History Of The Bikini
Did The Bikini Come From and
Did It Get Its Name
Louis Reard (ray-YARD) had this
problem. He had designed Something that would stir the masses. But
he needed a name for it, something exotic, bold, and eye opening.
Four days before he was to show the world his new bikini in
, the U.S. Military provided him with a name. They exploded a
nuclear device near several small islands in the Pacific known as
the "Bikini Atoll". On July 5th, 1945, he unveiled the
bikini. all though he would later claim he named the bikini after
the islands and not the atomic blast, he was clearly taking
advantage of a "hot topic". Another Frenchmen, Jacques
Heim, had created his own two piece bathing suit, which he called
"The Atome", and he described it as "The world's
smallest bathing suit.
Reard called his "Smaller than
the world's smallest bathing suit."
Reard's "bikini" was so
small, in fact, that no Parisian models at the time would wear it
on the runway. He hired Micheline Bernardini, who had no qualms
about strolling around in a bikini, seeing as her day job was a
nude dancer at the Casino de Paris. Bernardini was not what you'd
a classic beauty, but after photos of her in a reclining pose hit
the press, she was swamped with fan mail, close to 50,000 letters.
Two piece suits weren't new. As
part of wartime rationing, the U.S. Government, in 1943, ordered a
10 percent reduction in the fabric used in woman's swimwear. Off
went the skirt panel, and out came the bare midriff. At beaches
across the country, men paid special attention to women doing
their patriotic duty. But Reard pushed the envelope. He shrunk his
suit down to 30 inches of fabric - basically a bra top and two
inverted triangles of cloth connected by string - and put the
navel on center stage.
The world took notice. In Catholic
- The bikini was banned. Decency leagues pressured
to keep it out of the movies. One writer said it's a "two
piece bathing which reveals everything about a girl except for her
Mothers maiden name." Movie star Esther Williams who probably
was seen in a two piece bathing suit by more people than anyone in
the world, once said: "A bikini is a thoughtless act".
It's not clear whether she was
talking about the bikini or the thought of wearing one. Reard's
firm did it's part to fan the fantasies by proclaiming that a two
piece wasn't a bikini "unless it could pulled through a
wedding ring." In the '50's Brigitte Bardot did wonders for
business- But not in modest
. Here it remained an invitation to scandal. As recently as 1957,
Modern Girl magazine sniffed, "It is hardly necessary to
waste words over the so called bikini since it is inconceivable
that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing.
was ready for new frontiers, including, it seemed, great expanses
of bare flesh. That year pop singer Brian Hyland immortalized the
suit with his song "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot
Bikini." Three years later "Beach Party", the first
in a series of Annette Funicello / Frankie Avalon flicks with a
recurring theme of women dancing in bikinis, hit the big screen.
History "A Quick Summary"
1946: An explosive year.
Bikini Atoll becomes no
at all. In
, engineer Louis Reard quietly unveils a swimsuit of the same
name. The world yawns.
1951: Bikinis, perhaps
seen as an unfair advantage to the wearer (and as potentially
dangerous to the health of some judges) are banned from beauty
pageants after the Miss World Contest. The tasteful one-piece
Brigitte Bardot frolics in "And God Created Woman,"
creating a hot market for the swimwear. Coincidentally,
markets 3D glasses in theaters.
1960: Brian Hyland sings
"Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,"
triggering a bikini-buying spree among American teens.
1963: The bikini meets a
challenge in the generous form of Annette Funicello. The ex-musketeer's
"Beach Party," with singer Frankie Avalon, leads to six
sequels, including the memorably titled "How to Stuff a Wild
Bikini" (in 1966). No special effects were used.
1964: The bi-
("two") kini becomes the mono- ("one") kini,
in the eyes of designer Rudi Gernreich. The
denounces the topless garb. An unrepentant Gernreich sells more
than 3,000 suits in less than a season in
. More Americans go abroad.
1966: The bikini grows
fur in "One Million Years B.C.," which catapults comely cave girl
Raquel Welch to stardom despite mixed reviews of the saggy screen
and St. Tropez produce the Tanga suit-- also called the Thong, the
string bikini or "dental floss." The uncomfortable
design becomes de rigeur for teen posters, muscle car magazines
and boxing ring girls who announce the rounds.
1983: Carrie Fisher, as
Princess Leia, wears an ornate version of the bikini (studded
collar optional) in "Return of the Jedi." Even Yoda
notices. The film is the most successful of the George Lucas
Score one for the "sports bikini." The hugging
halter-top design becomes the rage, thanks to Volleyball queen
Gabrielle Reece and MTV.
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