Tall and tanned and young and lovely ... and packing on the pounds. The girl from Ipanema isn't quite so svelte any longer, and barely-there Brazilian bikinis are finally expanding with her increasing girth. A number of manufacturers are now peddling plus-size versions that are popping up on beaches. "It used to be bikinis were only in tiny sizes that only skinny girls could fit into. But not everyone is built like a model," says a mom soaking up the rays at Copacabana beach. "Finally people are beginning to realize that we're not all Gisele Bundchen." The director of Lehona, one of the first Brazilian companies to launch a line of bigger bikinis, said designers "work from the principle that bigger women are just like everyone else: They don't want to look like old ladies, wearing these very modest, very covering swimsuits in just black."
Not everyone is willing to cash in on the trend. "Some brands, they don't want their image to be associated with chunky women—only the thin, the rich and the chic," noted Lehona's director. Less poverty and changing eating habits are boosting the size of Brazilians everywhere, and triggering changes like the installation of extra-wide seats in Sao Paulo's metro, and the launch of the first-ever plus-size beauty contest in Brazil, notes the Daily Mail. Many welcome the company. "It used to be that people would stare at me," said one fan. "Now when I come to the beach I see women who are much bigger than me—and wearing bikinis. God makes some people thin but he made me like this. Who am I to think that he was wrong?" (Read more Brazil stories.)