Striking Bathing Suits Empower Breast Cancer Survivors With Style


Bathing suit season is often accompanied by a host of personal insecurities.

Society conditions people to believe our bodies should look a certain way when shrouded in skimpy pieces of spandex. For women who have had mastectomies, the idea of presenting their bodies in public is not only challenging because of public perception. It is also frought with the practical challenge of finding a swimsuit that fits their bodies.

Enter Monokini 2.0, a design project geared at making women "feel as free and active" as they did before cancer. The project, which will be on display at the Finnish Museum until the beginning of September, was inspired by breast cancer survivor Elina Halttunen. She designed her swimsuit and collaborated with nine others including Katriina Haikala and Vilma Metteri, the Helsinki-based duo known as Nutty Tarts.

"I do not want to hide, I do not want to stop swimming, I do not want to undergo extensive plastic surgery operations and I do not want to be forced to use the uncomfortable prosthesis on the beach," Haltunnen said according to the Daily Mail Online. "I want to feel as free and active as I did before my cancer, and Monokini 2.0 gives me a chance to do exactly that."

Image Credit: Monokini 2.0 Facebook

Image Credit: Divaani Blog

"Who says you need two?" is the tag line of the project, which is a collection of 10 fierce, beautiful women who have all had mastectomies. In their photos, these women show there is no reason to be afraid or ashamed. Glowing in suits that meld the pinup glory of the 1950s with the glam rock 1980s, these women exude confidence and strength.

Photographs of the project have gone viral on the Internet, so much so that the Monokini 2.0 website crashed over the weekend. The skyrocketing global interest led Halttunen to answer questions on Reddit about the project and the possibility of producing at least three of these designs for public consumption through a crowdfunding campaign.

On the forum, Halttunen candidly discussed her feelings following her mastectomy as she was neither interested in reconstructive surgery, nor in getting an "uncomfortable prothesis."

Halttunen wanted to "design a suit to fit my body, rather than modify my body to fit the suit," she continued. "I contacted the art duo Nutty Tarts, they saw the relevance of my problem immediately, and magic started to happen. They mobilized a whole community and built a project around the idea."

Image Credit: Monokini 2.0 Facebook

Image Credit: Monokini 2.0 Facebook

Perhaps one of the reasons the suit has received such an overwhelming reception is because it reflects such a common experience. Nearly 1.7 million new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in 2012, according to the World Cancer Research Fund, and millions of the women diagnosed survived. "Mastectomy (breast removal) is one of the most common treatments," Halttunen noted. "Not all women choose to reconstruct; some can't, others won't. Interestingly, the rate of reconstruction varies greatly between countries."

The suits are functional, but are much more than a design quirk. By accentuating the femininity of these women's bodies by the framing of the mastectomy scar, Halttunen and the Nutty Tarts celebrate the beauty of breast cancer survival. Indeed, the framing of the scar depicts the opposite of shame; it conveys a warrior-like pride at having survived a devastating disease while shattering the illusion of a "normal" female body. 

Image Credit: Monokini 2.0 Facebook