• Fri, Apr 1 2011

The Editors Debate: Sunsuits

Herve Leger sunsuit, $1,050, Net-a-Porter.com

Jennifer:  At first I thought, God, arguing in favor of sunsuits, what an incredibly difficult position this is to take. Because, after all, sunsuits are anything but practical. They’re incredibly expensive swimsuits that cannot get wet. But then I began to think about the nature of fashion, and I think you’d agree that it’s never supposed to be about mere practicality. Oh, sure some clothes are. But not fashion. Fashion is about beauty.  I think we could quote Ruskin here, who said “remember, the most beautiful things are the most useless – peacocks and lilies, for example.” To dismiss sunsuits simply for not being practical means dismissing everything from feathered hats to gold buttons. It means advocating sackcloth over silk. It defies the very nature of what fashion means. Because fashion is a celebration not only of beauty, but also fantasy and you have to concede that a particular Alexis Carrington fantasy accompanies a sunsuit, and that is remarkable.

Ashley:  Was there ever a moment when you realized you were dead inside, or was it a slower, more gradual thing?

Jennifer:  My insides are filled with jewels and, frankly, a lot of illicit prescription drugs. And my outside is clothed in a $1,050 sunsuit.

Ashley:  Let’s just set aside this whole argument for a moment and say that, while swimsuits promote swimming, sunsuits promote sunbathing, which in turn promotes cancer. Sunsuits are metaphors for you getting cancer.

Jennifer:  You smoke.

Ashley: Fuck.

Jennifer: Just as some people smoke, some people are going to lie by the pool. They might as well look fabulous doing it. It’s not as though the act of being wet kills the cancer.

Ashley:  You can swim inside.  But anyway, fine, sunsuits promote sunspots.

Jennifer:  You could wear a sunsuit for anything. Stop being small minded. I wore one to the grocery store last week, just to be cool. Kind of gave the cashier a little thrill.

Ashley:  That’s worse than smoking.

Jennifer:  I don’t think body snark is appropriate, Ashley.

Ashley:  I’m sorry. It’s the patriarchy inside of me. It makes things very complicated. But sunsuits are stupid. They are swimsuits you cannot get wet.

Jennifer:  Compared to what? Opera length gloves? Gold buttons? Translucent tops? There are a myriad of useless things in fashion. If you want to argue that fashion itself is stupid, that’s an argument you can make. The communists made that real well. But I think it would be surprising, coming from you.

Ashley:  All of those things serve a purpose, Jennifer. Opera length gloves for keeping your delicate, well educated fingers and forearms warm. Gold buttons for holding your… sailor costume…. closed. Translucent tops for getting out of speeding tickets.

Jennifer: Sunsuits are for lazing. Lazing is the best.

Ashley: Hm. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

Jennifer: …And using up your disaffected billionaire husband’s excess funds. DYNASTY.

Ashley:  Okay. Fashion isn’t stupid in and of itself. It does stupid things and is often absurd. Like when it makes $900 bathing suits that can’t get wet, which they put on 15 year old eastern European girls to sell to 40 year old Stepford wives, to pair with $1000 heels.

Jennifer:  Right

Ashley:  I’m not going to say this is necessarily offensive, but it is ridiculous.

Jennifer:  Why? It’s not harming anyone. It’s fun. And I honestly hate swimming at the beach. But don’t hate the idea of hanging out in a real cool sunsuit.

Ashley:  Oh, no, if you want to argue about how gross the ocean is, look elsewhere because I am in complete agreement there. Okay. Maybe sunsuits are just another byproduct of fashion’s complete disregard for practicality, or for fashion’s ease with parting foolish wealthy people with their money. But they are not like, ball gowns, say, which serve no technical purpose but are appropriate to specific occasions or tiny hats, which have no function but exist for the same reason. They are swimsuits you cannot swim in.

Jennifer:  I’m confused about how “lounging poolside in a really cool outfit” isn’t a function… but from now on, I’ll be hosting sunsuit parties. Look, a lot of those useless female garments have a purpose we don’t like to talk about: they’re to attract men or intimidate other women. They’re to ensure that we pass on our genes by flaunting magnificent plumage.

Ashley:  Still thinking about Ruskin, I see. I can’t argue that fashion doesn’t get useless. I can argue that if I saw someone in a sunsuit while I was wearing a bathing suit, I’d toss back my head and laugh, run past with much insouciance, and then, I would swim! Because swimming represents freedom. Your sunsuit is a prison that shackles you to dry land. Moreover, Waterworld is awesome. Do you remember how no one is wearing a sunsuit in Waterworld? It’s because they all died.

Jennifer:  The woman with a sunsuit knows she doesn’t like to swim. She appreciates languor, indolence. She may die– yes, in your nightmarish water world, she may die–but that’s because she was always too beautiful for that world.

Ashley:  If you can die from being too beautiful in Waterworld, then why does Kevin Costner live?

Jennifer:  I believe it is because he was a mutant with gills.

Ashley:  DAMN YOUR EYES

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  • Maris

    If you can afford a sunsuit, you can afford to get said sunsuit wet and buy a new sunsuit. End of debate!

  • anna

    “Translucent tops for getting out of speeding tickets.”
    YES

  • http://bigapplepants.com sarahnoid

    Can we three go out and get drunk together? Please? I’ll buy.

    • Ashley Cardiff

      I think I speak for both of us when I say we will never, ever turn down a drink.

  • crackerjackie

    I could see the appeal of a sunsuit for people who regularly tan or who still go to the beach but don’t swim. I however, don’t see the appeal of buying one that costs the same amount as my rent. The fact that this particular suit reminds me of those bizarre belly-baring prom dresses girls were obsessed with wearing in high school isn’t helping either.

  • Eileen

    But why not just buy a swimsuit that looks the same and costs less?

    Although I will admit I’m opposed to a culture that promotes “tanning” as an acceptable thing to do with your time, or even a desirable thing to do. Not that I think tanned skin isn’t pretty – but so is fair skin, freckled skin, any kind of healthy, clear skin. Sunsuits are a part of that culture. And I don’t smoke, so I’m allowed to say that.

  • Elizabeth

    if sunsuits are designed for lounging poolside, then they’re also designed for looking absolutely ridiculous once you have tanlines.

  • David

    I don’t know how anyone but the lady wearing said sunsuit could possibly know that it’s a sunsuit. THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT AMAZING. It’s your private sin against all the gods of reason and sanity. If I were to somehow find out that a lady was wearing such a thing I would surely send her over the least palatable, most beautiful, most alcoholic drink the bartender could concoct.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Dear David,

      I am available for marriage, will wear a sunsuit to the wedding.

  • Serena

    that is SO cool you quoted Ruskin, though I don’t think he’d like the idea of sunsuits because they’re so expensive. He could have owned one himself, for all I know, and sipped on a lychee-tini poolside, for all I know.

  • Terri

    I’m so confused. If it can’t get wet, how is it listed as machine washable over on net-a-porter?

    • Ashley Cardiff

      The crafty powers that be over at N-a-P have revised the description since all the outrage. It used to say “To get the best from your Herve Leger beachwear, we advise you do not wear it in water.”