In 1946, a French engineer came up with a scandalous new piece of clothing for women: the bikini, strips of cloth that revealed more than they hid on the beach and in the pool.
French mechanical engineer Louis Réard couldn’t find a willing model, so he hired striptease dancer Micheline Bernardini for the presentation of his bikini on July 5, 1946.
The timing was no coincidence. The US military had just grabbed the world’s attention by testing a nuclear bomb on the Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific. The new swimwear trend turned out to be equally explosive.
Réard did not miscalculate. Showing that much skin was not acceptable at that time. Moral guardians were convinced that women should don skirts and long aprons instead of shamelessly taking their clothes off.
Skimpy attire for the future
The bikini was banned in public for many years, and even the famous fashion magazine “Vogue” rejected the tiny swimsuit. Film stars like Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot, however, remained faithful to bikinis and were regularly photographed in them.
The James Bond film “Dr. No” in 1962 marked a turning point for the two-piece. Swiss model and actress Ursula Andress sported one in an unforgettable scene, and her swimsuit went down in history as the “Dr. No Bikini.”
In the 1960s the bikini quickly became unstoppable and took on many forms, from the self-adhesive “Trikini” to the topless “Monokini” (which, however, didn’t become a bestseller).
The swimwear revolution went hand in hand with the growing emancipation of women, which was also marked by the birth control pill, the miniskirt and the social unrest of the 1960s. For many women, the bikini was a symbol of liberation.
Bikini is here to stay
Even after 70 years, the bikini can still be found at fashion shows, beaches and pools the world over. Models no longer have to be begged to present the latest designs. In the 80s and 90s, bikini fashion shows became even more popular than the otherwise beloved bridal wear events. Superstars like Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell competed for such jobs.
A classic worn by women of all ages and body types, the bikini has made a fashion statement for the past seven decades.