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The monokini is one of the most shocking and scandalous swimsuits to have entered the swimsuit market. While the monokini has a very specific historical definition, the term is now used to indicate any topless swimsuit. When fashion designer Rudi Gernreich first introduced the monokini in 1964, the swimsuit consisted of bikini style bottoms with thin straps over the shoulders to hold the swimsuit in place. The swimsuit provided no additional coverage and left the breasts entirely bare. Today, fashion designers continue to vary on the style of the original monokini, producing topless swimsuits for more adventurous women to wear in private swimming pools or topless bathing venues.

The monokini has a rather interesting history. It emerged in an era of American history when the country was on the turning point between the placid, conservative 1950s and the turbulent, explosive 1960s. Into this climate, European designer Gernreich presented his new swimsuit design in June of 1964 to mixed review from fashion critics, government officials, and church dignitaries. Gernreich’s monokini consisted of a black knit suit that extended from the midriff to the upper thigh, employing two thin black straps to hold it in place over the shoulders.

The reaction to Gernreich’s bikini innovation was immediate. Fashion designers criticized the swimsuit, proclaiming that the sole use of bikini bottoms would foretell the eventual demise of the bikini style. Throughout the country, statesmen and church officials pronounced the swimsuit immoral and tasteless. Because the monokini was so obviously inappropriate for swimming or tanning, many people assumed it was meant to be more of a gag than a serious swimsuit design. However, despite the reaction of fashion critics and church officials, shoppers purchased the monokini in record numbers that summer. By the end of the season, Gernreich had sold 3000 swimsuits at $24 a pop (a tidy profit for such a miniscule amount of fabric). Still, despite the number of swimsuits purchased, very few monokinis were ever worn in public.

After the first summer season, Gernreich’s monokini fell quickly out of style in the United States. Still, his shocking experimentation with dermal exposure would herald a new era in swimsuit design. Designers would soon begin experimenting with strategic cutouts and mesh coverage to push the envelope farther on public exposure.

Because the monokini was designed as far more of a fashion statement than a flattering piece of swimwear, it is difficult to determine the most ideal body type for this type of swimsuit. While monokinis do still exist in the swimsuit market, they are not always easily accessible and most stores do not carry them.

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