It started with a trip to Lake Michigan. Two Dutch women visiting the beach were scolded after swimming topless; the lifeguard told them they had to cover up in America, despite the fact that he wasn’t wearing a shirt himself. After hearing the story, two Chicago entrepreneurs with a sense of humor decided to call attention to the double standard. The TaTa Top was born.
The bikini top has two realistic-looking nipples drawn on the front, so women give the impression of being topless at a beach or by a pool without breaking rules in the states and cities where that is illegal.
“It really calls to attention what is being legislated,” writes Michelle Lytle, one of the two women who created the top. “Who is this law protecting and what are they protecting them from? What message does it send to young women about their bodies? That they should be ashamed and keep them covered?”
Though changing cultural norms will obviously take some time, the designers say they’ve already seen some glimpses of progress since launching the bikini in late May–perhaps also thanks to the ongoing #FreeTheNipple campaign, which has attracted celebrity supporters such as Rihanna and Cara Delevingne.
“There has been some progress on social media,” says Robyn Graves, Lytle’s partner. “At first, Facebook and Instagram were flagging our photos and removing them. It was a bit ridiculous since these are essentially ‘cartoon’ nipples . . . there’s no nudity.”
A portion of each $28 sale goes to support a breast cancer research foundation, and the designers plan to support other charities as sales continue to roll in. “Our goal has always been to use humor to shed light on some serious issues while also raising some money for cancer research and women’s issues,” Graves says.
The next production run will include more sizes and darker skin tones, so as many women as possible can don a top if they want. Eventually, the designers hope that people will become desensitized to seeing occasional nipples in public.
“If society can get used to the idea of seeing nipples then possibly society will look at women differently,” says Graves. “Maybe women will be able to breastfeed in public without unwanted attention. We aren’t fighting for the right for women to walk around topless constantly–we are fighting for the same rights men have when it comes to their nipples.”