Wonder Woman, my first-grade hero (then referred to by the feminine word heroine), first appeared in a strapless red top, clad in a knee-length blue skirt with white stars. The skirt swirled and revealed her legs above scarlet-colored western boots as she jumped into action in a 1942 comic book. Her long blue-black hair and wrist bands gave her a determined-woman look. Then I advanced from comics to movie star paper dolls. Cutouts of June Allyson, Doris Day, Ava Gardner, Susan Hayward, Audrey Hepburn, Debbie Reynolds, Jane Russell, and Elizabeth Taylor pushed Wonder Woman aside with dozens of fashionable wardrobe choices.
Enter Esther Williams. She donned a tight-fitting rubberized bathing cap that covered every strand of her long hair and drew the onlookers’ eyes to her smiling face above a one-piece swimsuit. Not only was she pretty, she could swim! I strutted around in my 29-cent replica cap and a dime store one-piece suit on my first pool visit—all 58 pounds of me—but nobody noticed.
A recent article from the Chicago Tribune mentions the Esther Williams swimsuit line that featured modesty. It mentions a previous interview when she is reported as saying, “I put you in a suit that contains you and you will swim in. I don’t want you to be in two Dixie cups and a fish line.”
Back in 1974, during the bikini craze, Cathy Crosby shunned the skimpy 1960s Wonder Woman costume in favor of a long, red top with sleeves of blue with white stars to the wrist over long pants.
Maybe countries that govern public beachwear should take a hint from Cathy’s choice and Esther’s swimwear line that allowed females liberty to wear more than “two Dixie cup and a fish line” regardless of ethnic origin, culture, or religion. Who knows? The burkini or other full cover-ups could be a medical breakthrough–an early deterrent to excessive sun exposure known to cause skin cancer.