What is a Monokini?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A monokini refers to several types of women’s swimwear based on the bikini style. In some cases the monokini is merely a bikini bottom, worn without the top. This is the most common form, and is used quite frequently in countries where topless bathing is the norm. The monokini of this type may have shoulder straps that help keep the bottom in place but does not cover the breasts.

Woman posing
Woman posing

A more elaborate type of monokini, which covers the chest, is usually ranked among the sexier swimsuits. Taking inspiration from the bikini, the monokini of this type is a one-piece garment that has large cutouts of fabric over the stomach and most of the upper back. Small chains, straps, or thin pieces of fabric may form a connection between the chest and bottom portion of this form of monokini.

The goal of this swimsuit is to replicate the look of the bikini. This means, that like the traditional bikini, most of the stomach and the back are exposed. Connections between top and bottom often exist on the sides of the garment, giving the bikini look, but providing a little extra security that the garment will stay on.

Like all swimsuits, the monokini bottom portion of the swimsuit can vary in cut. Some have g-string style backs, while others provide full coverage of the rear. The bottom of the monokini may be high cut, reaching to the waist, with high cut legs, or may be a much lower cut, exposing the belly button. In general, people who are comfortable with baring quite a bit of skin might choose the monokini.

Austrian designer Rudi Gernreich coined the term monokini in 1964. His original design was a chest-baring swimsuit. The lower half stopped just below the breasts. Two thin straps constituted the upper half. Clearly, the suit was meant to be worn in areas where topless bathing is acceptable, which is a common practice in many European countries. Ironically, the bottom of Gernreich’s monokini offered fairly extensive and generous cover of the pelvis and rear. Aside from its lack of a top, the bottom portion of the suit would be considered modest as compared to the high cut swimsuit bottoms of today.

It's important to note that many pools and beaches worldwide do not prefer or even permit some monokini wearing visitors. Restrictions may even apply to the type of bottom coverage provided. Be aware of the applicable rules to ensure your enjoyment in the sun and water — and don't forget to apply suncreen to the cutout sections which expose the skin.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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