Itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny

When in Seattle, do as Brazilians do

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  • Punchy colors and whimsical add-ons and monograms help Cristina Silva's Brazilian bikinis stand out on Seattle beaches.

    Brazilian bikinis

    John Granen

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For all shapes and ages
The Brazilian bikini bottom, to the uninitiated, is V-shaped (as opposed to U-shaped) and is not only low-cut but is several inches slimmer in back than your typical conservative American or English cut ― though nowhere near a mere thong. What's known as a European cut falls between the two styles. Silva specializes in Brazilian bikinis, made in Spain and Colombia as well as Brazil, but she also carries European and conservative cuts for the less bold. (Surprisingly, the less bold includes 20-somethings and teenagers, who tend to be more conservative than customers in their 30s and 40s, Silva says. "When it comes to swimsuits, [younger customers] like the boy shorts or the fuller cut.")

All of Tininha's swimsuits are high-quality Lycra, soft to the touch and designed to last. But the swimsuits from Brazil, where women of all shapes and ages practically live in bikinis year-round, are the ones where designers seem to have taken the most liberties. Think pink with chocolate tiger stripes, a halter top lavished with tiny buttons and embroidered flowers, geometric swirls in chartreuse and lavender, and a garden of red and orange posies on a field of neon green.

Silva is an accidental retailer ― and an accidental Seattleite. Born and raised in Recife, she had just completed a law degree there in 1991 when she married her husband, a Washington State native who'd spent a year in Brazil in high school. He was ready to stay in Recife, but she wanted to give Seattle a try. With an instant circle of friends and family and, now, the success of the shop, Silva loves the city and thinks that its conservative reputation and self-image ― where beachwear is concerned, anyway ― are undeserved.

"A lot of people in Seattle are very open-minded, they travel a lot, they've seen different stuff out there, they're willing to try new things," she says. "It's exciting."

Truth be told, she thinks most of her customers wear their bikinis on vacations to southern climes ― Mexico, Hawaii ― rather than on Seattle-area beaches. When you're the only one on the beach with a Brazilian-cut bottom, regardless of how good it looks, it can be a little disconcerting ― as disconcerting, say, as strolling Waikiki in your one-piece. For her part, Silva doesn't hesitate to wear a bikini at Madison Park Beach on rare summer afternoons away from the shop.

"And my bikinis are tiny."

Info: Tininha's Butique de Biquini (617 N. 35th St.; 206/985-6772)



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