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To Judge, Seeing Was Believing : Bikini Buyer Bikini Wins Sheer Victory

July 16, 1987|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

Granted, the pink-and-white, French-cut bikini was somewhat skimpy. But its job was to cover, not reveal.

That was Cheri Ikerd's argument when she sued a Belmont Shore boutique owner who refused to give her a refund for a bikini she said turned transparent when wet: "It was so transparent, it was like wearing cellophane."

Long Beach Municipal Judge G. William Dunn, shown photos of the 26-year-old woman in the wet bikini, agreed.

"She was, in fact, apparently naked," Dunn said last week. "Her complaint was that you could see through it, and the photographs graphically demonstrated that."

Dunn ordered Ken Wolfson, Sunfoxx owner, to reimburse Ikerd for the bathing suit, plus court costs--totaling $78.43.

To Wolfson's complaint that bathing suits--as intimate apparel--are not returnable by law, the judge replied that Ikerd had the right to return the suit as defective.

"When you go to the store and purchase an article, it carries certain warranties which are not exactly written down," Dunn said. "A person who purchases a bathing suit does so for covering those parts which we designate as private. If you purchase a bathing suit and it doesn't do that . . . it's defective."

Paige Wolfson, the owner's daughter and store manager, said no one else has complained that the popular nylon and Antron bikini bathing suits are defective.

"This was simply a matter of taste," Wolfson said, making her point by flipping through Sports Illustrated's February swim wear edition and pointing to low-cut, revealing suits, some that are see-through when wet.

Ikerd said she was surprised and embarrassed by the white top and pink bottom she bought for a weekend trip to Palm Springs.

"I came out of the pool, and I had no idea it was see-through," Ikerd said. "My friends looked at me and all started cracking up. They went and grabbed a towel and wrapped it around me and said, 'You'd better go look in the mirror.' "

Wolfson said she was sympathetic to Ikerd's plight: "I can understand that. I wouldn't want to be in a see-through bathing suit. However, I don't buy white bathing suits either."

"It's the nature of a white (and light-colored) suit," Wolfson said. "You have to use your own judgment when you buy a suit."

Customers Usually Warned

Customers typically are warned that some bathing suits can be more revealing than they appear, Wolfson said. Ikerd said she received no such warning.

Wolfson said she and her father thought it unreasonable to give a refund for a worn bathing suit. Instead, the shop owner offered her credit toward another purchase. Ikerd refused and said she chose the Small Claims Court route to "prove a point."

"That's why we buy a bathing suit. I could have saved my $37 and gone nude," Ikerd said.

Word about the lawsuit has made the already popular bikini an even bigger hit, Wolfson said.

"Older women, younger women and lots of husbands" are coming in for the bikini, Wolfson said. "One man called in and asked me to save one for his wife. I thought he was joking." Three hours later, however, the couple walked in to purchase the infamous bikini.

Meanwhile, Ikerd, a sales coordinator for a tankless water heater manufacturing company, has bought a different bikini.

"It's cute," she said. And it's not transparent.

For Dunn, it was all in a day's work.

"I didn't think it was particularly unusual as cases go," Dunn said. "It's amazing what comes into Small Claims Court."

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