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What Lies Beneath?
From the opening sequence to the moment each contestant takes to the diving platform, Splash is full of bright, colorful and shimmery eye-popping looks. ''I try to put them in looks that really signify who they are as a talent,'' says designer Kara Saun, who creates the gravity-defying swimwear for the show. ''My inspiration comes from a lot of different places: the set, [which] is so beautiful, the water and lights, just having fun and doing different themes that stand out against everything.'' There may be no limit to Saun's imagination, but she is definitely working under a time crunch. ''10 contestants, about two swimsuits each and the dive team in the beginning, 7 to 10 divers,'' she says, calculating that she has three to four days to make over two dozen looks. ''This week's episode [airing March 26 on ABC] there were 25 opening divers. It's a really cool opening, it'll kind of blow your mind.''
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Saun says she's creating an array of racy, cut-out one pieces for the former Playboy Playmate. ''We've done mostly monokinis, that's like, her signature.'' But the goal isn't just to highlight Wilkinson's sex appeal. ''It really is each week about switching it up. You want to do something fun and then there's a theme each week — the theme is more about the style of diving — so you want to match that.'' While Saun custom creates most of the pieces, she did shop for a few suits. ''I found this really good L.A.-based brand called [Fancy Wear] who has fantastic swimwear. We used them for promos and one of Kendra's pieces too.''
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''Rory is this extreme skier/snowboarder, so he's really a board shorts type of guy. They're all very colorful and playful, as far as the prints and patterns,'' says Saun, who designs all of Rory's shorts with a special nod to his late wife, four-time Winter X Games skier, Sarah Burke, who suffered a fatal crash in 2012 . ''It's really sweet, he honors his wife with a white patch on all of his shorts that says 'Celebrate Sarah.'''
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No stranger to a swimsuit, Eggert's Baywatch roots were Saun's biggest inspiration. ''Nicole feels most comfortable in anything,'' says Saun. ''In Episode 103 you'll be seeing some two piece bikinis, too.'' Plunging necklines — like the one Eggert modeled in the season premiere — and other barely-there designs require Saun to take precautions in order to avoid wardrobe malfunctions. ''A lot of swimwear that you find in stores isn't really made for diving, you would lose your swimwear in most of the options out there!'' To keep everything in its place, Saun uses a variety of tricks of the trade, including water-soluble double stick tape. ''You want the talent to feel comfortable and make sure they're covered when they get out the water. The type of lining that we use, the type of boning that we use, the way [a suit] is structured — it has more layers than a traditional bathing suit.''
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Louie Anderson
''It has been really interesting designing for the guys,'' says Saun, who is tasked with creating suits for the 7'2'' Abdul-Jabbar and the plus-size Anderson, who will dive together when the show moves into group dives on episode 3. ''Kareem loves sweat suits, so we created different looks for him in a wetsuit style. Louis wants to be colorful and brave and do crazy things, so for him it's about fun fabrics and fun colors.''
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Saun created a throwback style suit for the original 10th contestant, Chuy Bravo, but when the Chelsea Lately personality had to drop out because of a injury, Saun had to change directions to whip something up for his replacement, soccer player Brandi Chastain. While Chastain's looks still echo the bold designs of the other ladies, they take on a sportier feel. ''I wanted to create pieces that really signify who the contestants are,'' says Saun.
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Saun says Bell will soon be sporting swimwear inspired by James Bond. ''Drake is super cute with his, we like to call them our '007, Bond shorts,' they're our favorites. When Greg [Louganis], our dive master, and David [Boudia], our judge dive, they wear the 'Bond' style or a Speedo.''
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Keisha Knight Pulliam
''For [Keisha], and for the contestants in general, it's about whatever they feel they can do their best performance in,'' Saun says about helping the contestants find the right suits. ''You want someone to get up there and not be thinking about what they're wearing but thinking about hey, I have to do this dive from 7 meters. Keisha wanted a cute one piece for the first show, so we created something that we saw with the sequins and the pink binding and the cut-outs with lots of bling.'' Unfortunately, the sparkly design couldn't help Pulliam survive the first elimination.
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Before she started designing, Saun created a book of inspiration images for each contestant. For Katherine, the point of reference was ''Miss USA, the pageant,'' which translated into a bandeau one piece with a midriff cut-out for the show's debut episode. Though the suit — and a few of the others worn by female contestants — appeared to be hanging on only by a thread, Saun is confident that her work will hold up. ''We still want the sexy swimwear, we still want the great materials and the shimmers and the shine, but it still needs to be able to go through the force of diving from those heights.''
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Don't expect to see the NFL defensive tackle in a Speedo! ''Suh is an athlete, so for him, I did more athletic-inspired swimwear,'' says Saun.