Marilyn Monroe, All Over Press

Marilyn Monroe, All Over Press

War and the one-piece

From the childhood Speedo to adulthood’s Chanel, Mattie Kahn has come full circle, back to the one-piece bathing suit.

I wore one-piece bathing suits for many years before I learned there was an alternative to the single stretch of spandex. At the time, no one I knew wore bikinis. My father hated them. The very serious pool at which I took swimming lessons had banned them and my mother preferred jet-black maillots. 

I eventually encountered them at day camp and on beach trips. But by then I had managed to cultivate a quasi-hipster disdain for them. I dived into the deep end at the 92nd Street Y and could tread water for 12 whole minutes. I could swim eight laps and hold my breath for at least thirty seconds. I had no use for ornamental swimming costumes. The suits I wore had a job to do. 

But then I went to Jules Davy’s twelfth birthday party. Jules led a charmed life. She had a tiny dog called Harold and a rainbow of Juicy Couture sweatshirts. Her apartment building had its own basement pool—an amenity that most of the sixth graders I knew found impossibly luxurious. I needed to look my best at her party. After much deliberation and—okay—some tears, I settled on a bright red suit. It seemed patriotic and dignified. It seemed like a winner.   

Of course I realised the depths of my ignorance as soon as I arrived. While every single girl in attendance had picked out a pretty bikini, I had opted to dress like a Jolly Rancher. 

Kate Rachman took one look at me and burst out laughing. “Oh my god”, she exclaimed. “Please tell me that isn’t a Speedo”. I flushed crimson and tried to muster a retort. But before I could come up with a clever rebuttal, Kate had sauntered off towards the hot tub. I spent the rest of the party stewing in silence. I would not be defeated. I knew exactly what I needed to do. 

 

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