Where Did The Bikini Come From
How Did It Get It's 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
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
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
1946: An explosive year.
Bikini Atoll becomes no
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,
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
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
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.