Itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny

When in Seattle, do as Brazilians do

Cristina Silva

Cristina Silva's Tininha's started as an import shop, but the bikinis were such a hot item that she eventually made them her sole focus.

John Granen

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"Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking ..." But if she's in Seattle, she's probably wrapped in layers of fleece most of the year. Even at the beach in summer, she's likely in a swimsuit that covers more of that loveliness than is necessary, says Cristina Silva, Tininha to her friends. This girl from the beaches of Recife, on Brazil's sunny northeast coast, is having fun changing that, customer by customer, at her Fremont bikini boutique.

"Come on," she cajoles the hesitant, stepping back from the dressing room mirror in her pastel-colored shop filled with racks of unapologetically bright and tiny swimsuits. "You're going to the beach, life is short ― you look great!"

Think Brazilian bikinis are a hard sell in Seattle? Think again. Granted, Tininha's Butique de Biquini is a small store. But customer demand is what turned Silva's first venture, a small import shop she opened north of the University of Washington in 2001, into the all-bikini boutique she has today. It stocked handicrafts and bikinis, just for fun. But the bikinis were the draw. So she bought more swimwear, added cover-ups and other beach accessories, and moved to her current spot in Fremont 1½ years ago.

"I had a couple of people tell me, after I opened, 'Are you crazy? The store's really cute, but Seattle is not the best place for a bikini store,' " Silva says. "But every year I've done better and better." Her regulars tell her they can't find what they want in Seattle department stores; some used to shop for swimsuits on trips to San Francisco or Los Angeles or Miami before they discovered Tininha's.

"Even though the Brazilian styles are cut lower and show more, they're just so flattering," Silva says. "Some people are like, 'Oh, I never had a Brazilian bikini bottom before,' but they try it, they love it, and they don't go back to the full coverage."

 

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