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Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Handmaid's Tale: not just a novel any more


How do you swim in this?

Ultimate Coverup
Full-Body Swimsuit Leaves Everything To the Imagination

By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 14, 2006; Page C01

The makers of WholesomeWear swimsuits would like women to cover up their tummies. And their backs. And their arms. And half their legs. The Oregon company, based outside Portland, sells a collection of swimwear online that consists of a wet suit topped by a dress. The spandex underpinning is not sufficient on its own because bystanders would still be able to make out the curves of the woman's body. The nylon overdress takes care of any audacious display of an hourglass shape.

The collection is not aimed at practitioners of any specific religion. There is no obvious mention of spirituality, God, Allah or Joseph Smith on the company's Web site.


"There are still people in this world who prefer modesty," says Joan Ferguson, who handles sales for the company. "So my son, his wife and daughter designed the product."

The company has found a following among older women who like to wear the suits for water aerobics, larger women who prefer more coverage poolside and women whose husbands like to act as fashion consultants.

"I'm very surprised at the men who call because they don't want their wives and daughters running around in their underwear," Ferguson says.

WholesomeWear is going into its fifth year and, according to Ferguson, has sold thousands of swimsuits in three styles: culotte, skirted and "slimming," which looks like a loose-fitting housedress. There is an option with the slimming suit to extend the sleeves below the elbows and to lower the hem so it ends just above the ankles. A woman would be swimming in something akin to a choir robe. "These are designed to highlight the face and not the body," Ferguson says. That may be true, but a woman is more than just a disembodied head. Why be fearful of the rest of her?

The company may not be preaching to a specific denomination, but it is nonetheless preaching. Ferguson describes her family as "Christian people who love the Lord." And the swimsuits are "a ministry."

It is hard to look at the prim swimwear -- $89 retail -- and not feel as though the company is cranking back the clock to the 1920s. All that fabric denies women the sense of liberation that comes with the freedom to celebrate the body. (The company offers swimsuits only for women and girls. There are no alternatives for a man who is gun-shy of surf shorts.)

It's understandable that some men and women may feel frustrated and scandalized in a culture that accommodates micro-miniskirts, cropped halter tops and visible thongs. They want someone to stand up and say, "Put some clothes on, darn it!" But surely, in the search for modesty, wouldn't one stumble across something decent and virtuous before getting all the way to a nylon shroud? Wouldn't a demure tankini do? Or a one-piece with a matching skirt?

.........................................
A woman swaddled in WholesomeWear's knee-length nylon would stand out. Not just because she's covered up but because she's done it in such an unattractive way. Perhaps she is modest or religious or simply someone who really needs to get over the fact she doesn't have legs like Naomi Campbell. But in looking at all that camouflaging fabric, at the layers aimed at obscuring the physique, one wonders how a swimsuit "ministry" can save anyone's soul when such ungainly suits have so little appreciation for beauty.

Like this

A Lands End tankini

She looks like she should driving a party of Navy SEALs to shore at night. What ugly, ungainly clothes designed to strip the femininity from women. The Lands End line of swimware is so good, and so varied it was the standard catalog ordering item, along with Bean duckboots and backpacks. Even now, they're still the leaders in everyday swimware. And they are accutely conscious of women's body issues.

What kind of insecure psycho would buy this nylong skirt crap?

posted by Steve @ 12:51:00 AM

12:51:00 AM

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