May 26, 2013

The plus-size "bikini."

The "fatkini."

You can wear whatever you want, but what's being sold is not a bikini. I remember bathing suits like that from the days — 1950s and 60s — when few women wore bikinis. What I'm seeing at the link are what were traditionally called "2-piece bathing suits." The bottoms come up to the waist. It's hard to see why that looks prettier than a 1-piece. Is there something special about the section of skin between the bottom of one's bra and the waist? Is isolating the bra from the bottoms a good idea when the shape of the bottoms ends up being granny-panties?


Here's a NYT article from May 24, 1961: "The Novelty Has Worn Off, But Bikini Remains Popular."
Several years ago, the Bikini was de rigueur on some parts of Fire Island and for theatrical people and models... And each year, there is slightly more acceptance, although the novelty has definitely worn off.

"On the other hand," [said Jack Vane, Lord & Taylor's sportswear buyer,] "I can't give a conventional two-piece suit away. The customers won't have it, but they'll buy a modified Bikini."
Note the capitalization of the word, which was a place name (associated with atomic bomb tests).
Although he would never say who should and who should not wear a Bikini, Mr. Vane did say a woman should look before she leaps into on.

"We have them in sizes 8 to 16," he said. "I won't stock them in larger sizes."
That's obviously not 8 to 16 in the sizes we see in shops today. The article goes on to note the various fabric patterns: "and yes — even polka dots." That was — speaking of de rigueur — the necessary reference to the 1960 pop song "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini."

And here's a NYT article from 1960 displaying the "more modest two-piece suit" that American women wore in response to the "arrival of the Bikini" (and that one year later Jack Vane, above, said he couldn't give away). You can see from the photos that the "more modest two-piece" is the configuration seen in today's so-called "fatkini." Note that the caption refers to the bottoms as "trunks," a word that strikes me as way too masculine (perhaps because I associate it with elephant appendages).

Scroll down for an article titled "Fate of Daring Bikini May Be Decided Today."
The Bikini, the little suit that got the big promotion from the sportswear industry this year, has not lived up to expectations. Is it the weather or our Puritan heritage?...

Bendel's and Bergdorf's say that some of their customers buy Bikinis, but only for wear on penthouse terraces, patios and backyards....

"Women who have lived abroad buy them without a quiver. Now they're catching on among the young theatrical and artistic kids too."...

"Two years ago, people looked down their noses at you if you showed up in a Bikini. You were asked to leave or take cover. This season no one even looks at you."

Bikinis have been spotted at the Hamptons but mostly on "artistic" types, models and Europeans. Those who will not wear them are talking about them.

"There's no advantage in a Bikini," asserted on young matron. "If your figure is that good, it's smarter to be mysterious."
That was the oft-repeated commentary: preserve the "mystery" of the female body by keeping it covered. Nowadays, we Americans — despite "our Puritan heritage" — like to think the notion of covering up the female body belongs to other cultures that have yet to advance to our stage of freedom. But in 1958, if you showed up in a Bikini, you were asked to leave or take cover.

I love the references to "artistic" and "theatrical" people, especially as contrasted to the "young matron." These days, no one — young or old — gets called a "matron." And everyone's so artistic and theatrical that it's not worth saying.

57 comments:

rhhardin said...

I always assumed that the complaints were from other women.

sydney said...

It is easier to take a bathroom break in a two piece.

Pogo said...

The fatkini atoll is a ring-shaped side of beef including an adipose rim that encircles a maroon partially or completely.

PaulV said...

yes, syndey, I was told that too. I suspect it may be a form of birth control.

PaulV said...

yes, syndey, I was told that too. I suspect it may be a form of birth control.

Jason (the commenter) said...

American is all about lust and gluttony; just because people get fat doesn't mean they want to give up looking sexy.

Oso Negro said...

Ahh....the good old days of the "mystery" of the female body. In contemporary times, you haven't really arrived as a pop tart if you haven't got a sex tape on the internet or flashed a leaky snatch at the paparazzi.

cubanbob said...

Something's are not a good idea such as two piece bathing suits for fat woman and speedos for fat or middle-age men.

edutcher said...

There used to be 2-piecers for "robust" (buxom and chubby, as opposed to fat) women that showed more skin, but not so much you could tell the color of the nipples or the real hair color.

this, of course, was 50 years ago when all women were full-flavored.

kk said...

The obvious reason for doing plus-size two pieces is that among women in general, and bigger women in specific, there's a great deal of variation in top and bottom sizes. My mother, who's about a size 8 on average, is more or less a 12 on bottom, about a 6 on top, and with a long torso. She has loathed swimsuit shopping her entire life, because there's basically nothing in a one-piece that fits that. In bigger ladies, that variation can be even larger. So if you can buy a size 16 top and a 24 bottom (or vice versa), you might have a chance of having a decently fitting swimsuit.

robinintn said...

My teen-aged daughter calls that look "long butt". She's generally referring to vice principal types.

Freeman Hunt said...

Based on the picture, I think this look is flattering. It breaks up the lines, gives some structure.

Phil 3:14 said...

I think this look is flattering. It breaks up the lines, gives some structure.

There's something vaguely humorous about that line.

edutcher said...

kk said...

The obvious reason for doing plus-size two pieces is that among women in general, and bigger women in specific, there's a great deal of variation in top and bottom sizes. My mother, who's about a size 8 on average, is more or less a 12 on bottom, about a 6 on top, and with a long torso. She has loathed swimsuit shopping her entire life, because there's basically nothing in a one-piece that fits that. In bigger ladies, that variation can be even larger. So if you can buy a size 16 top and a 24 bottom (or vice versa), you might have a chance of having a decently fitting swimsuit.

I've heard the plus size woman who's a perfect hourglass has an even harder time.

The Blonde comes close in that respect, but there's just enough deviation.

Freeman Hunt said...

Keeping up with the kids -- your kids -- at the beach/pool probably matters more at that point than noting the admiring glances you get from others ?

We don't know if the women buying these have kids.

ironrailsironweights said...

this, of course, was 50 years ago when all women were full-flavored

Christ Almighty, don't get me started.

Peter

Freeman Hunt said...

I was responding to your 'flattering looks' comment there.

We know you have three sons. You've told us.


Oh. Well, my comment had nothing to do with my own swimsuit purchasing. I am neither in the market for a plus size swimsuit nor a bikini.

With three children, two of them small, I cannot let go of little hands to adjust a swimsuit, so any swimsuit I own must be practical. Heck, with little kids, a swim dress is ideal. Then you don't have to worry about suddenly having to adjust a leg opening.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Those look 100X better than regular bikinis on big women.

Inga said...

It's called a midriff, no?

Ann Althouse said...

"It's called a midriff, no?"

I thought that word was invented for old TV commercials about "midriff bulge."

Today, the term is "muffin top."

Which is why you don't want to release just that part of the body. It's going to bulge out with a waistband below it (and a bra band above). Unless you're slim and fit, that will bulge out. Why create the opportunity?

For those who are talking about wanting to be able to use the bathroom efficiently and the different sizes top and bottom, those issues are dealt with through the tankini, which has been around for a long time. (The top is like a camisole, extending all the way over a bikini bottom.)

Rachel Rudensky said...

I think the advantage of these types of bathing suits is that they are easier to get on and off when you need to go to the bathroom -- esp. when the bathing suit is wet. So, you're not wearing a sexy, appealing bathing suit. But you're wearing a practical one.

I buy these types of two piece suits for my children.

Darrell said...

Earl Scheib used to paint any car for $19.95--plus tax. Lots of paint needed for the old cars.

Ann Althouse said...

"I buy these types of two piece suits for my children."

I'd say 2-piece suits are basically for children. An adult woman might wear such a thing if she's fit and slim and maybe in her teens or twenties. Unless you pretty much look like a kid, it's better to wear a one-piece.

But then, I never go to the beach, so I don't really know how people look on the beach these days. I see photos of swimsuit models, and even they look bad much of the time. They can look too scrawny. It's pretty unusual to fit in the zone where you look better in a bikini than a one-piece, so I don't know why women who are clearly out of shape feel they need to get in on the "bikini" action. Seems like more women should get out of it.

Darrell said...

There are few things sexier than a Malloit swimsuit on most women. But I guess that's in my head, not everybody's.

Bender said...

I care less about why the bottoms of a big-sized bikini are granny-panties than I do about why the waist of men's pants today are STILL cut to go up above or around the navel, so you end up looking like grandpa if you wear them as made, rather than having them cut so that the waist is at the top pelvic bone, where most people wear them now (which ends up leaving the crotch sagging).

Sam L. said...

We all knew then that only primitive people exposed that much of the body, and nudism was practiced secretly, or really close thereto. Although I do recall seeing nudist magazines in the mid-'60s.

Bender said...

Having a gut (or beer belly, etc.) or not having a gut is irrelevant to the fact that whether fat or slim, men's pants are cut way too high. If we were to equate them to a swimsuit instead, men look totally ridiculous with the waistband up over their belly button. Same with long pants - having them that high is simply not the way that people want to wear them, but if hiked up all the way that they are cut, that is where they go. Not as high up as practically up to the armpits like in the old days, but almost.

Bender said...

Where'd she go? Nothing like responding to a comment that's been deleted.

kimsch said...

I personally like a two piece suit, but I get the "tankini" style. They are much easier when one has to use the restroom. I also wear a skirt because, as Freeman says, you don't have to worry about suddenly having to adjust a leg opening.

The space between the top of the bottoms and the bottom of the tops - midriff, muffin tops, I call it the flesh belt and I don't think it looks good on anyone.

ndspinelli said...

The Sunday morning delete. Did I strike a nerve when I merely asked if swimsuit shopping for summer was causing angst?? A fairly benign statement deleted in the name of what?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Those are not bikinis. Just adding the kini ending to any word does not make it a bikini. Fatkini or Tankini. The two piece bathing suit is practical for the reasons that most people stated. The top and bottoms of most people don't match. In my case the top size needs to be larger than the bottom. A one piece suite is almost impossible to find that would actually fit decently. And going to the bathroom, especially in a wet suit is much easier in a two piece.

However, now that I am older and "when" I am actually wearing a bathing suit...the Malloit style is my preference of choice.

People can wear what they want. Just try to wear something that FITS where your fat isn't bulging out like yeast bread dough gone bad.

ironrailsironweights said...

That "fatkini" is utterly ghastly and makes the women look elephantine. They would look much better in actual bikinis.

Peter

edutcher said...

Agreed.

Baron Zemo said...

Taking fashion advice from Althouse is like taking advice on picking up girls from Titus.

Baron Zemo said...

The fact is that almost everyone is a different size on the top than they are on the bottom.

So the tankini is a good bet but you need to be able to mix and match to get two pieces that actually fit.

Baron Zemo said...

The fatkini is just a marketing ploy.

These suits have been around a long time and it is no big deal.

ndspinelli said...

Baron, I bet Titus could pick up girls, but would just want to discuss tits w/ them and then ask if they had any brothers.

Baron Zemo said...

He might have some idea of the theory but he has no practical experience in the real world.

You know like a teacher. Just sayn'

ironrailsironweights said...

Here is a photo of Pierce Brosnan's wife in a bikini. She may be overweight, but she doesn't look bad by any means and is not afraid to show herself in public. Now imagine her in a "fatkini." She'd look hideous.

Peter

Joan said...

Unless you pretty much look like a kid, it's better to wear a one-piece.[snip] It's pretty unusual to fit in the zone where you look better in a bikini than a one-piece, so I don't know why women who are clearly out of shape feel they need to get in on the "bikini" action.

These statements discount the vast variety of female body shapes. I'm in good shape, but I've never had a flat stomach, even when I weighed 120 pounds. I look much better in a bathing suit that doesn't cover my torso.

"Women who are clearly out of shape"? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The rest of us just look away.

Darcy said...

I agree with you, Joan. Many women who feel they look better in a one piece actually would look better in a bikini. The problem areas for most women are not covered even by a one piece. Maybe swim shorts. And if you want a tan, a bikini affords the best tan.

I finally gave up my one piece suit. It only took reaching age 50! ;)

Petunia said...

Advantages to a two-piece over a maillot:

1. Easier to use the restroom.
2. Can buy different sizes for top and bottom if necessary.
3. The top might provide more support, depending on style.

Advantage of a bikini/fatkini over the tankini: tankini tops don't provide nearly enough support for the larger bosom. Bikini or fatkini tops can provide a lot of support.

Plus, why not come up with another option for women? Swimsuit shopping is often an ordeal. Why not provide as many options as possible to find something you like? What some see as "granny panties", others would see as a "cool retro" look.

A "muffin top" is lower down, BTW. Around the waist.

Baron Zemo said...

If you are truly interested in plus size swimwear I recommend
the Website "Always for Me" which is the best company in the size range. You could also check out "Cocco Reef" where you can investigate getting a top and bottom separate.

Baron Zemo said...

As to the problem of a larger busted woman not getting the proper support from a swimsuit I have one word for you: "alterations."

Simply take you suit to the tailor and have him cut the straps and adjust them until you have the proper lift. It is a simple and effective and cheap fix that will help tremendously in fitting your suit.

wyo sis said...

A lot of fabric stretched over a large area looks like upholstery.

Methadras said...

Nothing sucks more than a plumper with a small rack. That's never good.

Darcy said...

Oh, I could probably think of things that suck more.

Rusty said...

Why do I think of Herman Mellville?

Baron Zemo said...

Because you are a dick.

Baron Zemo said...

Or a moby.

Baron Zemo said...

Nah.....you are definitely a dick.

k said...

My opinion - a muffin top only occurs when the woman is in denial about the true size of her bottom. So she buys two or more sizes too small. And since the new pants ride SOOO far below the natural waist (have you LOOKED at the length of those zippers? like 4 inches or something), all that extra womanhood has to go somewhere.

kk said...

There is no amount of alteration that will make a swimsuit without proper support adequate for someone who wears, say, a G cup (like me). There's a difference between supporting and squashing, and the "just shorten the straps!" method only marginally accomplishes the latter. Thanks, but no.

Tari said...

Joan and Darcy, exactly!

I think it's more about what you feel comfortable in than anything else. I wore a one piece suit for years (when a bikini would have been just fine) because I thought that's what I should wear. It took turning 40 - and meeting our priest's wife at the pool, 10lbs heavier than me but looking amazing in a bikini - that made me reliaze I was an idiot for not wearing one.

If a larger woman has enough courage to go out in a fatkini, and she feels great wearing it, she should go for it. Life is short.

Ann Althouse said...

Note that the point of this post isn't to tell anyone what to wear, just to say that when the bottoms are waist-high, "bikini" is a misnomer.

I really don't know what looks good on real-life women, because I stay away from the beach. Too much sun for me.

rhhardin said...

The backformation to monokini is an eggcorn.

nikki said...

I am a young women who due to medical problems has gained weight. I have always had curves (DDD and a tones back end) and i love my curves, but it's hard to buy a "younger" looking bathing suit in a 14/16. I love the idea of the "fatkini" because now I can wear something that shows off my chest and butt, but cover my problem area oft stomach. The hight waisted also is great for covering scars and stretch marks. Doing that all results in a confidence boost, and now I'm able to go to the beach / pool again without hating how "frumpy" my bathing suit looks.