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Skin tight suits that cover the entire body are commonly called zentai (from the Japanese ゼンタイ). This is either a contraction of zenshin taitsu (全身タイツ) ("full-body tights") or a direct translation of "full body" (全体 zentai). Zentai is most commonly made using nylon/spandex blends, but other materials such as cotton and wool are used as well.
Such suits were first developed for use in modern dance, but are now used in the arts to diminish the presence of an actor in a scene. In fact, in the traditional Japanese art of puppetry called bunraku the apprentice performers are completely covered in black garments against a black background to produce the same effect. Zentai is also used by artists as a medium to accentuate the body, sometimes making use of vibrant patterns. By making the performer anonymous, the performance of the body itself becomes the focus.
In major cities worldwide (but especially in Japan), zentai suits are becoming an increasingly common sight as recreational wear for both men and women at a wide variety of events ranging from conventions to dance clubs, furthering the growing popularity of the subculture.
Flesh tone cotton suits are often used by cosplayers to provide a base layer that looks like the cel-shaded skin of the animated character. When such zentai are worn under masks painted to resemble a character's drawn features, the total effect is called kigurumi. Animegao is a variant on this.
The suits are also finding a place as a useful tool for meditation. It can provide a medium for body awareness, a focus for meditation via the senses by allowing for both sensory deprivation as well as sensory enhancement, as well as a symbolic barrier between the self and the world. In other uses, multiple organizations including NASA have experimented with a skintight space suit to replace current air-pressurized designs (with a transparent dome helmet instead of a soft fabric hood). This design is tentatively named a space activity suit.
As fetish clothingEdit
With practical uses aside, zentai is also strongly associated with spandex fetishism. Some zentai fetishists are after the experience of total enclosure, while for others it provides a way to anonymously enjoy exhibitionism. One might also experience it as a form of sexual bondage, even though it does not restrict the motion of the body or even act as an effective blindfold.