There is hardly a swimsuit in any 1965 resort collection that shows as much girl as the Riviera bikini. But these cutouts, peepholes, fish-net inserts, chiffon and lacy panels expose such unexpected areas of skin that the illusion is of being more naked than in the barest bikini.
Such a trend, whether Mrs. Grundy likes it or not, is all part and parcel of America's increasing accent on youth. If it is true, as Oscar Wilde once said, that the business of this country is youth, then he should have stuck around. In the year 2000 A.D. some 63.6 million Americans will be between the ages of 15 and 24. And one may presume there won't be a scopophobic in the lot. (Scopophobia, as all collectors of phobias must know, is the fear of being seen.) That set of youngsters will doubtless have totally discarded any old-fashioned concept that links nudity with immorality.
I have long held that bareness and nudity are for the young and firm, the attractive and nubile, having studied this social phenomenon in the company of fellow sun-worshipers. My friends in the 35-to-40 age group look absolutely dandy and are in an excellent state of preservation. From time to time we are all tempted to skinny-dip in the ocean or drop a top in recognition of Italian Designer Emilio Pucci's dictum that it is permissible for ladies to do so on their yachts and around their pools. Bikinis remain popular with us despite the theory that they belong to those under 25. In the realm of the blind the one-eyed man is king.
But just let some really young thing drop by the beach house and the fiction that we look so firm and fine in the flesh disappears. Tops are donned, and sometimes even shirts, to cover saggy midriffs. In the beatitudes of bareness there is no substitute for youth.
There may still be a glimmer of hope for the rest of us, however. Geraldine Stutz says women today are "beauty-conscious in a natural way, seething with the yen for the best health, energy and shape, wanting to be as fit, as beautiful as they can with their own equipment. There is a hook-up between being more conscious of your body and your health and wanting to show more of your body and its well-being."
And this is where all the talk about the illusion of bareness comes in. The Warner Body Stocking (a flesh-colored stretch leotard) and Rudi Gernreich's No Bra (support straps holding net) show how designers are building beautiful bodies for us today through nonvisible support. And since there is no question that now you can be as bare as your body is beautiful, even women without good figures want to get on the bandwagon. These flesh-colored leotards and bras help disguise the faults while appearing to reveal perfection. It is quite a trick, even for the fashion industry.
Some experts on clothes believe that man originally imposed certain types of wearing apparel on woman to hobble and restrict her, to keep her in servitude. Her struggle to be free has had fantastic results since World War I, and lately she has far outstripped her mate. Today while women fly about in handkerchief-silk dresses sans gloves, hats and undies, it is the man whose clothes drag him down. If you do not believe it, how about those 18 thicknesses of cloth he wears tied around his neck in collar and tie?
Dr. J.C. Fl�gel, the man who advanced the fashion theory of the shifting erogenous zones (in one era the bosom is flaunted, in another the neck is the source of loveliness), also claims that clothes greatly reduce efficiency. "How much, we do not know, but the increased capacity of woman in the last few years since she has thrown off her trammels indicates that the loss may be no small one."
If we blend Fl�gel's two theories we are faced with the prospect of an interesting tomorrow. It could be a time when the erogenous zones stop shifting altogether; with no area of the body taboo, no zone will exist to shift. Tomorrow—all things being equal and human beings finally liberated from clothes except for pleasant, decorative and comfortable ones—everybody could work at 100% efficiency.
The topless swimsuit cast its own shadow last summer in the display gag of a Los Angeles store. In its windows one hanger labeled "Yesterday" held an old-fashioned Annette Kellerman suit, another hanger labeled "Today" supported the Gernreich topless, and a third hanger, labeled "Tomorrow," supported nothing. Is anybody happy about this trend toward nude coat hangers? The Coty people and their competitors are. Ever alert to new flesh for the cosmetic industry to gild, they are already developing beauty aids with which to improve on nudity.