The Burkini is an amalgamation of two different garments: the Burqa, a garment covering the face and body worn by Muslim women, and the two-piece Bikini bathing suit. Australian designer Aheda Zanetti designed the Burkini — trademarking it as the Burqini — in the early 2000’s to help her niece participate in school sports and beach culture, while adhering to Islamic modesty tenets.
The ensemble combines loose leggings and a roomy tunic top with an attached, close-fitting head covering; colored stripes or transfers decorate the bust to further camouflage the body’s shape. The Burkini has proved popular not only with Muslim women but also with women from other cultural and religious backgrounds who feel disenchanted by other forms of swimwear, are concerned with modesty from other perspectives, or who wear it as a precaution against sun exposure.
The Burkini has bean a lightning rod for larger tensions between Islamic and Western cultures. Since August 2016, following a terrorist attack in Nice, for example, some cities in southern France banned the garment on public beaches.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, Items: Is Fashion Modern, on View Through January 28th, 2018 at The Museum of Modern Art in NYC.