Michelle Lytle turned some heads at Hollywood Beach on Memorial Day this year.
“You would see people from far away do double takes and start walking towards her,” said Lytle’s fiancee, Robyn Graves, 30.
“People were taking photos and stuff like that,” Lytle said. “Everyone lit up when they saw it.”
Lytle, 28, was wearing the first prototype of her brainchild, the Tata Top: a string bikini top the color of her skin with pink nipples printed on it.
“The first couple times I [thought about] it, it was just funny. What if there was a bikini top and it was flesh-colored and it had nipples on it, so it looked like you were topless but you weren’t actually topless?” Lytle said. “So is this legal? It’s still legal. So what exactly are we trying to protect people from to begin with?”
As of Thursday, the Tata Top had sold all 700 of its original run at $28 apiece—and sparked a lot of conversation.
Some of the response has been positive, including support from breastfeeding advocates and women who have had mastectomies. Others have accused Graves and Lytle of distracting from bigger women’s rights issues. One comment, from an Internet user by the name of “Men Everywhere,” read simply “[Bleeping] sluts.”
“You can’t convince everyone,” Lytle said. “But the fact that there’s a discussion and debate going on, that is exciting and that is awesome, whether you never buy a Tata Top or not. People are thinking about it, people are aware of the issue.”
Lytle and Graves, who live in Andersonville, have pledged to give $5 to the Lynn Sage Foundation, a local breast cancer charity, for every Tata Top sold. Later on, they may give buyers the option of donating to Free the Nipple, a campaign that advocates for women’s right to publicly bare their chests.
Up next will be two darker shades of the Tata Top, along with an expanded range of sizes. After that, the Tata Top team hope to expand to one-pieces, tops with pierced nipples, tankinis, bottoms with printed pubic hair—and maybe even a men’s swimsuit, to benefit testicular cancer charities.Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.