More often than not, you can't hit the water without catching sight of someone wearing a bikini. What used to be considered a fashion faux-pas is now sold in a multitude of different styles, some skimpier than others. Now, social media creators argue over the best styles and brands to own, which creates such a stark comparison from society's view on the garment during its creation.
Typical beach attire during the 1930's involved one piece suits, usually paired with an attached skirt or shorts. These swimmies made sure that women were covered modestly, meaning everywhere from breast to mid-thigh was hidden.
When World War II started in 1939, apparel companies had to cut back on the amount of fabric they used, as it was necessary to be used for parachutes and uniforms. This led women's swimsuits to be less constructed, with them now breaking in two-pieces and removing skirt details. However, these sets were still very conservative, with the belly button and upper thigh completely covered.
As wartimes began to end in the mid-40's, clothing designers were able to experiment more with swimsuit designs. As beachgoers around the world celebrated their newfound liberty, designers Jacques Heim and Louis Réard set out to create prototypes for new beach attire.
Heim had been playing around with the idea since the early 30's, but the beginning of the war halted his designing. He called his blueprint the "atome", or atom in English, referencing the skimpy size of the two-piece. He called advertised it as "the world's smallest swimsuit", although it still covered a woman's navel.
Louis Réard took this claim as a challenge. The French designer launched his swimsuit in 1946, four days after nuclear tests in Bikini Atoll. To prove his superiority, he named it after these atomic tests, naming his creation the "bikini", a dig at his competitor. Although Heim's bathing suit was the size of an "atome", Réard managed to split it. Louis Réard cut down the size of the bikini to be just three triangular pieces of fabric covering the top and bottom, with less than 30 inches of fabric being used. What made this suit particularly scandalous what that it was the first of its time to show a woman's belly button.
When Réard released this suit, he had trouble finding someone who would showcase his design, as most women didn't feel comfortable wearing something so itty-bitty in public. Thus, he enlisted the help of Micheline Bernadini, who was an exotic dancer at the Casino de Paris. Bernadini had no qualms with being nude in public, and her appearance in the media wearing Réard's creation garnered her over 50,000 letters from fans.
The bikini was a hit success in Europe, with beaches everywhere having women clad in tiny two-piece bathing suits. The popularity of this new style changed laws in Italy and Spain regarding
Although the bikini was however, it took the United States a few more years to catch up. The U.S. was much more conservative in terms of swimwear, and it took the 1960's era of liberation for the states to fully embrace the bikini. Pop singer Brian Hyland released hit song "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" in 1960, bringing popularity to the skimpy string-tie bikini.
In the 1960s, the bikini became popular as social norms shifted. An actress named Ursula Andress made cinematic history by appearing in the film in a white two-piece swimsuit, in the first James Bond film, "Dr. No." In the following couple of years, Sports Illustrated launched its first annual swimsuit issue in 1964. This period of the 1960s was the second-wave feminism movement that focused on equality and discrimination. In part of Europe, bikinis were banned in Europe and were seen as sinful according to the Vatican. Women were being told what they could and could not wear, which led to a need to protest for bodily autonomy. The feminist movement and rationing due to the impact of WWII led to the bikini becoming a staple in the West.