On social media and television, Brazilian women are portrayed as half-naked women who like to flaunt their assets. But, like bikinis, stereotypes may not cover a culture as a whole. Before coming to Brazil, I expected to see a lot of “naked” women at the beach. However, even though in some cases there are really small thongs, not everyone follows that style. As a woman, originally from Italy, I was shocked when I moved to the US two years ago and found that everyone was wearing huge bikinis. Since I have lived in two different countries, I was able to observe Brazilian bikinis from different perspectives. The initial question was: “Are Brazilian bikinis actually that small?”
Brazilian bikinis allow you to show off, without showing too much. Brazilian bikinis are seductive yet classy. The secret lies in the Brazilian cut. This is the balance between revealing without revealing too much, achieved by the bikini bottoms cutting across the cheek of your bum, rather than sitting under it (as is the case with typical swimwear). The Brazilian cut is famous around the world and it is slowly becoming a trend in the US, thanks to celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and Rihanna.
The sun was rising at Ipanema, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, while Jose Nissan Cohen, a Rio based fashion photographer, was conducting a photoshoot for the bikini brand “Blue Man.” Some cariocas — residents of Rio — had the opportunity to share their opinions about Brazilian beachwear. A teenage girl from Rio de Janeiro said: “Compared to the American bikinis, Brazilian bikinis are very small. I am already used to wearing the small one so I think American bikinis are funny. I think they are squared in the back.” However, her friend rebutted, “On the contrary, I think Brazilian bikinis are much bigger because we have bigger hips.”
Bianca Angelis, the communication director of the bikini store “Corporeum,” said Brazilian beachwear is slowly influencing trends around the world but, at the same time, bikinis are getting a little bit bigger and similar to American and European trends. “The US bikinis were very different some time ago, but things had been changing due the influence of social media and fashion bloggers. Everyone has access to this kind of information. They make these new models more mixed.”
Bikinis are worn all over the world but not always in the same way. In fact every country has a unique way in which they wear them. Australians usually wear a full coverage bottom and moderate coverage top; French have also a unique taste in swimwear, they enjoy more conservative, high-waisted, and full coverage suits; Chinese mostly wear full coverage suits and one pieces; Brazilians like to show their bodies so the thong is really common. Finally, Americans have different styles and like to wear both coverage suits and smaller bikinis.
Photographer Cohen described some of the differences and similarities: “There are some differences between Brazilian and American bikinis. Brazilian bikinis are a little bit smaller but they are getting more known and Americans are starting to wear them.” Cohen also admitted that he is sometimes jealous if his girlfriend wears a really small bikini. The Brazilian cut is generally accepted in the local culture; however, some guys are really possessive and sometimes they don’t want their girlfriends to entice the imaginations of other men.
This style is slowly changing and there are more similarities than differences. However, Brazilian bikinis are still going to be known for their famous cut and Brazilian women will forever be considered sensual and attractive. Brazilian women will continue to turn heads at Copacabana and Ipanema.
Luis Ottoni of Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo served as Rio field producer and translator on this story.
Car selfie above: Going to a sunrise fashion shoot at Ipanema beach means waking up at 4:45 a.m. Students Connor Keith, Luis Ottoni, Carlotta Nassi, and Patrick Willard shoot a selfie in the cab on their way to the shoot. Landscape photo above: Luis Ottoni (left) attempts to get a better video angle during the Ipanema fashion shoot. Photo by Carlotta Nassi.