Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Bikini - A Brief History

Swimwear, Bikini, Beach, Sun, Sunglasses, Style, Fashion
This is a bikini
(photo by Vincent Boiteau)


Noun. Mid-20th century.
[Bikini, an atoll in the Marshall Islands, where an atomic bomb test was carried out in 1946.]

A scanty two-piece beach garment worn by women and girls.

Oh don't be so cynical! I know you're thinking that I've only chosen to (scantily) cover bikini so that I can display photos of beautiful bikini-clad women, but that's not (entirely) true. With utmost integrity, I've chosen to write about bikini because it's a jolly interesting word with a jolly interesting history. So there.

For one thing, I had always been under the presumption that the word bikini was bi- something, formed as it is by two constituent parts, but no: it's actually named after the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, famous for its use as a test site for atomic bombs. Its "inventor" Louis Réard named it le bikini because he expected his salaciously saucy swimwear to cause a positively atomic sensation, as so it did on its release in 1946. In fact, the bikini was considered so scandalously scanty that Réard couldn't initially find any model willing to wear it. Micheline Benardini, a 19-year-old nude dancer in Paris, eventually obliged and it proved such a hit that she received over 50,000 fan letters.

Swimwear, Bikini, Invention, Model, Shoot, Black and white, First
Micheline Bernardini: The girl that dared
It should be pointed out that Réard is the bikini's modern inventor - it's been around in various forms for a lot longer than that. Both Greek and Roman women are depicted in bikinis (or bikini-like garments), including the goddess Venus which gives the bikini a whole new celestial dimension. In fact, if Raquel Welch's historical drama One Million Years B.C is to be believed, then the bikini is very, very old indeed.

Poster, Film, Fur, Bikini, Swimwear, Iconic
Raquel Welch and her fur bikini sneer at Réard's "invention" of 1946

In modern times, the bikini has spawned numerous varients, including the monokini, trikini, microkini, tankini and the mankini. Despite these, the basic premise has remained the same and the bikini remains resolutely popular. Having tirelessly trawled through hundreds of photos of bikini-clad women washing cars, playing volleyball, rolling about in the sand and dancing on bars, I can only conclude that part of the bikini's popularity (and endurance) is its utility: is any other garment so wonderfully versatile? Oh, and sunbathing. You do see it worn by women sunbathing too.

Right. That's it. That was hard work. All those pictures! Do I need one more? I think I do. Here's one more - just to be sure.  

No, it's not gratuitous. Another bikini picture was definitely needed to complete the post. Definitely. This one is by Jason Navarrete. It's rather good too.
Do please share this post, and of course all comments are very welcome. 


  1. That was a real hard, tedious post to research now wasn't it?!! :)
    Ms. Bernardini's bikini is very daring for the times! I'm sure the men enjoyed it!

    As a female, my favourite female bikini picture from a movie is Ursula Andress in the James Bond classic, "Dr. No."
    Halle Berry's attempt to redo it wasn't bad, but Ms. Andress wins!

    Ursula Andress:

    Halle Berry

    1. You're right - Ursula takes it. When she did her shot, though, being in a bikini on-screen was genuinely groundbreaking; by the time Berry did it, it was a bit m'eh (in my humble opinion).

      And yes. I know you were being sarcastic, but this was a hard post to write. A lot of work. Hours and hours of trawling through picture after picture after picture *sniggers* : o )

  2. I read today's post on the sofa in the barber's and I had to shield the screen from the young impressionable boy sat next to me.


    1. And you still call yourself shameless! How sweet : o )

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