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French women bid topless sunbathing ‘adieu’

PARIS — France’s summer is fast becoming a memory, and so is one of its iconic beach sights: topless women.

As few as 2 percent of French women under age 35 now say they want to bare their breasts on the beach, according to an Elle magazine poll this summer. It’s a far cry from the once-ubiquitous scenes of semi-nudity on the French Riviera, epitomized by 1960s blond bombshell Brigitte Bardot.

‘‘It’s seen as vulgar. People are more prudish these days,’’ explains 60-year old Muriel Trazie, sunning herself on Paris Plages, the French capital’s summer beach.

Sandra Riahi, 22, in a bikini, chimed in: ‘‘I’ve never done it. I’d be too embarrassed.’’


In the 1960s, it took a country like France to make feminism sexy — and women did it by going topless on the beach. As some feminists put it: Men don’t have to wear bikini tops, so why should we?

The frisson of fun only increased when toplessness was denounced by the Vatican and condemned by the Spanish church.

When France stood up to a conservative backlash and refused to ban topless bathing in the 1970s, wearing the ‘‘monokini’’ — the bikini bottom without the top — became a symbol of Gallic pride.

But times change, and so do bathing suits.

Some link the demise of ‘‘le topless’’ to a simple change in French fashion styles — with a recent trend for full swimsuits.

Scholars point to the aging of Generation X in France and a step back to traditional values among the more conservative Millennial Generation.

And there’s now an official push to restrict topless sunbathing.

In Paris, an official sign shows a faceless bikini-clad beauty posing on a pedestal. ‘‘In parks and gardens, we don’t forget to wear the TOP and the bottom,’’ says the sign.