It is one of the country’s most celebrated institutions and has often been at the centre of controversy, but now the Miss Italia beauty contest is raising eyebrows again by banning bikinis in favor of more modest attire.
The competition’s swimwear section will no longer allow the two-piece outfits, with contestants asked instead to wear more sober all-in-one costumes.
Only old fashioned, black and white one-piece bathing suits will be allowed in next month’s contest in an attempt to recreate the more restrained style of the post-war era.
Tattoos and body piercings will also be banned, as will any contestants who have had plastic surgery.
Patrizia Mirigliani, the pageant's organizer, said she wanted to return the style of the competition to the “classical beauty of the 1950s” and that dropping bikinis for one-piece swimming costumes would “add a sober element to the contest”.
“The competition has always been a show case for feminine beauty and as a result this year more than ever it was decided there would be no bikini section,” she said.
The Miss Italia beauty contest is a national institution, with heats being held across the country in the run up to the main televised spectacle, which is broadcast live over two nights in early September, with each show lasting for three hours.
A total of 230 women will take part, before being whittled down to just one winner at the final in the Tuscan spa town of Montecatini Terme.
Each year there is always a special guest with Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Andy Garcia being among the past members of the jury panel.
Before this year’s show, however, contestants will meet Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter, which will help them learn about the “concept of interior, as well as exterior” beauty, Miss Mirigliani said.
Not everyone is happy with the contest’s new rules however, with Il Giornale newspaper, owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s family, claiming that the new regulations were inspired by the austerity campaign of the current Italian prime minister, Mario Monti.
“Can you imagine these little darlings dressed in clothes their grandmothers would have worn?” its report on the changes said.
“Surely the point of Miss Italia is that it is a beauty contest. The idea being to pick a beautiful Italian with the best legs, the sexiest curves and the perfect figure.
“If we are to cover the bottom, the object of male dreams, with centimeters of cloth what sense does the competition have?”
Fabrizo Frizzi, the host of the show, said: “Patrizia made her decision after some hints from minister (Elsa) Fornero over the standards that RAI (the broadcaster) have to keep.
“But this is a beauty contest and the physical figure of the contestants has to be uppermost. I think it is an elegant solution. A one piece swimsuit is a throw back to the era of Marilyn Monroe.”