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Wednesday, November 11, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Inflatable Bikini: Boom For The Bust

Keeping abreast of the latest swimwear trends can be quite uplifting.

Like the Top Secret inflatable bikini, recently unveiled by Hot Coles, the junior division of swimwear maker Cole of California. "FILL THE VOID," the ad shouts. "PUMP IT UP. LIVE LARGE. How you got it is TOP SECRET."

Why didn't they think of this sooner? It's safer than silicone. It doesn't cut into you like an underwire bra. Best of all, it doesn't get soggy like a regular padded bikini.

And it's not just a lot of hot air.

For the suggested retail price of $72, you too can enlarge your bustline a WHOLE CUP SIZE. For the not-so-well-endowed, inflation never sounded so good.

All you have to do is pump. There's a small air pump inside the bikini bra that connects to an inflatable plastic lining in the bra cups. You place the bikini bra on a flat surface and press the pump. It takes about 30 to 40 pumps to fully inflate it.

"It's a free-flowing air chamber," explains Leslie Lunniss, a Washington swimwear buyer.

Blame the aerodynamics on Madonna. "The bust influence is strong in swimwear," Lunniss said. "Like Madonna's influence with that bra."

Bursting with hope, Nordstrom featured two live models and a video of the Top Secret line at the Bellevue Square store last Saturday.

The videotape display featured a video by the group, Lords of Acid. The song's title? "I Must Increase My Bust."

"Do they float?" asked one customer.

Donna Walker of Yakima was more impressed. "They're like those pump-up tennis shoes," she said.

Lunniss said that Top Secret was also a safe alternative to breast implants.

"Wonderful," said Walker, who knows a few women who had to have their breast implants removed. "This is the best way to go."

"I don't like the idea of implants," agreed Jack Staples of Yakima. "A woman ought to feel comfortable. I'm not real concerned with breast size. But if this makes you feel better, then the better off you are."

"Implants are more noticeable because they don't move," said model Grace Goodson. "But these are less expensive and healthier."

"And they move," she added, demonstrating.

Not only do they bounce, but "they can stay inflated for up to 30 days," says Lunniss. And no, you can't use them as a life preserver.

The catch? According to the label, you must not puncture the bikini or put it in the dryer. And most important, "Do not wear in a pressurized environment (airplanes, scuba diving)."

"I wouldn't wear this in a hot tub," Lunniss said.

Debby Thielman, 32, of British Columbia, tried one on for fun. "I like myself the way I am."

"I don't swim," explained another customer who was too shy to give her name. "I'm going on a cruise and decided to give them a try. Maybe I'll get an extra glance."

Lunniss predicts Top Secret will hit the peak on the national market. Ballooning sales in California and Hawaii have caused the company to increase production from 400,000 to more than 1 million bikinis. Top Secret swimwear will be available nationwide by early March. Plans for the next season include an inflatable one-piece bathing suit and an inflatable bra.

Inspired by the chants of "I must . . . I must . . . I must increase my bust!" from the videotape, yours truly, who firmly believes that good things come in small packages, decided to take the plunge. I chose a black-and-white polka-dotted number.

I pumped the top at least 50 times before putting it on.

"It's like a push-up bra," I said, admiring my enhanced profile. "I think I can see some cleavage."

The bikini was surprisingly light and comfortable. My brand-new cleavage hid the pump. And it didn't look unnatural. I felt better already.

"You sure it only increases the size by one cup?" I asked hopefully.

"Well, it might be a little bit more than a cup size," Lunniss said.

This could be the start of a new growth industry. Or two.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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