Some fashion trends begin with a bang, and the bikini was no exception.
On July 5, 1946, the now-iconic swimsuit debuted in a poolside fashion show at the Piscine Molitor in Paris. This particular version of the suit was designed by engineer Louis Réard, though it’s long been debated thereafter whether the bikini was actually invented by Réard or the couturier Jacques Heim. Heim called his piece “the atom” for its miniscule amount of fabric, but Réard’s version—named after the nuclear testing site Bikini Atoll in the Pacific’s Marshall Islands because he believed it would be particularly explosive—actually used less: a mere 30 inches of material.
Not surprisingly, the designers were both inspired to create the bikini after seeing young women bathing themselves in the sun on local beaches. Suntanning had just become the hottest new fashion trend, and these ladies wanted to wear as little as they could to get as bronze a tan as possible. Heim and Réard’s designs weren’t complicated, and still exist as they first did (though now in myriad other styles as well): two triangles on top to cover the chest, and two triangles on the bottom to cover the front and back of the body. Interestingly, the Marshallese word “pikinni”, from which “bikini” derives, means “surface of coconuts.”
In his fashion show, Réard’s bikini—which he deemed “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit”—was revealed atop exotic dancer Micheline Bernardini, who already had no problem appearing nude in public. The designer knew the suit would be a smash hit, and to foreshadow its success he printed it with newspaper type. Réard was not wrong: the bikini’s debut was so successful, Bernardini received approximately 50,000 fan letters.
Shortly after, the the swim style spread across Europe. Réard maintained its allure in the press throughout the 1950s, citing a swimsuit wasn’t a “real” bikini unless it could easily be threaded through a wedding ring. Soon, the Europeans were at the forefront of the string bikini, which popped up on the French Riviera in the early 1960s.
More puritanical at the time, Americans took another few years until to fully accept the bikini in the U.S as surf culture became popular in the 1960s.
It’s amazing what a little Parisian ingenuity and even less fabric can do.END
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createdAt:Fri, 29 Jun 2018 16:58:26 +0000