Designer for Hire

Home is where the balance is

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We take a peek inside the home of interior and landscape designer Kathryn Prideaux, whose house balances family life and a modern/mid-century aesthetic. Plus, tips on how to get the look. Story and photos by Rachel Miller


The carrara marble table was a steal at $275

They adorn the pages of décor magazines, those beautiful houses with sleek sophisticated lines and nary a hint of clutter, the young children or even the family that supposedly lives in them.

Dwell and the like might be the fantasy décor porn for the parents of small children whose reality is tripping over school backpacks and LEGOs, but is the simple beauty from these magazine pages realistic for most of us with children? Or maintainable?

Before admitting defeat and sacrificing the Noguchi coffee table to the rampages of toddlers or teens, consider the home of interior and landscape designer Kathryn Prideaux, husband Ryan and daughters Minda and Eva. It is not the austere, almost stark beauty of a magazine home; rather, Kathryn and Ryan have created something simple, beautiful and functional. This home is a reflection of the owners’ bustling life: bean bags for kids to lounge on, deep sofas for snuggling, sleek cabinets for storage that grace, rather than dominate, a room, and subtle earth tones in the paint and accessories bringing it all together.


An Eames surfboard table and IKEA storage in the living room

Kathryn, owner of Prideaux Design in Tucson, has a love for those looks in magazine pages. But she has found balance. She highlights the family’s passions in a mixture of new, vintage and found materials, from the quilts sewn by youngest daughter Minda to a Japanese doll from Kathryn’s childhood.

About the home: The 2200 square foot home in northwest Tucson was built in 2014. Kathryn and her family are the second owners, moving in in the Fall of 2014.

squeeze, splash, pop of color to living room

A pop of color in the living room

Describe your style: Says Kathryn: “I would say my style is a blend of mid-century modern, modern and rustic modern. I am definitely minimal in my aesthetic, but I like a home to be warm and inviting. Several of my friends have described our home as ‘comfy’. I think that is a compliment, especially when I decorate in such a modern way. I love clean lines and simple décor, but I don’t think a home should be sterile or institutional. A home should highlight the things you love, the places you have been, and the memories that mean something to you.”

Your fave thing about your home: “My favorite part of the house is the location! After living so far north west of town we are so happy to be in such a convenient location [near Oracle and Magee]. We can even walk to stores and restaurants. I love the lighting in this home. I really appreciated what the previous owners put into it. We were so lucky to find a home with amazing fixtures by Tech Lighting and lots of wonderful 4” can lights on dimmers, accent lights and sconces. People just don’t pay enough attention to lighting in a home. It is so important. The previous owners also upgraded all the switches to [motion sensor and dimmer switches from] Legrand and I am a complete convert. So spoiled by these  switches. Who knew what an awesome luxury a beautiful switch plate could be?”

Biggest splurge: “A nine-foot sofa by Restoration Hardware. I love the size of it. It has deep and comfy cushions with down overfill. This is where my two daughters and I curl up to watch movies. It is completely slip-covered and washable, so it is family-friendly.”

Can you make out what the painting says?

Best bargain: “That is hard to choose. I love a good bargain! I would say our marble dining room table is the best bargain though. I found it at Homestyle Galleries consignment shop for $275 and it’s carrara marble. It has a bit of an 80’s form and style, but I am just fine with that. I think the 80’s are finding their way back in home decor. Oh boy!”

My DIY moment: “We installed all of the wall units in the main living room – the wall hanging buffet and TV media cabinets. They are all from the IKEA Besta system. I LOVE their new door color, Creme, which is a very warm grey color.

Favorite resources: “Estate sales are the best. I have found so many beautiful and unique pieces at amazing estate sales, like the large art piece in our entryway. Jerry Schuster, of AZ Modern in Tucson [where Kathryn bought her Eames surfboard table] is an excellent resource. I also love to go up to Phoenix and hit the MCM shops like Modern Manor (end tables in living room). I do a lot of online shopping. Etsy is incredible for handmade pieces (the wood and cable shelving system in entry, the walnut floating shelves on the TV wall). I shop Craigslist and eBay too (tulip side tables, brass urchin poms on TV wall). I just got back from [home show] Las Vegas Market and found so many great trade resources for furniture and accessories.”

Tucson treasures: “I absolutely loved the market at Mercado San Agustin over the holidays. There were so many great local vendors and artists. I also love the Metal Arts Village where I had my studio for so many years. There are some really talented artists there. Tucson is a very exciting place to be these days. There are so many designers and artists and architects that are doing incredible work.”

*Take-away lesson: Our take away from Kathryn’s home is to rethink your storage spaces. Practical but beautiful storage options can be subtle rather than dominating a room, while storing all that stuff that many of us tend to accumulate. We particularly loved the use of the IKEA Besta system in the living room. We also loved the lighting choices in this home and the hint of 80’s retro in the lighting fixtures. Some reminded us of the entryway light fixture in Paula and Clif Taylor’s home. Smoky lamps are apparently on their way back!

* Find Prideaux Design at


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Are you digging these digs? Get the look locally

  • You can peruse Jerry Schuster’s AZ Modern Tucson site for pieces like Kathryn’s Eames surfboard coffee table.
  • Tucson has a whole host of talented artists. Catherine Eyde, one of Eva’s favorites, has prints and originals available across town.
  • Kathryn and her daughters like to thrift shop for mid-century modern accessories and ornaments. Take your children with you to Tucson’s thrift stores to choose items you all will love.

And try these lookalikes we found (contains Amazon Affiliates):


From left to right: Ikea Besta system, cabinets start at $50 at Ikea; Alina Pendant lights $453.60 from Tech Lighting at Amazon ; Legrand light switches $49.98 on AmazonBelgian Track Arm Sofa from $1995 from Restoration Hardware 



Eat, drink & be retro

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In Tucson, there are plenty of food and drink establishments that remain relatively unchanged since the 50’s and 60’s. Let 3 Story and Tucson Foodie be your guides. By Adam Lehrman and Gillian Drummond.

Photo by Kevin Breutzmann

Photo by Kevin Breutzmann

As Tucsonans and many out-of-towners gather for the third annual Tucson Modernism Week, we thought it was high time we directed all of you to mid-century places to eat and imbibe. And we don’t mean ’50s and ’60s style eateries and bars, with their try-too-hard checkerboard patterns and uber accessorizing. We’re talking the real deal: places that have remained relatively unchanged since the middle of last century. The neon signs. The retro fixtures. The kitsch and ephemera. The atmosphere. And, most of all, the reputation for good food and cocktails. All of these things keep people coming back.

The Shelter. Photo courtesy of The Shelter.

The Shelter. Photo courtesy of The Shelter.

Asked what makes a restaurant still popular close to six decades on, Michael Elefante, co-owner of Mama Louisa’s on South Craycroft, says simply: “Consistency.” Mama Louisa’s still gets visits from its original customers, some of whom are turning 90. Having one foot in the past and another in the future is a conundrum, though. Michael’s family has owned the restaurant since 1973, and Michael recently became joint owner along with his brother Joey and friend Michael Press. (Until recently the two Michaels worked together as chefs at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain.) They have plans for a new menu (fresh mozzarella and Margarita pizza are on their way) and they’re gently tweaking the interior. But Michael Elefante knows he can’t change things up too much. “I call her a fisherman,” he says of the restaurant he grew up in, washing dishes at the age of eight. “She reels us in. You start going too far out and she reels us in and reminds us of where we are.” Here, in no particular order, are the ones that reel us customers in:

1. Mama Louisa’s, 2041 S. Craycroft Rd

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

The style: Your baritone-voiced, chain-smoking Italian grandmother’s restaurant (although she quit smoking years ago.) It’s checked tablecloths, hand painted mural walls of Italy’s shore, formica, and vinyl.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Michael Press, left, and Michael Elefante, the new chef-owners of Mama Louisa’s. Photo by Gillian Drummond

The story: Opened in 1956 on south Craycroft when it was still a young dirt road, Mama Louisa’s has been in the Elefante family since 1973. In August it came under the joint ownership of brothers Joey and Michael Elefante and friend Michael Press. All of the murals on the walls are the original paintings from artist Jose de la Flora, save for one added in the 1970s by artist Paul Sheldon. All pasta is made fresh daily. Expect new dishes and decor tweaks soon. Don’t miss: Joe’s Special. Hands down. Whatever you end up with at Mama Louisa’s, make sure it includes Joe’s Special – linguine with hot pepper seeds, garlic and sauce – in some way, shape, or form.

2. The Shelter, 4155 E. Grant Rd

Photo by Kevin Breutzmann

Photo by Kevin Breutzmann

Photo courtesy of The Shelter

Photo courtesy of The Shelter

The style: Cold-war era 1960s retro lounge. Think Austin Powers meets Hanna Barbera. Kitsch-filled from floor to ceiling with expertly curated Elvis and JFK memorabilia, lava lamps, velvet, and lavish lighting. If you’re lucky, the original Flash Gordon will be playing on the tele. The story: Though the rumors abound regarding The Shelter’s history as a 60’s era fallout shelter, the joint was originally built in 1961 by one of Arizona’s first female architects, Ruby Wren. Interesting enough, Wren’s grandson will open a brewery in downtown Tucson named Pueblo Vida. Don’t miss: Martini, White Russian, or Bloody Mary. Ideally, not in a row.

3. Mi Nidito, 1813 S 4th Ave

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

The style: Vivid. Very. There’s no subtlety here. It’s shameless south-of-the-border kitsch with no prizes for sleek MCM-ness. But talk to any of the patrons and they’ll tell you they come not for decor, but great Mexican food. The lines are out the door at peak times, when you can expect a wait of an hour or even two. The story: Ernesto and Alicia Lopez opened the restaurant in 1952 and named it Mi Nidito (“my little nest”) because of its small size. Additions and remodels have increased the number of tables since (it’s hard to think that what serves as a waiting area now was once the kitchen), but the atmosphere remains the same. Ownership has passed on to the Lopezes’ son Ernesto, his wife Yolanda and their son Jimmy Lopez.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Don’t miss: The most popular dishes are the President’s Plate (the spread Bill Clinton had when he came here in ’99), Birria (shredded beef) and Carne Seca. The latter is made with beef that’s hung to dry for four-and-a-half days, then deep fried, boiled and finally mixed with green peppers, crushed tomatoes, cilantro and green onions. We say anything that’s labored over that much is worth it.

4. Lucky Wishbone, 4701 E. Broadway Blvd 85711

Photo by fotovitamina

Photo by fotovitamina

The style: (Was) 1950s drive-in restaurant-meets-diner, sans the drive-in. Sadly, the historic, iconic neon starburst sign is the only remnant of the original location. The sign was almost lost during the recent rebuild.

Photo courtesy of Mark Morris

Lucky Wishbone’s Campbell location in 1956. Photo courtesy of Mark Morris.

The story: Opened in 1953 by Derald Fulton as an “easier-to-run” eatery, the original Lucky Wishbone opened at 4872 South Sixth at Irvington. Immediate success lent itself to opening more locations – including the one on Broadway  in 1954. Clyde Buzzard was made its managing partner. To this day, he still manages the restaurant and is the only surviving partner. Don’t miss: It’s hard to go wrong with anything at this fried-everything utopia. Standouts include Gizzards or Livers, Steak Fingers, Fried Chicken, and the Double Cheeseburger on Garlic Toast.

5. Kon Tiki, 4625 E. Broadway

Photo courtesy of Kon Tiki

Photo courtesy of Kon Tiki

The style: ’60s tiki/exotica. The bamboo, the masks, the flaming torches at the door: it’s all unchanged since this place opened in 1963 and is a tikiphile’s dream.

Photo courtesy of Kon Tiki

Photo courtesy of Kon Tiki

The story: Dean Short opened it in 1963 after being inspired by tiki bars on a visit to California. It changed hands twice more, and current owner Paul Christopher practically cut his teeth on tiki. He started working there as a dishwasher and busboy at 15 and worked his way up. The place has served the likes of Lee Marvin, Robert Wagner and Robert Mitchum.

Don’t miss: There’s an extensive food menu, and the Polynesian BBQ Ribs are a favorite. But let’s be honest: people come for the pack-a-punch cocktails. The Scorpion Bowl for two ($14), is a big, boozy, secret blend of rums, gin, brandy and liqueurs, ingested through long straws.

6. Pat’s Drive-In, 1202 W. Niagara Street


Photo by fotovitamina

The style: Vintage roadside Americana. From the neon sign to the simple functionality to the barber-shop-style  red and white stripes of tile out front, it’s humbly authentic – unlike so many modern places these days that are decked out to look like a ’50s diner. The story: Henry ‘Pat’ Patterson launched his chili-dogs-and-fries concept in the 1950s, expanded, then downsized. This last remaining Pat’s, just south of Speedway Blvd, has been around since 1962. In 1969, long-time employee Charlie Hernandez took over the business but kept Pat’s name. Charlie carried on Pat’s tradition of simple, inexpensive food: burgers, chili dogs, chicken, shrimp and fish. Don’t miss: It’s known for its chili dogs (choose the spicy version for an extra kick). Just before Pat passed away in 1999, he’s said to have turned to his wife and asked for a chili dog from Pat’s.  But even the staff prefer the Big Pat burger. Also try the shoe-string fries, hand-cut. Just remember to bring cash, because they charge extra for debit cards, and don’t accept credit.  

And lastly…

Chaffin’s Diner, 902 E. Broadway Blvd.

Photo by Vargas???

Photo by Gerardine Vargas

There was debate among 3 Story staff and contributors about whether or not to include Chaffin’s in this article. Some refuse to patronize the place because of stories surrounding its owner. Others just don’t think the food in this greasy spoon is even worth a mention. But, politics and iffy dishes aside, the place scores high for its looks. This is a real deal American diner, born in 1964.

* Tucson Modernism Week takes place October 2-10 in venues around Tucson. For tickets and a schedule, visit or pick up this free Tucson Modernism Week Collector’s Guide, at locations in and around Tucson.

Compost without the ick factor

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Yeah, we know it’s good for the planet. But what the glossy mags and blog posts don’t tell you is that composting has its very dirty downside: bugs and vermin. Here, gardening columnist Darbi Davis lifts the lid (ouch) on composting without the icky live audience. You’re welcome.


Photo by Darbi Davis

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Recently, while on a job site discussing solutions to creative clothesline design, I found myself witness to a sci-fi-like battle between two native whiptail lizards over a gnarly, partially deceased cockroach. The fierce battle took place among the carrots and the kale and then abruptly paused. It seemed as though surrender was imminent – until the opponent re-emerged from the nearby compost with its own trophy, another writhing roach.

The business meeting was clearly disrupted by the fight but eagerly cheered on by the homeowner, who casually lauded the lizards with, “You go! You get ‘em!”

Later, mice were discovered in the same compost pile. It was a fine example of a multitude of personalities mastering the art of co-housing.

Photo by Julie Ragland Tucson

Photo by Julie Ragland

The whole episode not only made me think about my new neighbors’ plans to compost within 10 feet from the side door to my kitchen, it also made me ponder traditional composting methods – specifically the toss-in-a-pile or bin, and wait for it to bake.

There’s no doubt about the environmental upsides to composting. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2013 recycling and composting kept prevented 87.2 million tons of material out of landfills, compared to 15 million tons in 1980. The amount of carbon dioxide eliminated was equal to taking over 39 million cars off the road for a year.

But how do you compost, particularly within a town or city, and avoid urban pests? First, learn how to properly manage traditional compost piles. There’s more to it than dropping the New York Times filled with coffee grounds and apple peels onto the ground or into a bin. There’s a balance that involves temperature, moisture and movement. Regardless of your geographic location, without the equilibrium the result is a stinky, pest-infested, rotten mess that likely won’t be going into a garden nearby.

Here, then, are our tips for composting without the icky urban wildlife that can go with it.

1. Bring on the chickens

chickens edit

Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

Successful compost involves a few key ingredients: heat (of which we in southern Arizona are plentiful), moisture (a bit lacking in the desert), and color theory (gradient materials from green to brown). Omar Ore-Giron, owner of Native Roots, an enterprise specializing in passive water harvesting, permaculture, and native gardens, suggests one more ingredient for a pest-free traditional compost pile: chickens. “Every now and then, spread the compost out across the ground for the chickens to pick through. They eat the roaches, break down the compost, and poop, which accelerates the process,” says Omar. Speeding up the decay offers less time for pests to establish a community within your homesteaded compost program. This solution adds a few more steps to the process and mouths to feed, but it offers job security to retired hens. That sounds good to us!

2. Be a business owner

After less than a year of pilot testing, the City of Tucson’s Environmental Services department started a regular composting service for commercial entities which makes Tucson one of two communities in the state offering food scrap and yard waste removal for businesses. Commercial institutions can arrange to have their compostable items retrieved and taken to a composting site. The compost is then used in government landscaping projects.

How long before the program reaches residents? Programs of this nature are mandated at residential levels in other cities such as San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. Their benefits go beyond reducing waste. In tight urban environments and at the residential level, these programs offer opportunities to educate residents resistant to composting, provide convenience, and reduce infestation by urban pests. Let’s hope this program expands just as quickly to homeowners.

3. Private enterprise

Photo courtesy of scraps on scraps. (pending)

Photo courtesy of Scraps on Scraps.

Private enterprises fill the government void with similar results for those who buy in to the programs.

Scraps on Scraps, a private company in Tucson, provides a five-gallon bucket and bi-monthly pick-up of green waste for $13 a month. The green waste is delivered to Las Milpitas Farm at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, where it heats up and becomes part of the soil network that serves food insecure populations.

Shannon Sartin, co-founder of Scraps on Scraps says: “More and more of our customers are citing this issue [pests] as one of the reasons they want to sign up for our service.”

In spite of the rodents and roaches, composting is likely to become integral to our daily lives much like recycling has over the last several decades. An equilibrium of diligence and maintenance will likely be sufficient, but not for everyone. It’s important to keep up with pests beyond the simple fruit flies and maggots, which I can live with!

Photo by?

Photo by Lynn Davis

It’s likely that those well-fed whiptales digging in and around your compost, darting past your feet as you cross the yard are feasting on the roaches within – and loving every last bite. But you know what they say about roaches and mice – there’s never just one. They do like dark, moist places, and have their place in the environment, and compost is one of them, but not 10 feet from your neighbor’s kitchen door.

These suggestions, along with other composting methods such as vermicomposting (composting with worms) or Bokashi (composting via fermentation), offer quicker results, and reduce the pest population. Tucson resident Lynn Davis swears by her “off the ground” compost bins and outdoor worm tubes. She says: “I’ve never had roaches in my compost. Only the carrion fly larvae, and entomologists say that they’re beneficial. I have two rotating bins, one double, one that’s all the way off the ground, and another that closes pretty well.”

I, on the other hand, will stick to my beloved worms, or sign up for Scraps on Scraps, as well as encourage you to do the same if you live the urban life.

* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.


The bathing suit: a brief (ouch) history

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Swimwear creates hysteria, from panic attacks in dressing rooms to public arrests. Our vintage expert and fashion historian Claudine Villardito takes a look at bathing suits over the years, and shares a tale of her own law-breaking granny.

1950s Bathing Suit (Women modeling on a sand dune - Panama City)  State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, Charles Barron,

These one-pieces from the 1950s followed that decade’s fashions by accentuating the waist and bust. Photo courtesy of State Archives of Florida/Charles Barron

A recent department store survey reveals that women would rather clean the bathroom or have their car serviced than shop for a swimsuit.  And do you blame us?  Body image issues aside, we have 150 years of swimwear-induced hysteria to process in the dressing room.

As locomotive transportation brought throngs of vacationers to beaches in the mid-19th century, women were forced to reconcile the preservation of their Victorian modesty with the pleasures of an ocean dip.  Unsatisfied by gender-segregated swimming areas, the moral authority introduced “bathing machines”: horse-drawn changing rooms that rolled women out to sea and back again, affording them protective cover for all but a brief moment when they plunged into the ocean.

Bathing Machine. Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. In the swim. Retrieved from

Horse-drawn “bathing machines” offered women protective cover when they plunged into the ocean. Photo courtesy of Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library.

They needn’t have worried.  Made of taffeta or mohair, the bathing suits of the 1850s were full, long-sleeved dresses worn with stockings, slippers and often corsets, and featured weighted hems to prevent them from rising in the water.  Predictably, drownings abounded and women were subsequently tethered to their bathing machines via ropes tied at the waist.  Inevitably, women protested this literal and figurative restriction of movement and by the end of the century bathing machines were retired and swimwear was modified to elbow-sleeved, knee-length dresses (often with sailor collars) paired with knee- or ankle-length bloomers.  Stockings and bathing slippers were still required, however, and the suits themselves remained fashioned from the same heavy fabrics.

1900s Bathing Suits. Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. In the swim. Retrieved from

Bathing suits in the 1900s, when woolen swimsuits allowed for a greater range of motion. Photo courtesy of Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library.

For the following three decades, changes in women’s swimwear were both gradual and hard won.  Along with the movement for gender equality, the increased popularity of women’s sports in the 19-teens prompted knitting mills to design woolen swimsuits that stretched, breathed and allowed greater range of motion.  Consisting of a sleeveless wool tunic and thigh shorts, the suits – though scandalously small for their time – weighed up to 20 pounds when wet and still required knee-length stockings and slippers to cover the legs and feet.  When a west coast visitor to Atlantic City refused to roll her stockings above her knees and was famously arrested for indecency in 1921, city governments hired “beach censors” to patrol shorelines for other recalcitrant lawbreakers, of which my own grandmother was one.  Arrested on a Chicago beach in 1926, she had not only eliminated her shoes and stockings but wore a white (gasp!) swimsuit and nearly started a riot.

Her grandmother Ethel Wolfenberger (lying on the beach), circa 1926, immediately before arrest

The author’s grandmother Ethel Wolfenberger, circa 1926, immediately before arrest. Photo courtesy of Claudine Villardito

Advances in fabric technology ushered the next phase of swimwear’s evolution in the 1930s, when elastic was introduced for use in women’s undergarments.  When woven into swimwear, elastic produced a lighter garment that conformed to the body when wet.  Infinitely more practical than their wool counterparts, these “Lastex” suits were also one-piece designs that revealed more leg than any other swimwear garment in history.  However, their liberal use by Hollywood starlets, and lawmakers’ desire to distract the public from the potential outbreak of war, ultimately quelled concerns about public decency.

1930s Bathing Suits (Claudine’s grandmother’s friends at the beach)

1930s bathing suits modeled by the author’s grandmother’s friends. Photo courtesy of Claudine Villardito.

1940s Bathing Suit (Jean Duket, Miss Tampa, modeling a two-piece bathing suit). Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Jean Duket, Miss Tampa, modeling a two-piece 1940s bathing suit. Photo courtesy of State Archives of Florida

Ironically, the war itself was responsible for the demise of the one-piece suit in favor of an even smaller garment introduced in the 1940s.  Fabric rationing compelled designers to create a suit that simultaneously used less fabric but maintained modesty.  The midriff was the only real estate left to expose (or so they thought). Hence, the two-piece was once again adopted, this time consisting of a bra-like top and high-waisted panty or skirt that covered the hips.  Christened the “bikini” in honor of the Bikini Atoll, where nuclear tests had been conducted only two weeks prior, the suit caused such a stir that designer Louis Réard was forced to hire an exotic dancer to show it because his models flatly refused.

Little did they know that avant garde designer Rudi Gernreich would  push the envelope even further by designing a topless one-piece “monokini” in 1964, a thong in 1974, and in 1985, a “pubikini” with a window that revealed the wearer’s pubic hair.

1960s Bathing Suit (Bikini models running on the beach: Pensacola, Florida.   State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, Murphy

In the 1960s, the bikini was the favored bathing suit. Photo courtesy of State Archives of Florida

Post-war consumerism saw the brief return of the one-piece bathing suit, which featured new interior padding and boning that accentuated the bust and reduced the waist according to 1950s clothing styles.  But by 1956, the “itsy bitsy teenie weenie” bikini, popularized by such sun-goddesses as Brigitte Bardot and Ursula Andress, was the choice of a new generation.  And Sports Illustrated has never stopped thanking them.