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French beaches Vs Topless Sunbathing
According to reports coming from France, sunbathers on the Cote d'Azur, who once adopted a "laissez faire" attitude to nakedness, have turned against displaying too much bare flesh.
Even regulars at La Voile Rouge beach club on Pampelonne's Beach, in St. Tropez, where it all started shortly after the actress' film And God Created Woman, prefer to keep their top on.
The development has sparked a minor debate in the country which has always prided itself on being less prudish than its Anglo-Saxon neighbours.
For some it is simply a change in fashion, for others it marks a new conservatism sweeping France. Yet others say it is to do with increased health concerns about skin cancer and sensitivities to the growing Muslim community.
"It is seen as a bit vulgar now," said Sabina Hourdin, 38, from Paris, holidaying in St Tropez. "It is like mini-skirts. You don't show your legs any more, you cover them up more.
"In the 70s and 80s less was considered more when it came to clothes but now that has changed. It has gone out of fashion."
But a spokesman for the health ministry put the cover up down to cancer concerns.
"Whereas people once thought nothing of exposing their flesh to the sun for many hours, people are generally a lot more sensible nowadays.
"This is certainly the case as regards women who are very conscious of the risks of exposure to bright sunshine."
Geraldine Doree, a 34-year-old publishing executive from Paris who was enjoying the beach at St Tropez, said: "In the past the whole place would have been filled with topless women, but people are a lot more sensible nowadays.
"The health risk is very great, and people prefer to cover up for longer periods. It might also be that people are now more aware of the offence topless sunbathing might cause.
"There are many Muslims in the south of France who might find such a sight upsetting."
In the past La Voile Rouge - or Red Sail - was described a seaside sanctuary of "French aristocracy that has no qualms seating a grandmother in a Chanel pantsuit next to a topless-teenager having Chandon sipped from her belly button".
It was here that Princess Grace and Brigette Bardot would arrive by yacht in the 1950s when it was little more than a fishing shack.
Now it is lined with beach clubs and bars and known for its gorgeous women and Mediterranean playboys.
There is even a makeshift catwalk for them to sashay down in the middle of the space.
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