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Brazilian Women On The Beach: Sexy and They Know It?

Last year my Brazilian friends and I took a trip to the beach with one of my friends from back home in tow. After an hour or so of sun bathing in the heat, she told me that she was going to take a dip in the sea to cool off. As soon as she’d walked out of ear-shot, my friend Carlos quickly sat up in his reclining chair, looked at me and asked me quite urgently; “why is your friend wearing an old woman’s bikini? On the beach?”
I looked at him like he was about to deliver his punch line. I mean, where else was she going to be wearing her bikini? But he was looking at me very attentively as if this was a perfectly reasonable question that demanded a perfectly reasonable answer. Perhaps sensing that I was at a bit of a loss for something to say, he continued. “Everyone is looking at her, you need to talk to her and tell her she needs to buy a new bikini, a smaller, Brazilian one”.Can you even imagine that conversation? “Look, I think we need to go shopping, it’s your bikini. It is offensively modest!”

Now I’m no expert on bikinis, but the one in question looked retro and nothing at all like I’d expect an old lady to wear. Yet admittedly, compared to the other Brazilian bikinis on the beach it had clearly been made with much more generous portions of fabric. As a keen runner my friend also had a toned body yet obviously just felt comfortable in what she was wearing.

My friend however, didn’t.

“This style is quite normal for English people”.

“Andrew, here is Brazil not England! Tell her to buy a new one!”

Another one of our friends (whose tight Lycra was accentuating his recent love of fast food) was listening in and was keen to confirm what Carlos was saying. “She should maybe buy a new bikini Andrew, you should tell her. Women don’t wear bikinis like this on the beach in Brazil”.

Only in Brazil would you be criticized for wearing too much by someone whose gut is spilling out over his speedos.

This incident made me wonder just why these tiny bikinis were worn by so many women here. I mean, aren’t they worried that their bikinis don’t tastefully conceal any lumps or bumps? Most women I know back home would never consider wearing a dental floss bikini, even if they’d spent months dieting or working out to feel comfortable in one on their summer holidays. 

“Why do women wear such small bikinis?” I asked my Brazilian friend not long after spending my first summer here. 

Her crumpled face betrayed the fact that she thought this question was pretty stupid; as if I’d just asked her to explain something obvious, like water.

“Well” she began with an air of toleration in her voice, “I wear mine because it’s practical; I know that when I wear it I’m going to get an even tan, it is going to be comfortable and also light to walk around in. Much lighter than I imagine those heavy board shorts foreign men like to wear”.

I was convinced that this response was a one off; I’d never heard of women wearing a bikini because they are ‘practical’ before. Believing I hadn’t got an answer that was reflective of what most Brazilian women thought, I then asked the same question to other female friends. And when they answered that they also found these small bikinis to be ‘practical’ I became suspicious; as if everyone had somehow collectively conspired to hide something from me. 
I just didn’t get it.

Weren’t women wearing them because they were inviting you to look at their bodies? I guess me wondering this said more about me as a Brit than it did the Brazilian beach culture. You see, in the UK outside of ‘lads mags’ or tabloids you don’t see women sporting such small bikinis (which admittedly is down to the less than tropical weather we get!). And perhaps because the women on the front cover of ‘lads mags’ exude an aura of sexual confidence, recently magazines have started to conceal these images and selling the magazines in ‘modesty bags’. 

These thin sheets of dark plastic ensure that images of the women wearing very little are kept hidden away from those who find these images offensive. 

There is after all, nothing modest or tasteful about a woman in a tiny bikini, right?
Well if you’re walking onto a beach in Brazil with this mindset, you might just find yourself asking why Brazilian women didn’t get this memo! Dental floss bikinis don’t seem to be nearly as sinister over here, as instead they seem to be staple beachwear.
Which I imagine is great if you’re a woman with a toned body, but as I mentioned before, far from it just being the attractive and toned women on the beach who demand your attention in these bikinis, it’s also larger women who do this too. In one of my earlier blog posts I mentioned how I’d seen an overweight woman in Rio sporting the tiniest of bikinis.

“She emerged from the sea, legs looking like bags of old meat and rolls upon rolls of skin over her bikini bottoms and I was absolutely mesmorised. She looked like she didn’t have a care in the world”

At the time I remember contemplating how I’d expected her to look. Embarrassed? Ashamed? Apologetic? Well she wasn’t at all. Looking back I’m pretty ashamed at myself for thinking this, she looked at ease with herself on that beach had every right to wear whatever she felt comfortable in. But I guess the one thing took me by surprise was that she wasn’t as self conscious as I’d have expect her to have been.

Nowadays I have come to respect and even admire that many women on the beach sporting the dental floss bikini have less than toned bodies. They seem to be free of the morbid insecurities that affect so many Brits. But it was for this reason I initially thought that people here just didn’t care what they looked like on the beach.

Well, I was wrong!

Larger women walking around like this don’t represent all Brazilian beach dwellers, as I discovered when discussing with a student how refreshing it was to see them wearing practically nothing. 

 “Andrew, fat people on the beach in tiny clothes belong to a certain class of people; the lower classes. Very overweight middle and upper class Brazilian women wouldn’t dream of going to the beach in a small bikini and walking around like this”.

Here we go again, I thought. Sometimes I feel like I could be forgiven for thinking the lower classes exist purely to rile the hell out of the middle and upper classes here.

“But what if YOU gained 20 pounds and your friends invited you to the beach?” I asked.
“Well, then I just wouldn’t go, or I’d cover up! But I care about what I look like, me and my friends like to look good on the beach so we work out when we can. We do our best to never gain weight in the first place”.
Then I became incredibly confused. What I was hoping to do was identify was one homogeneous Brazilian beach culture, but the deeper I dug, the more I realised it was more complicated than this.
But what I do know to be true is this; whilst some in the UK might be too conscious to dress in a way that their Brazilian counterparts would dare to, the way most Brazilian women embrace the dental floss bikini isn’t a reflection of how ‘hot’ they think they are. Admittedly there will be some women who will runway-walk down the beach in their bikinis like nobody’s business, showing the world what their mama’s gave them. But are all Brazilian women in their bikinis like this? 


Despite what it might look like to the untrained, unaccustomed foreign eye; Brazilian bikini wearers are certainly not ALL wearing them because they are sexy and they know it! 

What do you think about the beach attire on the beaches in Brazil?

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Comments (11)

  1. wow, your friend sounds kinda like an asshole. It’s funny how foreigners get criticized for “generalizing” everything by saying “Brazilians do this, or BRAZILIANS” do that. But here he is, a Brazilian, using the same generalization. And it’s just not true. Going to the beach is not about whether or not people are looking at you on the –who cares. It’s about having a good time. You are NOT going to have a good time if you are self conscious about yourself. It is up to you and only you to decide what you are comfortable in whether it’s nude, full suit, thong bikini or half way in between. Most people people know this. I don’t have thong bikinis. I am never told i am shaming the beach for wearing them and i do go to the beach with brazilians. In fact, i see a lot of other women wearing similar models –in the middle between conservative and naked. I don’t wear an American bikini–i wear one i bought HERE made HERE. They make them, so people must buy them. Your friend is just plain rude. It’s not about culture–you shouldn’t pressure someone to do anything that makes them uncomfortable. And the same goes for men–there are many Brazilian men who arent comfortable wearing speedos so they wear shorts. Nothing wrong with that. You do what makes you feel comfortable so you can relax and have a good time. BAH!

    - Reply
    • You are right, my friend is totally rude! But the fact he has no inner filter makes me question if he is just being an ass hole when he says things like this, or saying what other Brazilians are actually thinking!

      You’re right though, you should wear what you feel comfortable in…but in my case, when that isn’t a pair of sunga like most other guys on the beach, this has actually made me feel more self conscious! And I’m going to test out sunga this summer, so I’ll let you know if there is is going to end up being a Catch 22!

      And yes, I hear A LOT of generalisations from Brazilians about Brits, just yesterday I overheard my friend tell his friends that most Brits have Minis. When I asked where this assumption had come from, I was told…Mr Bean!!! Ha ha!

      Have a good trip back in the states Mrs, and I’ll see you guys when you get back!

      - Reply
  2. hahahaha – so funny because i was at the beach yesterday and mentioned how i love the bigger women wearing tiny bikinis! shows they have confidence and don’t give a shit – which is what the beach should be about

    regarding practicality – contrary to popular belief – a “brazilian bikini” isn’t a thong per se – it’s more traditionally one that just has a smaller cut on the back! and these do tend to be more comfortable bc since they’re more snug; they don’t sag (which means you don’t get sand in them) and since they fit better – less wedgies and literally avoid the half ass tans!! that’s why i wear the brazilian ones! plus – my bum looks better in it ;-)

    - Reply
    • “Literally avoid the half ass tans!” Ha ha! Cheers for commenting Poly, I’m discovering new things about Brazilian beach culture with the comments on these blogs (and also discovering things about your ass too!!!)

      - Reply
  3. I’m a Brazilian expat (from Rio) living in the US so I think I can explain the phenomenon. Most Brazilian people are very concerned with what others might think of them in terms of their appearance and clothing. Bathing suit fashion is taken seriously by both sexes. Whatever is dictated as the “right thing to wear” will be what most people will be wearing on the beach. Up until the 1970′s the bikinis were NOT tiny. Only in the 80′s there was a “dental floss” trend that thankfully didn’t last long, but from then on the bikini sizes stayed much smaller than what you’ll see anywhere else in the world. However, hipsters and artistic types don’t always follow those rules and starting in the 00′s you could see retro bikinis and one-piece suits worn by young women in Ipanema. Many guys who are not cool enough to “get” this (like those who talked to you at the beginning of your post) might not like it, but intelligent Brazilian men will appreciate a girl who doesn’t conform with what everyone else is wearing. In any case, even the modest styles sold at Brazilian bikini stores have a better fit on your butt than anywhere else in the world. Bikinis bought in the US and Europe either leaves loose fabric or flattens your behind. So I highly recommend that your British friend buys a Brazilian bikini if she can find one that doesn’t show too much.

    - Reply
    • Hey Leila, every time I write a post I hope someone like yourself will come along and write a comment as informative as this! Thanks for taking the time to write this. You’ve mentioned a few things that I hadn’t really considered before, like the bikini through the decades.

      And the idea of a bikini that isn’t baggy round the butt seems quite practical too, and not just an excuse to show it off. I will tell my friend…maybe me and her could go Brazilian swimwear shopping together!

      - Reply
    • I totally agree with Leila!
      I’m overweight (really overweight, not those 60kg girls that think they are fat) and I hate when I try to buy a bikini and everything is tiny, even the “plus size” bikinis. They are just bigger but the shape is the same. I feel much more comfortable in a bikini that fits me well than in that women wear on the beach, with that big belly covering the bikini! I honestly prefer to be out of fashion than ugly. And…. I would never stop myself from going to the beach because of my weight! :)

      - Reply
  4. The very weird thing for me is that you keep writing about beach outfits and here (in Germany) is basically about to snow :D

    Anyway, Germans would never wear speedos or tiny bikinis, but they get naked, like, everywhere they can.

    - Reply
    • I know what you mean, over here it is summer and it’s so strange walking into a shop when you’re hot, covered in sweat and hearing Christmas music!

      And good for the Germans getting naked (I wonder if them getting naked in German supermarkets would make your experiences there more enjoyable!), Brits rarely take off their clothes in public OR wear skimpy beach clothes!

      Enjoy the snow!

      - Reply

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