Fashion

If nothing else, they do leave something to the imagination

MIKE MACBETH April 18 1977
Fashion

If nothing else, they do leave something to the imagination

MIKE MACBETH April 18 1977

If nothing else, they do leave something to the imagination

Fashion

A major cover-up is underway in swimwear, where sexy no longer means scanty. This year’s high fashion swimsuit comes in one piece of clinging second-skin fabric and features a high arched leg and either one shoulder strap or none at all. It’s called the maillot and it’s challenging the bikini. Designers say a one-piece flatters the figure by concealing it and generates a sleek sexiness that the two-piece no longer can. “The String and the Thong showed as much body as they possibly could,” says Toronto swimsuit designer Lori Brooks. “Now fashion’s going the other way.” Many bikini lovers have been converted to maillots by the new lightweight lycra material being used. It stretches up and

down, moves with the body and is also firm. It even dries quickly. Retailers say that as recently as three years ago most mature women wouldn’t wear a swimsuit without a built-in bra. But the new expanding fabric and careful construction are so popular that Sea Queen, the largest Canadian swimwear house, now devotes 40% of its business to bra-less suits. General manager Mort Goldfarb says women are also delighted to discard the “boxer short” leg, which often produces bulges, in favor of the high-cut leg and soft lines of the maillot.

Then there’s the catch: many of this year’s swimsuits are not designed for swimming. While the strapless “tubes” are marvelous for eliminating untanned white marks left by straps, women who forget to don a special safety string before diving

soon find their tube wrapped around their ankles. And the one-shoulder model makes for both awkward swimming and unbalanced sunbathing. Designers respond to all charges of impracticality by saying that women these days buy three bathing suits: one for swimming, one for tanning, and one for sitting by the pool and looking beautiful.

Is the end of the bikini in sight? Just two years ago boutiques sold seven bikinis for every three one-piece suits; this year it’s one for one. The bikini is clearly on the decline, but die-hard bikini lovers will probably ensure its survival. Department stores report that many young customers are already complaining there aren’t enough bikinis in a market flooded with maillots. Other women now wear both styles: the two-piece with straps down bandeau-style for sunning; the one-piece for lounging and showing off. Canadian designer Marilyn Brooks has come up with her own variations on these themes: the Rage, the briefest of glittery gold maillots held on with the slenderest of straps, and the Ruffle, a bikini with a ruffle top that pulls down to the hips for topless sunbathing.

Accompanying the bathing suit to the beach this year is a whole assortment of cover-up coordinates—ponchos, robes, tabards, skirts and slacks—that double as cocktail loungewear. Last year, American swimsuit manufacturers sold two beachwear cover-ups for every swimsuit. This year the trend is reaching the Canadian market, where stores now sell one accessory per two suits. Says designer Brooks: “Dollar-wise, you no longer think of a swimsuit alone. You add the tabard or tunic or long skirt and you have an outfit for dinner. When you tire of it, you use the swimsuit by itself.”

The suit most popular with 1977’s winter cruise set was the Savage model by New York designer Halston. After the backless wrap-and-pull maillot was displayed in a two-page spread in January’s Vogue, southbound Torontonians rushed to Creeds and bought out two shipments of the suit. Imported designer swimsuits range in price from about $40 to $100 and cover-ups from $45 to $200. That’s 40% more than they cost off the rack at Saks Fifth Avenue. Priced at from $20 to $50 each, Canadian-made suits and accessories are less expensive, but still almost 15% more than they were last year. Eaton’s sportswear department manager Hannah North says people are prepared to pay more for individuality. “Gone are the days when everyone lying down on the beach had the same bustline.”

As for the bargain hunters, they anxiously await September.

MIKE MACBETH