Walking along the esplanade at Balmoral in the sun (the Australian Balmoral, not the Scottish one!) I was nostalgically reminded of the days when a beach like that would have been full of ladies happily sunbathing, topless. I remember our first visit to the South of France, when to my amazement most of the women on the beaches from Cannes to Monte Carlo had rejected the top half of their bikinis – some time before this was happening in the UK, even when the weather was warm enough. When did that fashion start? On the continent I suppose as early as the 1950s, but it was probably in the 1960s that topless sunbathing became ubiquitous on beaches almost everywhere. There were attempts to ban this, of course – and indeed both left-wing governments (Russia) and right-wing ones (the US) were equally hysterical in legislating against women appearing in public with bare breasts. Women however were determined to do what they wanted with their bodies, and being free to explore their top halves to the sun was one of them. The ‘bra-burning of the late 1960s was political in a way topless sunbathing or swimming was not, I think; but there was a sort of politics involved, after all – the determination that they should be free to wear, or not wear, what they wanted.
Strangely, today, to quote Wikipedia, ‘media reports in recent years note that the number of women sunbathing topless on French beaches has markedly declined, and that younger French women have become more disapproving of exposing breasts in public. Even in some parts of Europe generally considered to have a liberal attitude towards toplessness, such as Sweden, surveys show there is considerable resistance to its acceptance.’ So once determined they had the right to expose their breasts if they wanted, women have gone into reverse and are determined – as some have put it - ‘to keep their breasts for their boy-friends’. Fine, if that’s the real season; but fashion has always been strongly allied to changing social mores. Are we set for a return to Victorian values? (watch out for the return of the crinoline, ladies).
Just interested, that’s all.