Ever since I could purchase my own swimwear, I’ve only worn bikinis. A zealous swimmer, I have at least a dozen at any time. These range from sporty Speedo to pretty Seafolly to stringy Nico Nico and one delicately printed Etro. Through my pregnancy and even later — wearing my stretchies like proud war wounds— I’ve been a bikini advocate all along.
But in the last year, I find myself favouring the maillot. The one-piece swimsuit that has existed probably before time is now called a “classic”. If fashion sites and magazines are to be believed, the one-piece is basking in its moment in the sun. I think the moment came when Vogue put Deepika Padukone on their cover in a razor-slit black-red swimsuit two years back. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love with a magazine cover like that. She was bronzed, taut and tight like a pro athlete, her black hair tousled and the swimsuit looked as if zig-zag lines were drawn with a black marker on her frame. No bikini could be sexier than this. Ever.
If you follow the Shivan Narresh label, India’s only swimwear label (and if I may add easily the finest in the world), you would easily see how a one-piece is infinitely sexier than two. High-tech cutting machines have made the swimsuit bare and spare in places decency wouldn’t allow you to imagine. Newer fabric allow for natural stretching and not ripping at seams. They come with illusion mesh and sexy zippers too. The result: one incredibly inventive and ridiculously sexy swimsuit.
But it isn’t the cutaway techniques that have brought up the maillot from its decades-long fashion sleep. There is also a gentle but sure move toward discretion. Just like a reverse snobbery that doesn’t allow us to tag on designer labels, the one-piece harks back to old-fashioned glamour. There is nothing more attractive than not being obvious, says the maillot.
The idea picks up so quickly because women (especially those big spenders in their 30s) are especially happy to have more cover up a little more when they dress up. More so since the near-nakedness that Rihanna, Beyonce, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez have recently displayed, fashion was feared to be enjoyed by the red-carpet queens alone. The rest of the world would have to live in common jeans and yoga pants. Oh, but to be stylish and yet covered up is such welcome relief.
The maillot offers a slimmer silhouette. Even if its a cut-out, so long as you middle is mostly covered, you don’t need to hold your breath when wearing it. Hollywood stylist Rachel Zoe’s blog The Zoe Report calls it “definitely the new sexy”.
That said, there’s scarcely a Bollywood movie today that doesn’t have its heroine wear a bikini (even the snobby Sonam Kapoor and the shy Katrina Kaif). It may have been popularised by the super-fit Kareena Kapoor in her size-zero days several years ago, but female actors in bikinis are utterly redundant and obviously outdated today.
Interestingly, the bikini became popular because it liberated women in the 1960s. In the US, where it was invented, it became a symbol of women’s lib. It allowed them to roam on a public beach being as close to naked as they could (never mind that nudism on Californian beaches was also hotting up).
Now the one-piece is the new liberator. It allows the woman a little consideration in the face of a political gaze that demands them to be of a certain size only. It is a little finger up to unrealistic beauty ideals and a pressure to conform to them. Just for that alone, let’s go buy some maillots.