string bikini

The History of The Bikini

This swimsuit garment may be tiny, but do not underestimate its great impact. The bikini has taken over the beaches and swimming pools all around the world. There are fashion designers that devote their entire collections and brands in seducing us with their hot new style bikinis, like the exclusive designs by Rosa Cha. Bikinis on the runways, on the covers of magazines, in films and in videos, and most importantly, in our never-ending desires (and men’s too.) But did you ever wonder how it all got started?

The History of The Bikini

Although, the term “bikini” has been in existence since 1946, the two-piece swimsuit actually dates back to 1400 BC. Back then, Greek gymnasts wore bandeau tops and bikini bottoms. From Ancient Rome, we can see paintings and mosaics showing women in garments closely representing our modern bikini style swimwear, such as the one here from the Villa Romana del Casale. Historians believe that in ancient Roman times, the cultural and moral norms were very relaxed and so the bikinis were very popular garments for women.

The History of The Bikini

Two piece swimsuits began to be popular because of stars such as Ava Gardner, Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth. These famous film stars were sporting high waist bottoms that covered their hips and full back in the early 1940s. But is this the modern bikini?

The modern bikini was invented in July of 1946 in Paris. Jacques Heim was a French fashion designer from the world famous beach resort Cannes. The designer introduced his bikini invention in a local beach shop in July of 1946 and named it “Atome” (after the newly discovered atom because it was the smallest particle yet) and advertised it as the “world’s smallest bathing suit.


The History of The Bikini

And then came Louis Reard who was a French fashion designer with a degree in mechanical engineering. I bet mechanical engineering is much more wanted now among fashion lovers, right? And merely three weeks after Heim’s swimsuit, Reard introduced his perception of the swimsuit, a much smaller version of the “Atome,” that was sold along the French Riviera. Reard named his style “Bikini,” taking the name from the Bikini Reef which is an island in the South Pacific. And this is how Reard went in history as the man who invented the bikini. Since Reard’s bikini was so small, no one really wanted to advertise it. Finally, Louis hired a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris named Micheline Bernardini as his model, pictured on the left.

The History of The Bikini

In the 1950s, Brigitte Bardot popularized the bikini in Europe. This photo was taken at the Cannes Filk festival in 1953. Catholic countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy banned the bikini, and in the United States the bikini was banned to be featured in Hollywood movies. It was seen as scandalous because of its tiny amount of fabric and as a “suspect garment favoured by licentious Mediterranean types.” It took around 20 years for it to be embraced in the United States, but after that both women and men began a love affair with the tiny desired garment.

The sexual appeal of the garment was used for many films in the 1960s. Dr. Strangelove, How To Stuff a Wild Bikini and One Million years B.C. were among the first movies that featured memorable scenes with bikini. In 1962, Bond Girl Ursula Andress emerged from the sea wearing a white bikini in the movie Dr. No and she became an icon.


The History of The Bikini

Today, we can find any type of bikini we want. From briefs and square cuts to the more revealing thongs and g-strings. The thongs, originally called “tangas,” first became popular hitting the beaches of Brazil in 1977. They are not yet as popular in the United States as they are in Europe, but it is only a matter of time, if we have to judge by the so-far tiny-great history of the bikini.

The History of The Bikini

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