Short History of the Bikini

A Short History of the Bikini

Early Beginnings

While evidence of prehistoric two-piece bikini-style clothing exists, the modern bikini’s history can be traced back to 1946. Frenchman Jacques Heim introduced the ‘Atome,’ a two-piece design so tiny it barely covered the navel, earning it the title of the world’s smallest bathing suit. However, the term ‘Bikini’ is credited to another Frenchman, Louis Réard. Inspired by women rolling down their swimsuit edges for better tans, Réard unveiled an even more minimalist design on July 5, 1946, naming it after the Bikini Atoll. This choice of name coincided with a nuclear test by the USA five days earlier, and it was Réard’s name that endured.

Shock and Horror

The bikini initially caused shock and outrage, with puritans seeking its ban and predictions of its demise within fifteen days by the press. Even Pope Pius XII deemed the outfit sinful. Nevertheless, the bikini gradually gained acceptance, thanks in part to iconic stars like Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren, who wore bikinis to enhance their sex appeal. By the 1960s, the bikini had firmly established itself as a popular fashion item.”

Bikini Brigitte Bardot
Brigitte Bardot on the beach in Cannes wearing one of the most fashionable bikinis of the time (1953).

The Girl from Brazil

The next major innovation came in the 1970s. Rose di Primo, a Brazilian fashion model, created the string bikini for a photoshoot. Legend has it that she needed a swimsuit for a fashion shoot. Di Primo did not have the money to buy one she instead made her own. She did this by connecting two small triangles with pieces of string. Whether this story is true or not, it seems the photos of Rose inspired Glen Tororich and his wife Brandi Perret-Dujon. This lead them to make the first formal presentation of their own version of the string bikini. They did this at a public relations event in 1974 in New Orleans, Lousiana.

The Brazilian Bikini

During the 1980s bikini styles continued to evolve as the tiny triangles of the 70s. Styles were wider and the cut at the back became higher showing off more of the bum. The brazilian bikini bottom had been born! By the end of the 80s, the cut at the back had become even smaller. The sight of tanned bottoms on the beaches of Rio and elsewhere were increasingly common.

The 90s saw the revival of crochet bikinis. This was a design that had also been popular in the 70s. Bikini sides became narrower and a larger back was considered fashionable. At the same time, low-cut underwired bikini tops were in demand.

The Modern Bikini

Today there are a range of bikini styles available, ranging from classic styles similar to those of the 60s and 70s. This leads through to the increasingly popular brazilian bikini and even the minimalist micro bikini. Variations such as tie sides and halter neck tops are commonplace with bikinis. These are available in a wide range of colours and prints. The materials used to make bikinis also continues to evolve.

Eco Friendly

Eco-friendly bikinis have become increasingly popular over the last few years. The additional comfort of the higher quality materials used in luxury bikinis, combined with their ability to hold their shape. Companies are continuing to make these essential fashion items amongst those who value quality and want a superior looking costume. Adornments such as beads and rings have also been added, allowing the bikini to remain at the forefront of fashion.

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