Saturday, June 25, 2005
The modern bikini was invented by engineer Louis Reard in Paris in 1946 (introduced on July 5), and named after Bikini Atoll, the site of nuclear weapon tests in the Marshall Islands, on the reasoning that the burst of excitement it would cause would be like the atomic bomb.
Reard's suit was a refinement of the work of Jacques Heim who, two months earlier, had introduced the "Atome" (named for its size) and advertised it as the world's "smallest bathing suit". Reard split the "atome" even smaller, but could not find a model who would dare to wear his design.
Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris, was the first woman to wear the bikini in public, as a catwalk model for Reard's swimware collection.
It took fifteen years for the bikini to be accepted in the United States.
In 1951 bikinis were banned from the Miss World Contest. In 1957, however, Brigitte Bardot's bikini in the movie, "And God Created Woman" created a market for the swimwear in the US, and in 1960, Brian Hyland's pop song "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" inspired a bikini-buying spree.
Finally the bikini caught on, and by 1963, the movie Beach Party, starring Annette Funicello (emphatically not in a bikini) and Frankie Avalon, led a wave of films that made the bikini a pop-culture symbol.