THE FIRST MONIKINI
Amazing how fashions change.
The suit’s creator, Rudi Gernreich, was an Austrian-born American fashion designer and early gay activist who had learned about female fashion in his aunt’s dress shop in Vienna. Rudi and his mother fled Austria after its annexation to Nazi Germany, where Hitler had banned nudity, among many other acts. Austrian citizens were advocates of exercising nude, a rejection of the over-civilized world. Gernreich was very much against sexualization of the human body and the notion that the body was essentially shameful, which was reflected prominently in his designs.
It had all started the year prior in 1963 when the editor of Look magazine, Susanne Kirtland had asked Gernreich to make the suit to accompany a trend story along futuristic lines. When a photo shoot for his topless swimsuit was arranged on Montego Bay in the Bahamas, all five models for the session outright refused to wear the design. The photographer finally persuaded a local prostitute to model it. Only the back view of the monokini ended up being published in Look in 1964, but it was Kirtland who pursuaded Gernreich to produce the design commercially and make it available to the public.
In the same year he released the monokini, Rudy also invented what we essentially know today as a seamless soft-cup elastic bra. The “No-Bra”, as he named it, was made of sheer-stretch fabric without underwires or lining of any kind. In 1972, he then designed the “No-Bra Bra”, which was made of sheer, stretchy fabric that could be pulled on over the head. His minimalist designed revolutionized bra design, changing the trend from a sculpted, bullet-shaped bosom to a more natural shape. (Thanks for that Rudy!)
Clancy's comment: Some photographers have tough assignments, eh? Oh, did you happen to notice the cameras they were using?