Swimsuit issue emphasizes coverage, not cleavage

Pop Culture

April 13, 2003|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,Sun Staff

That great harbinger of summer, the swimsuit issue, has arrived at last.

No! No! Not Sports Illustrated. The L.L. Bean Swimwear Guide, which we visited this year on the Internet (at www.llbean.com).

Sculptured bodies with generous displays of flesh do not appear in the Bean bag. No teen-aged boys are going to grab the catalog before you get a chance to review it. The models are relentlessly wholesome. They look like moms, or big sisters. Swimsuit choices are sensible, not sensual.

Bean offers no bikinis, let alone a thong -- unthinkable in Freeport, Maine. The guide does show something called a Tankini, which Bean says provides "the coverage of a tank suit with the freedom of a two-piece -- plus the mobility and support you need for swimming and other seaside activities." Whatever those may be in the Bean imagination.

Unlike Sports Illustrated swimwear, which sometimes seems barely to exist, the Tankini is essentially a tank top and a modest bottom. Decolletage is demure, and belly-buttons unseen.

That trademark BeanSport Bottom, which fits just below the belly button, has moderate leg openings and a "full coverage seat." The BeanSport Skirted Bottom "provides the extra coverage women prefer." "Coverage" seems to be a real concern at L.L. Bean, while at Sports Illustrated it's not a concern at all -- quite the contrary.

"Coverage" pretty much defines Bean's three swimwear collections. The Signature Collection has "conservative leg openings, plenty of coverage and comfortable, confident support." A couple of the Signature suits incorporate "tummy-control" panels, for that confident support, one supposes.

Moderate, but still modest, leg openings and "tried and true silhouettes" define Bean Classic suits. The Sporty model sports moderately high-cut leg openings -- modestly revealing, one might say -- with thinner straps and updated silhouettes.

The Sarong Tank is described as "refined," the Calypso Floral as "a versatile slimming style," the Hibiscus V-Neck "draws attention upward, bold hibiscus flowers work to camouflage curves."

The models in Sports Illustrated swimsuits don't seem to need such stratagems. Their eerily perfect bodies seem faintly unnatural, like the androids in Blade Runner. The last thing they need, or want, to do is camouflage a curve.

The women of the L.L. Bean Swimwear Guide seem a little more mature, quite nice-looking, too, lovely people who might just turn up on a beach that's not at Malibu, or on the Riviera, or at Copacabana -- like Ocean City, or Rehoboth, or that teetotaling town, Ocean City, N.J.

Elsewhere on the Internet this season, you'll find Lands' End's racy Swimwear HQ, which does have a "Women's Cluster Daisy Bikini," with the "hipster bottom." But that's another story for another spring.

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