Skimpy Miss America Swimsuits Raise Eyebrows

The first time Jennifer Dupont saw the bikini she'd be wearing at Miss America, she just about blushed.

That little thing?

"It was so little, when I pulled it out of the bag, my eyes were as big as my head," said Dupont, who is Miss Louisiana. "I said `This is what I'm wearing in Miss America?' I was so self-conscious, I didn't even want to model it in front of my father and my interview coach."

By Miss America standards, the two-piece Speedo swimsuits are itsy, bitsy, teeny-weeny and downright ... risque.

"They're absolutely horrible," said Joanne Girolami, of Tacoma, Wash., a Miss Washington pageant official.

Provided by Speedo under a two-year sponsorship deal with the Miss America Organization, the Speedo Sport line suits which will hit stores later this year, starting at $84 come in one-piece and two-piece models.

All but 10 of the 52 women contestants have chosen the two-piece model, which shows more skin than Miss America's ever seen.

Miss Florida Jenna Edwards, who describes herself as "a little top-heavy," chose the two-piece but had to get a replacement for the top because it didn't fit.

Once she did, she impressed the judges enough to win a preliminary competition in swimsuit.

Others balked at the two-piece, either out of modesty or fear that their flaws would be more visible.

"I wouldn't be comfortable baring that much," said Miss New Jersey Erica Scanlon. "I wouldn't feel comfortable on stage in it, and I wouldn't want my daughter to wear it, either."

Despite its origins as a bathing beauty review, the Miss America pageant has never been at the forefront of fashion in swimsuits or anything else.

For years, contestants wore unflattering one-piece "supersuits" that may have left too much to the imagination. It wasn't until 1997 that two-piece suits were allowed.

But the Speedo models go too far, some say.

"I think it sends a mixed message," said Erika Ebbel, Miss Massachusetts. "If it's a scholarship pageant but we have string bikinis on, I can see people saying that's not appropriate. I'm small. There's enough fabric to cover me. But a little bit more coverage would have been helpful."

Speedo spokesman Craig Brommers said the suits will make a splash in the Miss America telecast, which has been losing viewers in recent years.

"It does give the show and the pageant a sexy makeover that is right for the times but still in the tradition of honoring what Miss America stands for," said Brommers, vice president of marketing for Los Angeles-based Speedo.

Girolami said she feared that the contestants who wear one-piece suits won't score as well with judges. But Barry Phillips, one of the seven judges for Saturday night's pageant, said it takes more than curves or fitness to score high in swimsuit.

"You may see someone on stage who doesn't have the ideal (body). But if they carry off their confidence, you don't see the rest," he said.

Miss Mississippi Jalin Wood looks at it another way.

"I've always been told the swimsuit is won with the eyes, not the thighs," she said.