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Friday, November 20, 2009

The Bared Bosom

The third in a series on Rudi Gernreich Master of the Topless Swimsuit. Reprinted from Life magazine 1964.

This isn't the first time it's happened. Rev. Edward Wyatt, who led the anti topless pickets in Dallas, bewails the short sightedness of Americans. Looking back at a more demure age, he says, "We should not have let bathing suits come above the knees." He did not know, perhaps, that the pas has not been particularly modest. In some of the highest civilizations women have gone topless in public. The fashion was at its most distracting during Crete's Minoan period around 1600 B.C. It staged repeated and artful comebacks in the royal courts of Europe through the 18th century. In the decades since, the bosom has been fashionably flaunted but never fully bared.

This pottery statue of a Minoan goddess wears a costume fashionable among high-born ladies in Crete 3,500 years ago. The waist is as waspish as those of Edwardian belles, the eyes painted and the breasts dramatically bare - a symbol of fertility. In her hands she holds a pair of scared snakes.

Chalk statue of Greek priestess from about 600 B.C. shows the customary dress of upper class women, who felt that the bare bosom gave them added grace and did not detract at all from their modesty. It has many characteristics of earlier Egyptian culture, where the bare bosom was also the vogue.

Diane de Poitiers powerful mistress of France's Henry II, lightly veiled her bosom - a style which also prevailed at England's court under Elizabeth.

Hortense Mancini, niece of Cardinal Mazarin, dresses this way at French and English courts. Such semi nudism persisted in France until early 1800s.

Agnes Sorel, mistress of Charles VII of France, was one of a group of royal ladies who set this fashion Fontainebleau in the mid-15th Century.

Lucrezia Borgia, as shown in 1520 painting by Veneziano, appeared at fetes in Venice with one breast exposed and rouged, in the style of the day.

At North Avenue Beach, chicago, Model Toni Lee Shelley, 19, who went swimming in a topless, is whisked away to be booked for indecent exposure.

Factory in San Diego jumps on bandwagon with 'convertible topless swimsuits' which feature a detachable top. Plant has more than 3000 orders.

So there you have it. Rudi was a master and he sure shook up the masses. I just goes to show, history and fashion do repeat themselves.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I was familiar with the Minoan and Greek examples, but I had no idea about the others.

Beach Bygones said...

Your blog is so interesting and informative. It seems funny that these days we don't bat an eyelid over here about topless sunbathing! I noiced one of these topless swimsuits is coming up at Kerry Taylor auctions in London soon.

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