The Legline Rises & V-kini Emerges
Paralyzed by shrinkage, and not always ready to shed its top, the bikini in the early 1980s responds with a sharp change in silhouette. With the nombril brief's waistline already dangerously shoaled on the pubic hair and threatening to fall off the hips, the only direction for the waistline is back up, but this must be approached differently so as not to beat a simple retreat. The new energy is to raise the legline, an ingenious development that originates in Brazil (N197912), where a different body type creates more focus on the legs and hips than the breasts and stomach.
During the early 1980s the legline rises up to the waist, narrowing the crotch and the hips, and focuses attention on the sides of the pubis and the cheeks of the buttocks, both of which begin to be exposed. Raising the legline and narrowing the front produces the v-kini culotte, a.k.a the vee, or simply the v or the V. In 1982 Carol Alt models the silhouette for Sports Illustrated; and v-kinis begin to appear in advertising this same year (UB8210). Within two years they have migrated to real beaches (FI8319), sometimes even showing directionality with an old tan line (JB8401).
Unlike the string bikini brief, the v-kini may be cut on a bias (LG8440, fig. 25-6B); it may also be hemmed vertically up the crotch, echoing the body's natural bifurcation and focusing attention on the center-line of the pubis and the cleft of the buttocks (WB8502, ). Very tight fitting stretch fabrics aid in this goal, as attention is radically shifted from the side of the culotte (the site of string culotte's sideties) to the front and back center (LB830T).
Retensioning The Halter Top
Closely coupled with rising legline is a retensioning of the breasts from the sides, instead of underneath. One version of the breakthrough, popularized by Cosmopolitan cover girl Christie Brinkley (CB7710), unites the top and bottom with a string tie that runs through the sides (not the bottoms) of the cups, criss-crosses mid-back, and then scurries around through the sides of the v-kini, giving it lift, and knots in the front at about the navel. This in essence is the slide-side (or side-slide) halter. The effect of uniting the top and bottom creates a vertical suspension that bares the sides of the breasts and emphasizes a longer legline and cheekier butt (WB8403).
It is quickly discovered that the slide-side and v-kini can also be modeled unconnected, with the slide-side tied behind the back instead of wrapped around and through the briefs, a trend which migrates from Brazil (N197912) to the Ford Model Book (JA8210, PH8220) to the beaches of Venice (VB8407) and Vero (Vero8405) in less than five years. But by the end of the decade slide-side is relegated to more conservative chores, like this combo with an emerging montante (KH9016).
Bandeau and V-kini
The sleeker silhouette of the v-kini, often with thicker side straps, also suggests a taunter top, less cluttered than the string. The solution is a rediscovery of the bandeau. This reborn bandeau is much thinner than anything before, a single tubular ribbon of Spandex, bounded by rings of elastic top and bottom (FI8302). It can be wide (YM8010) or quite narrow. Unlike its predecessor in the 1940s or the underwired 1960s balconet, this year's model lacks lining and allows the thin material to hug the chest closely and, like the triangle bra, outline the contour of an erect wet nipple, maintaining much of the body's sensuality of texture.
As the decade unfolds, many bandeau variations develop. Center-rings focus the front ( E79P15 ), and hooks, fasteners and ties grace both the small of the back as well as the front (LR86CB). Fringe (also found on the culotte) helps to both cover up and draw attention. Another innovation of the period is the twist-top bandeau, often made with two layers of cloth in contrasting colors. The twist-top bandeau has stays on opposite sides and must be rotated 180 degrees before wearing. The twist, situated between the two breasts, provides lift, form and color variation.
In the post-minimalist 1980s, foundations appear again, and a new species of advanced bandeaux are often constructed with more than one pattern piece. Side panels sewn to a rectangular front incorporate stays embedded in the seam. More complicated designs involve a seam for each cup or compound fabrications, such as the unusual Kamali featuring stays in the center of the cups (V198310). Small v-wires appear between the cups, and even underwire get rediscovered.
The Ultra Mini
Throughout the early 1980s the legline rises from a position parallel with the crotch to a position parallel with the navel. This action narrows the front of the v-kini sharply, shrinking it inside the in inguinal line--the crease between the leg and the pelvis. Once this post-minimalist v-kini shrinks inside inguinal there is momentum to further narrow its sides, if not return them to strings. This provides the string halter with a second life and defines a new, second generation definition of the string bikini, the microkini, or ultra-mini (Vero8408).
The narrowed fabric and new exposure change the focus on the pubis from the top of the pubic hair to its sides (FB83P47, FB83P79) and mandate that the bikiniite either show hairage or shave the sides of the pelvis. The exposure of inguinal is paced by fashion magazines and advertising (AV198210), and it is quickly mimicked on the real beach with more candor and lack of restraint than the media anticipates (RP8809). The ultimate result is a new industry specializing in the bikini wax and a new style of pubic hair called the racing stripe.
Complementing the narrowing of the front of the v-kini is a narrowing of the culotte's back. This momentum, already cast into motion by the rising legline of the v-kini, advances the legline onto the buttocks itself, first exposing the bottom line where buttocks meet leg--an exposure called cheeking. This too represents a shift in focus from a play with the cleft of the buttocks (rugage) to a play with an increasing area of buttocks, moving from the halfback silhouette (FI8301) toward its eventual destination, the tanga. The leading indicators appear in the early 1980s (PZ8201, PZ8202, V8106) and the by 1990s this progression of buttage to tanga will be complete, and forms like the adjustable g-string marking an extreme.
Maillot High-Legline Evolves
The rising legline in the early 1980s has one further effect beyond the bikini--it reenergizes the maillot. In the early 1980s, maillot legline climbs above the pubic bone (TG8110, N198507), narrowing the front inside the legline, exposing the inguinal (FI8306), and cheeking the hip (DR8510). As the maillot high-legline rises, the armhole and back deepen, introducing a slicing cleavage to the sides of the breasts (CS8430). As the 1980s progress, the legline collides with the armhole (FB83P61), and the side of the swimsuit is reduced to buttons, rings (NY8410), and zippers (N198503). As in bikini, the increasingly exposed hips terminate in the maillot tanga (PZ8201).
The high-legged maillot remains a driving vector throughout the decade and integral to reconfigurations of old and new silhouettes. These include the tank (FB83P48), strapless (CA8220), maillot cutout, suspender maillot (V198305), the cross-tension (RS8101), and various maillot sarong, or wrap, designs that are both haltered (SS8020, FI8310) and strapless (SS8010, FB82P46, FI8308).
By the late 1980s maillot has advanced to the miokini, pretzel and slingshot, and the torpedo. Other evolutions include the single-bare-shoulder asymmetrical styles, the maillot half-top (CS8410), layered looks, and resonance with exercise wear.
The vocabulary of the back of the maillot also expands during this period. Suddenly, letter-like, there is the X-back (fig. 29-14), the V-back (fig. 29-15), and the T-back (DR8510). All of these designs, but especially the T-back, percolate bikini soutien-gorge as well.