7 Cool Facts About Your Sizzling Hot Bikini
You wouldn’t think that such a tiny little thing could make a lasting impression on the world. But 74 years after it was introduced, the bikini is still the chosen wardrobe for water-worshippers.
Here are 7 cool facts that you may not know about that “itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny” bikini.
ONE: The guy who designed it was an automotive engineer
Yep. A guy who worked in the CAR industry streamlined beachwear.
Louis Réard, a Frenchman, left his job designing cars to go work in his mother’s lingerie business. A competitive businessman, Réard got into a fashion feud with another designer. Jacques Heim had done a two-piece suit, named it “The Atom,” and called it “the world’s smallest swimsuit.”
Réard used his competitor’s slogan to his advantage. What did he say about his newly designed two-piece? Réard’s design would best Heim’s because it was
“Smaller than the world’s smallest swimsuit.”
TWO: The bikini is connected to the Atom Bomb
How did the bikini get its name?
It was named for the Bikini Atoll, a small, isolated location in the Marshall Islands where the United States was doing nuclear tests. While Réard was playing with fabric, the atomic bomb testing was getting all the press and fascinating the newly liberated French people.
Réard called his new swimsuit, “bikini:” strategically located, tiny islands of fabric to be sure.
THREE: The most shocking thing about the bikini will shock you, too
In 1946, it wasn’t the amount of cleavage that the new bikini showed that made people stop in their tracks.
It wasn’t the high-cut bottoms, which emphasized long legs with no fabric covering the crease between torso and limb.
It wasn’t the bare shoulders or the exposed midriff.
It was the NAVEL! Oh, horrors! The new bikini shocked people because it showed the navel, a body part that had previously been taboo.
FOUR: No one wanted to model this new swimsuit
Louis Réard had trouble finding a model willing to expose her navel and so much skin.
Problem-solver that he was, he found Michelin Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris. She was 19.
And the rest, so they say, is history.
Michelin Bernardini received 50,000 fan letters after debuting the new bikini at the Piscine Molitor, a pool in Paris.
FIVE: The original bikini consisted of 30 inches of fabric
Whoever said “the times, they are a’changin’” may have been wrong.
In 1946, the original bikini was made from 30 inches of fabric. The size of the suits hasn’t changed much in the last seventy years. They’re just as skimpy now. Websites on sewing say that a bikini can be made from less than a yard (36 inches) of fabric.
In a brilliant marketing campaign — and as a way to quell the idea that only “bad girls” wore bikinis — Louis Réard created an ad campaign:
“Only a genuine bikini can be pulled through a wedding ring.”
SIX: America was slow to embrace the bikini
Bikini-wearing beach-goers were all the rage in Europe, starting from the time it was introduced in 1946. It caught on with the jet-setters at the French Riviera from there. Spain and Italy banned the wearing of a bikini on public beaches, but the trend throughout Europe was so strong that they rolled back their prohibition.
It took longer for the trend to catch on in America. Modern Girl magazine scorned the skimpy swimsuit:
“It is hardly necessary to waste words over the so-called bikini since it is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing.”
But in 1960, Bryan Hyland sang his hit single, “Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weeny, Yellow-Polka-Dot Bikini.” The Beach Boys crooned about the sun and the sand with songs like “Surfin’ Safari.” In 1962, Sean Connery’s first James Bond movie, Dr. No was released and Ursula Andress, Connery’s female costar, walked out of the ocean in a white, belted bikini. Annette Funicello debuted a not-so-skimpy pink bikini. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue premiered in 1964 with the bikini. The trend caught on.
SEVEN: Louis Réard was the impetus for the creation of a huge modern industry
Réard ran his bikini company for more than 40 years, dying at the age of 88.
National Bikini Day is celebrated on July 5th.