss also made an order of topless monokinis from a supplier but made sure that they were stored out of sight.
Going topless was very appealing to some woman. Stores sold out of their stocks no matter how many times they reordered, particularly as the price point decreased. Finally, convertible versions of the monokini were released in California by Elon, so that they could be worn with a matching bra. The attention that and the previous monokinis drew caused Gernreich to produce a version for little girls in the early 70’s which featured only a thin fabric strip across the chest between the straps of the suit. Gernriech also produced a male and female version of a topless monokini for both men and women in 1974.
Obviously, monokinis have come a long way, but it is always interesting to know the history of the garments we wear. I definitely enjoyed learning about the evolution of monokinis!