“She was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and to no city” – Roman Payne, The Wanderess
It would be easy to assume the return of the one-piece is simply the fashion pendulum swinging back from decades of the body baring bikini. This assumption misses the point of the real shift, which goes far beyond the aesthetic and commercial fashion cycle. It signifies a more important change. The bikini is fast becoming an option rather than the norm; fading in the rear view mirror along with micro mini shorts, foundation packed faces and torturously sky-high heels. The move away from uncomfortable attire is part of a societal shift: women are abandoning the quest for “desirability” and are instead journeying into much kinder territory – that of self-acceptance and the utilization of fashion as a means to live a free life rather than a constricted one.
The word “female” has often been tied to terms which belong to inanimate objects – decoration, thing, centre-piece, trophy. The pressure to please the beholder, to be seen as “beautiful” is an instant giving away of one’s power; it is the robbing of oneself to give to the witness of others. The mind, spirit, intellect and personality which are much more a part as being human than is the physical form, have been tossed down the line, made secondary to the visual benchmark set for half of the population. What joy can be gained when one’s entire existence belongs to those watching on? The splitting of the physical and spiritual has torn us in two, but we are demanding to be accepted as whole again. No longer do we accept being simplified, or deemed one thing or another, “pretty” versus “funny”, “desirable” versus “smart”, “sexy” versus “smart”. We are far too complex to be shoved into opposing camps or stuck in a jail of terminology, we want to be as free.
The importance of the shift towards the one piece lies as much in the amount of skin being shown as it does in the connotations that come with it. The one piece was once relegated as daggy, lazy or conservative, in other words simple, comfortable and effortless which is exactly where the current appeal lies. In the same way that the masses are embracing the Birkenstock, donning a one piece is a big middle finger to the labels and expectations placed on us as females. We do not exist to provide visual pleasure – beauty may be the natural by-product of being a happy and confident, but it is not our reason for being. We are not dainty flowers on display; we feel, move, think and play. Our clothing needs to allow for this, we have the right to embody ourselves completely, in absolute comfort and confidence.
We deserve to be dumped by a wave (…hear me out) and not lose our swimsuit in the white wash. We deserve to run down the beach without bouncing around in discomfort. We deserve to dive into the pool and feel the calm water overwhelm us, without grasping at our ankles for our lost bikini bottoms. We deserve to walk down the sand, with everything held together by more than string, so we can enjoy the grainy texture on our feet and the sound of waves calling us into the blue. We deserve to feel the sun on our face and the wind in our hair, without looking down to check nothing has fallen out or come undone.
While we may enjoy decoration, all the way from our fingers covered in rings down to our toes painted cherry red, we ourselves are not merely decorative, lifeless dolls. We are human. We are creatures born to explore, ran, dance and wander. The fabric on our skin should allow for the full human experience rather than hinder our chance to be completely absorbed in the moment. The one-piece is for the woman who lives completely in the now, the woman who belongs to no one but herself, the woman who wanders free.