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Today is the official birthday of the Bikini!

Bardot in a Bikini

The precursor to the modern bikini showed UP in 1907 when Annette Kellerman, an Australian swimmer, performer, and fashion pioneer was arrested on a Boston beach for wearing a form-fitting one-piece swimsuit.  It later became accepted beach attire for women.

Annette Kellerman

In 1913, inspired by the introduction of women into Olympic swimming, designer Carl Jantzen made the first functional two-piece ladies’ bathing suit.  It was a close-fitting one-piece with shorts on the bottom and short sleeves on top.

By the 1930s, necklines plunged at the back, sleeves disappeared and sides were cut away. Hollywood endorsed the glamorous new look with movies like Neptune’s Daughter starring Esther Williams.  And, with new materials like latex and nylon, well, by 1934 the swimsuit started hugging the body and the beach was a lot more fun!

By the early 1940s two-piece swimsuits were seen, but ‘common’ on American beaches. Movie stars like Ava, Rita, and Lana helped to popularize the new swimwear as it was beginning to be called.

Rita Hayworth and Esther Williams “pin-Ups” in bathing suits were selling like hot cakes!

But the modern bikini wasn’t introduced until July 5, 1946.

1st Bikini

French mechanical engineer Louis Reard and fashion designer Jacques Heim design-engineered the first real Bikinis.

Reard an auto engineer, was running his mother’s lingerie boutique near Les Folies Bergeres in Paris, because the car business didn’t attract the babes like the pantie trade did!

Heim, a coutier and furrier, was for some odd reason working on a new kind of beach costume. It was made UP of d two pieces.  The bottom wasn’t the skimpy panty we’ve all come to love, but was large enough to cover its wearer’s navel.

In May 1946, he advertised the bathing suit; known as the “Atome,” as the world’s “smallest bathing suit”.

Reard called his version of the swimsuit the “bikini” after the Bikini Atoll, one of a series of islands in the South Pacific where the US was testing the Atomic Bomb.

Some would have us think Reard called it the bikini because he believed its revealing style shock people as much as they were by America’s atomic bombing of Japan the summer before.

And, since the culture of The Marshall Islands where the Bikini Atoll is located, allowed the baring of breasts but not shoulders or thighs, it’s hardly plausible that he named it Bikini for their fashion choices.  So the atomic test theory works as well as any other!

But, who knows?

Reard cropped the top off the bottoms baring the navel, and advertised it as “smaller than the smallest swimsuit”. It was so scandalous, he could not find a model to wear his design.

Not even a French model!

He finally ended UP hiring a stripper an exotic dancer, one Miss Micheline Bernardini, who was strutting her stuff at the Casino de Paris to make the explosive debut.

That bikini, a string bikini with a g string back consisted of 30 square inches of cloth and was printed like newsprint.

It was introduced 67 years ago today on July 5 at Piscine Molitor –  a place all you Life of Pi lovers will remember as the place where Life Of Pi character Pi Patel got his name – a public pool in Paris.

Heim’s design was the first worn on the beach, but the swim suit was given its name by Reard

Now you know.

Happy bikini day!  Feel free to strut your stuff!

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