The Opacity Variant
Materials have always been, and will always be, a significant design factor of the bikini, and one of the most important facets of material is its opacity, that is, just what can be seen through the material. Opacity is thus a key Bikini Science variable. It was first proposed as a fashion variable by Roland Barthes, and Barthes' thinking is expanded in this work to a six element scale that varies from the completely opaque, through openwork, see-through-when-wet, transcluent, transparent, to invisible, in which, like the Emperor's New Clothes, the bikini cannot even seen at all (and in which case the bikiniitte might as well be nude).
In popular culture, the variable of opacity is often expressed advertised as see-through, in which the bikiniitte, night-club woman, resortist, or even office worker, allows parts of her body to be viewed through her clothes. The politics of see-through are subtle: the parts of the body in question are covered, but in some fashion or another, they are visible. This is the seduction!
The opaque garment lets no light through from what is beneath it, although it is never without form. A swimsuit may be very opaque yet very form-fitting.
Fishnet hits mainstream media in 1968 when popular models Christie Brinkley and Cheryl Tiegs embrace the latest webbing in Sports Illustrated (fig. 23-2). Strategically placed solid patches opaque Tiegs' hair and genitals, but her breasts and nipples have no such obstructions and their pigmentation is obvious beneath the white fishnet. Years later Tiegs will remark that she did not realize her nipples could be seen-through so vividly. The picture, which ran 9 1/2 x 5 1/4 in Sports Illustrated, is reprinted in Time, two months later, one-ninth the size.
Fishnet, or for that matter any openwork barrier including metal mesh (AB9305), provides the designer of swimwear with a broad canvas: it is elastic and can hold form, yet body parts are not uncovered. Two double negatives do not indeed make a positive. Black fishnet maillot styles are further popularized by James Bond Girls; variants include fishnet deep in the cleavage, S-shaped areas at the sides, and plays on the buttocks (fig. 23-3). Strategic fishnet provides reductionist alternatives to bikinis. Competitive exposures on the breasts, midriff and rear may be skillfully engineered; furthermore, the design provides a vista for escalations beyond the bikini (e.g., the nipples), yet which remain not topless.
Openwork is not unique to fishnet and it is also found in maillot cutout and in crochet styles, including open-mesh crochet briefs (JE8912).
See-through challenges the definition of topless and bottomless styles.
The fishnet/see-through aspects introduced in the 1960s are perpetuated into the 1980s, with the introduction of relatively opaque weaves which are ultraviolet transparent, thus allowing an all-over tan, but without nude exposure (fig. 23-8). On micro-inspection, they do have holes, but even at close viewing distances they appear opaque."
The late 1980s also witness the introduction of transparent-when-wet elastics, which combine the best of tight-fitting characteristics with the mysteries of see-through (SM8503). Tight-fitting bandeaus are another candidate (CI9003). A related approach is the loose-fitting yet clinging-when-wet swimsuit (fig. 23-9) popularized in the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
See-through-when-wet is also a hallmark of the wet T-shirt contest (NYC8502, NYC8502B).
Transluent materials, like silk and other diaphanous materials, allow the body beneath to be viewed (LR7610), but also provide a clearly reflecting surface between the eye and the subject.
Transparent materials, like clear plastic or vinyl, allow an unrestricted view of the body beneath. Although rare in swimwear they are used, ironically, in materials like pasties, especially in locals where dancers are required to cover their nipples (TF9502, TF9503).
Invisible bikinis are the favorite of some connoisseurs, and depending upon the imagination, either provide foundation to the figure or not. Much debate has raged about whether the invisible bikini is a bikini at all, since it is not possible to see it.