By the end of the 1970s it had become clear that the morality of showing flesh was no longer an issue, and the emphasis shifts to what areas of flesh to emphasize, with the buttocks gaining and the belly sometimes retreating.
Another factor is the venue where the exposure takes place. The bikini is no longer simply a swimsuit, but a public garment worn for sunning, play, and exhibition. It has become fashion-wear, a vehicle to display the body of the wearer. The swimsuit halter top begins to appear in locations other than the beach, like a flea market on the street (SAF7301), and for evening wear (RS6609). A new genus of exercise wear popularized by the emerging fitness movement looks a lot like bikinis.
Not everyone agrees that the new exposures and venue are positive things, and counter-current to this retribalization are fundamentalist movements that seek to regressive public exposures of the body and revive more muted displays of affection, makeup, and dance. Forces also seek to repress advances made by women, blacks and sexualists. This happens worldwide, from Florida to Iran.
Reactionary bikini silhouettes appeared in the late 1960s, when a variety of alternatives appear to the main reductionist vector of the bikini. These counter-currents posited during the late 1980s are multi-dimensional. Sometimes the bikini is coming and going at the same time.
One of the new central themes is wearer flexibility, as seen in styles like the adjustable and the rolldown, or as the French call it, de roulè. The concept of wearer flexibility involves a garment which allows the wearer to self-adjust the amount of coverage desired.
Self-adjustment is nowhere more evident that the adjustable, a string bikini variation which allows the bikiniite to adjust the width of the front and/or back of the culotte. Although slide casings have been a part of the string bikini since the 1970s, the introduction of slide casings in the culotte did not occur until after the v-kini in the mid-1980s catalyze the narrow front and the rising legline. First appearances are in men's magazines (G198511), bikini contests (NYC8501, GO8801), and of course, the beach (NH8603, FL8623, FL8624, Vero8701, DB8701).
In the back, slide casings enable the bikiniite to self-adjust buttage (e.g., SF8501), and at the extreme to narrow themselves into tanga--where and where they want to (N8602, SM8854).
The adjustable initially appears with a number of different soutien-gorge, emerging in a world where bandeau and bra threaten to displace the halter. But one effect of the adjustable is to revitalize the string halter, essentially matriculating the slide-string bikini in complete form--now both tops and bottoms have slide casings and string and may be adjusted. This is true for both for slide triangle (DB8705, C8929) and slide-side (NYC8501, Vero8701) species.
The all-slide bikini breaks in Sports Illustrated in 1984 (fig. 27-5), where the editors cast models in micro-sized string halters with string adjustables that dive sharply below the waistline and are tied at the sides. The new bikinis are made to appear even smaller by contrasting them with the previous year's more conversative non-adjustable briefs.
Thus the string halter and adjustable together allow the wearer is able to manage exposure tactically, moment by moment, venue to venue. Remember, self-adjustment is a theme.
Another development in self-adjustment is the rolldown (or de roulè as the French would say), a motif that occurs in both bikini and maillot. The rolldown allows the bikiniite to have it both ways--to wear a larger (but thinner) swimsuit, and then simply roll the oversized acreage right back down. Striptease comes to the beach.
The culotte rolldown enables the bikiniite to not only roll her waistline down below her navel, but to roll the legline up as well, right up into tanga style (fig. 34-6). Roll-up tops parallel rolldown briefs and include tankinis which may be rolled up, and over-wide tube bandeaux (RP8506, FI8805A) which may be rolled narrower (fig. 34-7), and narrower. The culotte rolldown allows the bikiniite to enjoy either more coverage than the bikini of the 1950s (LE9041), or as little as a g-string. In the right hands it very seductive.
In France and the colonies, where topless styles remain popular, maillot rolldown emerges. Essentially this is a maillot made of thin Spandex and no foundation so it may be rolled down the torso, providing a convenient transition from resort wear to the most minimal topless tanga silhouette (G8835, G8850, G8877).
Pressures to Evolve Tanga
The end of the 1980's witness a fuller public exposure of buttocks. Hidden throughout most of the 1970's, the butt begin to emerge once the string bikini descends enough to reveal posterior rugae and snarl on the pubic hair. The velocity of the lowering waistline is thus brought to a rest, and stops. Lowered to the extreme, the waistline now reverses direction, and by the early 1980s begins moving up again, only now it is the legline that drives the waistline up. The rising legline pressures both the front and the back of the brief to get narrower, lengthening the leg. In the front of the brief the pubis is exposed above and inside of the inguinal lines. And in the posterior the lines where the buttocks meets leg and the lower hip are teased out, cheeking the butt. The rising legline also provides a higher tension point, so that instead of lying horizontal, the waistline dips in a v-curve in the front and the back. This is the silhouette of the v-kini.
As the 1980s progress, the buttocks become progressively more exposed (TS8720BS). The logical limit to this narrowing is the tanga bikini, in which the backside fabric retreats completely into the cleft of the buttocks, leaving the butt fully exposed (V8501). The style results as the hip bares while the waistline rises; tanga is a high-waistlined bare-buttock culotte. It may ride below or above navel, and it often has as horizontal waistline with a triangle of fabric in the center of back (figure). The penultimate tanga is the g-string, a cloth triangle worn in the front that covers only the pubic hair and sex organ and connects to a string rising up rugage fastened to a string around the waist (V8605). The penultimate g-string is a topless g-string (V8612, V8705).
The increasingly bare butt also breathes new life into maillot (CH8710), which is able to take dramatic advantage of legline and raise it even higher than bikini (PV8810). Maillot tanga evolves naturally as the legline rises past the waist and up the sides, ultimately baring the entire hip (V8701, EL8801).
Tanga Media Advances
Tanga progress in North and South America is accelerated by the topless impasse; unlike the Europeans who doff tops as the next exposure development, the New Worlders find cheeking and buttocks exposures an opening. The trend is accelerated by Hispanics, Blacks, and Brazilians, whose body type favor a larger hip. And of course by young girls who want to command attention.
Bare-butts emerge in fashion and media after the mid 1970s with occasional flirtations in Sports Illustrated and Vogue, and this easing out, which continues through the early 1980s, is detailed in the tanga section.
Hollywood is particularly slow to discover the bare butt--g-strings fleetingly appear in beach movies as early as 1984 (HM8402), but the most fateful introduction is by the Australians, in Crocodile Dundee (LK8701), in which a single shying scene in a maillot tanga introduces an actress. Bare butts also become the domain of supermodels (CC8820).
On the real beach the main thrust of the movement is led by Brazil (N8602), a Catholic country who finds buttocks, not breasts, the inroad. In America the gradual progression to full buttocks exposure is a slow tease. Wildlife in the United States doesn't really emerge until the late 1980s, and only there by leading indicators.
Tanga Wildlife Infestation
In the real world there are no tangas spotted at any progressive American beach prior to 1986, although there is an increase in cheeking via the halfback v-kini. The first tanga recorded in America by a Bikini Scientist in this collection is LV8401, shot overlooking Boulder Dam near Las Vegas. Simply put, tanga is a brand new exposure.
Adoption of tanga is slow and cautious, and initially limited to private porches (SF8501) and secluded pools (RD8709). Only the bravest venture forth to hotel pools (FL8601). Flapped tangas give contestants at edge at the famed The Candy Store in Ft. Lauderdale (FL8607). And a exceptional bikiniite tugs her briefs up into tanga position on the public beach (FL8613).
More aggressive displays occur at Key West during November, especially with women who have advanced halfbacks (KW8601, KW8606) and a maillot rolled into a topless tanga (KW8605). Key West also establishes that men can tanga (KW8610).
Tangas can be purchased as far north as Nags Head, but they are not really seen north of Florida during the next two years. Sightings in 1987 are still limited to Ft. Lauderdale and other progressive centers, but are characterized by more variety and range of venue. A first-timer at deserted Dania Beach walks bare-butted from the parking lot through the trees and over the dunes (PB870H) to the ocean. A pink and yellow candid is caught leaning over the railing in a motel (PB87BC).
Because the tanga story is just breaking and because it will continue into the next decade, let us continue it there and turn our attention here to other important developments of this half-decade.
Another new creative direction to emerge in the mid-1980s is the concept of layered looks, swimsuit combinations built from two or more pieces which are often individually scandalous, but when layered over top of each other permit decency to prevail. Swimsuit designer Lisa Bruce is a pioneer of this movement (CS8435, N198502).
Layers are not a new theme in swimwear, and their reduction, mostly the elimination of linings in the 1960s has been a central theme throughout swimsuit history. The new layering is different, however, because it is a function of combinatorial aspects of separate pieces, and not a thinning of the swimsuit.
The layered swimsuits build upon the maillot, beginning with a rediscovery of the original topless T-front maillot (EM8908), and variations that can be worn with a bra (CS8420, FI8820, JD89A0) or without (RT85DB), with a bandeau (RP8810, EL8950), a strapped croptop (EL8802), and wet t-shirt (EM9020).
The croptop combined with the suspender maillot is another example of this (AN8610), as is this bandeau and suspender (AN8620), also tangaed (ZX3K80A).
A third layering development is the maillot halftop. In this silhouette one breast is left bare by the maillot but covered by a halftop, as in this matrix of combinations (RD8725). The order of layering also plays a role here (JD89E). The challenge is to take the silhouette mainstream without the halfbra--the tame way to do this is to cover the uncovered breast with the arm (EM9010), the brave way is arms akimbo (CC8810).
Recovering the Belly
One factor of the rising legline is a corresponding rising waistline, which closes the midriff from the bottom up, and recover the navel. This culotte montante has a straight waistline at about or above the navel, a high rising legline, and a tendency toward wide sides. It first emerges in the media in 1985 (JH8501, N198601) and is spotted on the beach this same season (RP8506, RP8509, IAB8603). The theme is still strong at the beginning of the 1990s (KH9016).
Indeed, many of the more covered-up bikinis recycle 1940s and 1950s ideas, albeit in new materials (e.g., KH90014). The 1940s influences are recycled during this period because they present a similar set of design problems, only vectored in the opposite direction: diminution instead of covering up. The 1940s are now also sufficiently distant to appear original; these revived aspects include fuller halters, side elastic briefs, hook and eye fasteners (GO901104), vertical hems, and sarong ties. For the first time in twenty years, shoulder-strapped brassière tops resurface, only this time constructed in Spandex (fig. 34-3).
Covering up the belly does not only proceed from the briefs up. With the dominance of the slide triangle bra broken with the bandeau alternative, the late 1980s witness the bikini's upper half sprout several new silhouettes which also recover the belly in a downward direction. Influenced by the exercise movement the fuller of these form-fitting bras cover even more stomach; they are essentially the top half of a maillot tank, and are called a cropped tank or tankini (RP8509, N198601, RP8812). The tankini and high-waisted dance trunk are a popular exercise profile that resonate with swimwear (VE198610, M92596).
In a parallel development, foundation is reintroduced, especially underwire (LE9041), v-wire (NK8801, C8977), stays to the side (FL8608) and center (GL9008), moulded cups (C8964), and springs. The underwire bra makes a resurgence both in bikini and maillot styles (fig. 28-1), as well as in the balconet, or strapless underwired bra (fig. 28-2). Unlike the 1960s, the 1980s underwire is not coupled with inner lining and tends to complement a softer cup, with less push-up of cleavage.
The influence of aerobics produces an entirely new genre of clothing, exercise wear, which mimics the silhouettes of swimwear and underwear, and extends the domain of the deux-pièces.
Another soutien-gorge/foundation development is the bustier, inspired by the rock star Madonna as she popularizes underwear as stagewear and outerwear (fig. 28-3). The influence upon swimwear is immediate. In addition to the bustier cut, swimwear suddenly integrates other lingerie details, such as lace, adjustment hardware, and foundations. Bustier also involves recovering the ribs; in a sense, the bustier is a bandeau extension that parallels the emerging trend of covering up the midriff and uplifting the breasts. But if indeed bustier takes away from midriff, it does so in order to lower cleavage to threatening proportions. Its strong lateral grip around the rib cage supports a platform of lift, squeezes the breasts upward while not letting go of them, even when strapless (fig. 28-4). The bustier may be worn with any brief but its combination with the high-waisted montante close in the belly from opposite directions, focusing attention on a narrowing ribbon of midriff (fig. 28-5). Any loss of belly is compensated for by the uplifted breasts and the recess of leglines.