Sun’s out, bums out, like it or not
IT'S the cheeky new bikini trend slowly taking over Queensland beaches dividing opinion, sparking body image debates, prompting skin cancer warnings and scandalising parents.
Hate it or love it, summer 2018 is all about itsy bitsy bikinis smaller than singer Brian Hyland could have ever imagined when he first sung about yellow polka dot swimwear in the 1960s.
The high-cut, low-coverage bikini style made popular in the 1980s has returned to fashion faster than you can say derriere, and its popularity among celebrities and models is only fuelling the craze.
The skimpy cossies have been labelled immensely empowering by fashionistas but equally damaging by psychologists.
Leading Australian psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said the skimpy trend, especially when viewed online, could cause body image problems for girls as young as 10.
"I deal with teenagers and the level of body hatred in the girls that I see has never been higher, it is just astounding," Dr Carr-Gregg said.
"So to look at Instagram and Snapchat where they're seeing pictures of impossibly beautiful and presumably photo-shopped people wearing these (tiny bikinis), and it just increases their sense of inadequacy big time.
"Snapchat and Instagram have now become this giant digital colosseum in which people compete to have the most likes and show off the best body they possibly can, which is obviously contributing to eating disorders and diets as well."
Fashion designer Karina Irby, who owns Moana Bikini, said the tiny swimwear promoted healthy, real bodies.
"Who wears it depends on a girl's confidence, like with any swimwear, and the main thing we focus on with the brand is promoting all body shapes," she said.
"I'm quite pear shaped and I never used to wear the high-waisted bikinis, but once I saw girls with similar figures to mine rocking it I felt like I could.
"I'm an eczema sufferer and I'm also quite a curvy woman, so I do have lady lumps as we like to call them, and cellulite.
"When I post those things online we get great feedback from girls who see that and say 'you've got eczema and cellulite and you're rocking it so I'm going to rock it as well', and that for us is when we saw the spike in popularity."
Ms Irby said the revealing bikini trend had re-emerged over the past couple of summers but this year it was more popular than ever, with customers unable to get enough of the fashion.
"The reason I started Moana seven years ago was because at that time in Australia these bikinis weren't even a thing and they were kind of frowned upon, so I did a fair few trips to Hawaii and I noticed that's all they wore there," she said.
"Because I'm such a curvy woman, if I wear bigger full briefs they just don't look good on my bum, they really don't look good.
"I bought a lot of these (minimal coverage bikinis) before I started designing them and when I was wearing them in Australia everyone wanted to wear them.
"That's when I decided I wanted to design my own and everyone is doing small-cut bikinis now, it's all anyone wears."
Cancer Council Queensland urged swimmers to be sun safe regardless of what they were wearing. "Whether you wear a small bikini, one-piece, budgie smugglers or boardies, apply SPF30+ sunscreen every two hours, wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and slip on a protective shirt and seek shade as often as possible to protect your skin," a spokesman said.
"Sun damage is the main cause of skin cancer in Queensland, leading to more than 343,000 non-melanoma skin cancers being removed in the Sunshine State each year."
Surf Life Saving Queensland said lifeguards sometimes received complaints about inappropriate swimming attire, which usually related to women sunbathing topless.
"The beach is obviously a family-friendly environment and we want everyone to feel comfortable and enjoy it safely," a spokesman said.
"We encourage all swimmers to be mindful of their attire at the beach and wear clothing that is appropriate for both the environment and the conditions."