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A contemporary report revealed that a “survey showed that some of the buyers are stocking it while others are snubbing it. Most police departments reported they would arrerst any woman wearing it in public.”

Few were brave enough to wear it outside the world of fashion photography. Certainly this example in black and brown stripes with a high waist and thin straps, made in 1967, was in excellent, unworn condition.The swimsuit was one of the more unusual items in a 515-lot sale of couture and textiles held by Doyle’s in New York on May 12.

It formed part of a collection of avant garde bathing apparel documenting the history of swimwear that had been assembled by the proprietors of Fashionette Swimsuit shops of Chicago, who specialised in supplying bathing costumes for contestants in all the major beauty pageants, as well as catering for more conventional customers.

Eight Gernreich topless swimsuits featured in Fashionette’s consignment and this example was one of two which sold for a double-estimate $1800 (£1160) each, plus 15 per cent premium. Prices for the others ranged from $1300-$1600 (£840-£1030).