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Last week, the iconic bikini celebrated a great sixty-five years young. As temperatures skyrocketed to the triple digits at dizzying velocities and as the former colonial haven for Puritanical prudism celebrated its own birthday in a patriotic and beer-filled frenzy, the timing of it all seemed cosmically convenient. Tuesday afternoon was spent lounging and lazing on the hot sands of a local beach, alas, sporting a sleek one-piece suit. My recent travel adventures have been fabulous, but equally treacherous to my girlish waistline. Before heading to the shore with Rebecca, I stared down my own plain and chic black bikini, eyes brimming with both disdain and longing. Ultimately, I knew I would not be completely comfortable in it, though, arguably, would have looked fine. It certainly goes without saying that the bikini has both aided and confounded woman's continued long journey to social, professional, cultural, sexual, and biological equivalency, a term perhaps more nuanced and accurate than equal; from this, combined with the inherent tantalizing anatomic allure the look elicits, a dichotomy of innocence and seduction, naivety and knowledge, the bikini will forever be a creature of marvel and intrigue.
During the past week or so, I have been working on a collection of short stories by Italo Calvino; one, entitled "Adventures of a Bather," was deliciously apt. A plump, young Italian woman, proud of her body and accustomed to modestly flaunting her assets to gain the favor, attention, and affection of others, naturally to her own advantage, wears a new bikini to the beach. Pleased to showcase her legs, stomach, breasts, and pleased to move fluidly and languidly through the water, a porpoise performing and on display. To her dismay and to the chagrin of the reader, she realizes that she has somehow lost the bottoms to her new beloved bikini, a dilemma that many of us can surely appreciate. Unsure of who to trust, man and woman, boy and girl, she is vulnerable and trapped, paddling carefully far out beyond the surf. She is desperate, a bit ashamed, but still proud, refusing to approach just anyone swimming or fishing or boating in proximity with the conflict that confronts her. It grows darker and cold, and when she nearly surrenders, an unlikely and jovial pair come to her rescue. The story is fundamental and mundane, and supremely heroic and amusing.
Last night, the filmmaker and I indulged in a long discussion about the nature of the influence the fashion institution and industry has on other creative outputs, music, film, visual art, and poetry and literature, specifically, how fashion as art seems to exist in a bit of its own vacuum and with a sort of semi-permeable membrane encasing it from interacting with and fusing with other arts. In short, we agreed that while individual specific cohesive collections very rarely, if ever, seem to serve as the sole inspiration for a film or music composition, or short story, for a variety of reasons, fashion through an anthropological and cultural lens is nearly inextricable from all other works of art. Especially when certain articles of clothing or an accessory, such as a leather jacket or a bikini, gain such collective cultural notoriety and impetus, the creative pursuits they subsequently subtly inspire are innumerable.
Perhaps, if I adopt some of that dreaded but pragmatic Puritan work ethic and dedication and loyalty to ascetic measures, I will be able to slink casually into my own itsy bitsy suit in a few weeks. Luckily, it will most likely still be a bit tight about the bottom, and I will hopefully not be subject to any mortifying predicaments.