Style

Mastectomy 'monokini' swimwear helps breast cancer survivors feel beautiful

May 27, 2014 at 3:33 PM ET

A new fashion project aims to challenge the expectations of beauty, and show that women who have lost their breasts can still feel beautiful.

An array of swimsuits that reveal the scars left behind by mastectomy surgery is getting a flurry of attention online.

The striking designs, called Monokini 2.0, were the brainchild of Elina Halttunen, a breast cancer survivor who struggled to find swimwear that suited her after having a breast removed 10 years ago.

“The only time a miss my left breast is on the beach and at the swimming pool,” Halttunen told TODAY.com.“I did not want to modify my body to fit the swimming suits, nor wear the uncomfortable prosthesis, so it occurred to me that a simple solution to my problem would be to modify the swimming suits to fit my body.”

Katja
Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
Breast cancer survivor Katja showed off one of the designs.

Halttunen made her own “monokini,” a sporty suit inspired by an orange peel in both color and fit. 

She reached out to Katriina Haikala and Vilma Metteri, a pair of Finnish artists who call themselves the Nutty Tarts ("ärähtäneet ämmät" in Finnish), because, she said she “thought that there might be others like me out there who needed monokinis too.”

“Nutty Tarts have been working with the questions of gender, sexuality and cultural norms through our art since year 2007,” Haikala told Today vie email. “We define ourselves as a feminist art duo who is not afraid of tackling difficult, almost taboo-like topics.”

Each article of clothing in the collection exposes one side of the chest.

Making of Monokini
Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
Making of Monokini

Ten models, all breast cancer survivors, wear the designs in photos that are being exhibited in Finland, Norway, Sweden, and online.

Photos on the project’s website, www.monokini2.com, have generated a viral response, which Halttunen said she welcomes.

“I'm a bit overwhelmed but happy,” Halttunen said. “We obviously hit a nerve. This is one of those obvious ideas of which everybody thinks, ‘How come nobody has done this before?’ It exposes some restrictive norms.”

She doesn’t take issue with critics who say the suit makes them uncomfortable, including commenters without a breast who say they wouldn’t wear the suit.

“That's totally okay,” Halttunen said. “People should wear what they want.”

Halttunen models her bold orange suit in the exhibition, displaying both her muscular midriff and the bare side of her chest where a breast no longer resides.

Virve Kupiainen modeled a monokini for the project.
Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
Virve Kupiainen modeled a monokini for the project.

A crowdfunding campaign will launch May 30, aiming to mass produce three of these swimsuits — Halttunen’s orange suit, a black and white one-piece by Tyra Therman, and a black suit sporting a pink tulip by Timo Rissanen.

The link to the Kickstarter campaign will then be available at the project’s website. Virve Kupiainen, who models Therman’s design, says on the website:

"It was an amazing experience to be part of a project as great as this. I hope my participation gives strength and courage to my sisters in [the] same situation. Living with one breast can be amazing!"

The Monokini team
Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
The Monokini team

The collection is called Monokini 2.0 in a nod to fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, who, in the '60s, created a swimsuit that exposed both breasts.

That design, like these, marked the changing culture and proposed new freedoms, just as Monokini 2.0 intends to do.

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