Eye On Design: Monokini Topless Swimsuit By Rudi Gernreich

rudy gernreich monokini photo by gail worley
All Photos By Gail

The Monokini (1964) was Rudi Gernreich’s swimsuit of the future. The topless design was controversial, making it difficult to find a model willing to be photographed wearing it. Ultimately, only one image of the suit (taken from behind) was published, in Look magazine. At the urging of look editor, Suzanne Kirtland, a wider selection of images appeared in Women’s Wear Daily and later, in Life, where many American readers took note.

Debates about the Monokini and its implications for society spread across the country and the world. In 1964, the New York Times re-printed an article from a Soviet newspaper that stated: “the American way of life is on the side of everything that gives the possibility of trampling on morals and the interests of society for the sake of ego. So the decay of the Moneybag society continues.”

While never intended for mass production, more than 3000 Monokini’s were sold at New York department stores in the summer of 1964 alone; it is likely that only a fraction were worn in public

Photographed at The Jewish Museum in Manhattan as Part of the Exhibit, New York: 1962 — 1964.

store window with monokini photo by gai worley
Store Window Display with Monokini and Other Fashions from 1964

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