A History of the Bikini
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Making a Splash1 of 10
From fabric rationing to g-strings, swimsuits have come a long way, baby. -From ELLE
Thirteen years after women are allowed to compete in the Olympics, Carl Janzten introduces a two-piece bathing costume in 1913. In Europe, during the 1930s and '40s, women start wearing bathing outfits that reveal a sliver of skin at the waist, and suits shrink stateside as fabric is rationed during World War II. For the most part, hems are shortened and skirts eliminated, but in some cases they do split into two.
19462 of 10
With the war over and spirits soaring, Parisian designer Jacques Heim, who works mostly with fur, debuts the atome—the world’s smallest swimsuit.
19473 of 10
Louis Réard, a Parisian engineer, introduces an even smaller suit—made from just 30 inches of fabric—and calls it the bikini after Bikini Atoll, the Pacific Ocean site famous for hosting the first atomic bomb test on July 1 of the previous year. Showgirl Micheline Bernardini debuts the suit at a popular swimming pool in the center of Paris.
Early 1950s4 of 10
Beaches across Europe and the Mediterranean try to ban bikinis, as do most Catholic countries and the Miss World pageant. But Réard receives more than 50,000 fan letters and launches an aggressive ad campaign saying it’s not a real bikini "unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring."
19575 of 10
Brigitte Bardot makes a splash at the Cannes Film Festival, where she’s photographed wearing a bikini on every beach in the south of France. Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe and Esther Williams follow suit in the U.S., but Modern Girl magazine writes: "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."
Early 1960s6 of 10
In 1960, Bryan Hyland releases a hit single: "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." Two years later, Ursula Andress emerges from the sea wearing a belted white bikini as Honey Ryder in Dr. No, Sean Connery's first James Bond film. That same year, Playboy finally puts a bikini on the cover.
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19667 of 10
Raquel Welch wears a fur bikini in One Million Years BC. The rugged, tattered loincloth she wears on the poster ends up becoming more famous than the actual film, and propels her toward a crowning achievement: Playboy's Most Desired Woman of the 1970s.
19888 of 10
Réard's company finally closes, but the bikini's popularity continues to soar, accounting for more than 20 percent of swimsuit sales in the United States. The suit grows smaller than ever, as G-strings make their way north from Brazil and suits are cut higher than ever at the thigh.
20039 of 10
It takes more than a string bikini to make a splash these days, but when Demi Moore walked out of the ocean in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, her comeback turned into the year's favorite topic of conversation. That scene was credited with reviving her career.
201010 of 10
Eva Herzigova wears a retro-looking leather bikini on Adriana Degreas's Sao Paolo runway. It's the first bikini that could double as an outfit—if you have Herzigova's body, that is.
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