Fashion-followers seeking the real skinny about the next tide to ride in swim wear can float easy (if they’re built right)—it’s The String. Or the tanga, as they call it at Ipanema, the Rio de Janeiro strand where the minibikini originated.
Patterned after the loincloth worn by the now extinct Coastal Indians of Brazil, the tanga was an inevitable evolution in a land given more to admiring shapely rears than the Northern hemisphere, the natural habitat of leg-and-chest men. The classical String is only the bottom half of the suit, just two tiny triangles of fabric held together by a couple of cords. It is normally topped by the skimpiest of halters. But as it spread to more temperate zones like the stodgy-chic New York Hamptons and to more mature forms like those of Cristina Ford, Ursula Andress and Odile Rubirosa, the tanga often became a modified and modestly daring bikini. The basic design is so primitive (and simple for the homesewer) that neither Paris nor Seventh Avenue has produced a King of String. Anyone can knock it off, and the only operators whose business has waxed so far from the craze are the beauty shops specializing in depilating the newly exposed pounds of flesh.
Delightful as it is to have a new beach fashion that can be tucked into a sunglass case for a quick change behind a dune, the tragic truth is that not every woman—in fact, damn near no one over 35—can tanga. Frets Beverly Hills designer Jim Reva: “It’s got to be for the svelte girl. I’ve sold it to some women who with all that flesh hanging out and those two little strips…well, it looks obscene. The girl has to look at herself honestly,” he sums up. “A full-length mirror would help.” And perhaps a little plastic surgery. Countess Consuelo Crespi, Vogue’s editor in Rome, who reportedly had a fanny tuck a couple of years ago, decrees that “one thing you absolutely have to have to wear it is a firm, high-slung bottom.”
But no one can blame a girl for trying. Says a 28-year-old Canadian teaching English in Brazil, where it all started: “The tanga appeals to the stripper in every woman. Who of us hasn’t wished at some time that she could wear and look good in a G-string?”