The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb. Diana Vreeland – former fashion editor.
The bikini exploded onto the scene in 1946. The bikini was named after an island where the atom bomb was tested. ‘Bikini’ is an atoll in the Marshall Islands. An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef, or a string of closely spaced small coral islands. The Marshall Islands lie midway between Hawaii and Australia. In Marshallese, Bikini Atoll is Pikinni, meaning ‘coconut place’.
In 1946, Parisian engineer, Louis Reard, named his new swimsuit design, the ‘bikini’. He hoped its revealing style would create an explosive reaction, similar to that of the nuclear explosion at Bikini Atoll. In the same year, French fashion designer, Jacques Heim, invented his two-piece swimsuit in Paris, the ‘atome’. He named this after the smallest known particle of matter. Jacques Heim advertised his design as the world’s ‘smallest bathing suit’, but his new two-piece still covered the wearer’s navel. Louis Reard sliced the top off Jacques Heim’s bottoms, and advertised his bikini as ‘smaller than the smallest swimsuit': it was so small it could fit into a box measuring 2 by 2 inches.
Although Jacques Heim’s ‘atome’ was the first worn on the beach, it was Louis Reard’s name, bikini, that stuck.
French women welcomed the design of the bikini, but the Catholic church, some media, and the majority of the public initially rejected it, deeming it scandalous. Although wearing of the bikini was slow to be adopted, the bikini gradually became popular when film stars, such as Brigitte Bardot, Ursula Andress, and Raquel Welch, began wearing them on public beaches and in film. In 1960, Brian Hyland’s pop song, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, inspired a bikini-buying spree.
Even though the modern-day bikini as we know it, evolved in 1946, the two-piece swimsuit can be traced back to ancient times. A mosaic in the floor of a Roman villa in Sicily dates back to 286-305 AD. The mosaic at Villa Romana del Casale, features ten women participating in athletic activities, and has been dubbed the ‘Bikini Girls’.
Sensible attire for athletic pursuits. Back in my 20s, I attempted to play a game of beach volley ball after trying to emulate a scene from the James Bond film, Dr. No, emerging from the sea in a white bikini Ursula Andress style. This failed miserably. You see, the fabric of my bikini resembled that of Terry Towelling nappies (diapers). The water weighed down my bikini ‘bottoms’ like lead. Oh, how I needed a pair of nappy pins. That event gave a whole new slant to the term, ‘beach babe’. Needless to say, my ‘hits’ at volleyball were zilch.
This bikini made me a success. Ursula Andress
Now Ursula Andress made a huge impact when she emerged from the water wearing her white bikini, in the 1962 film, Dr. No. It is revered as the most famous bikini of all time. Sales of the ‘two-piece’ rocketed after her appearance in the film. The bikini was made from ivory cotton, and Ursula Andress designed it along with Dr. No’s costume designer, Tessa Pendergast. The lower part of the bikini featured a wide white British Army belt with brass buckles and fittings, and a scabbard on one side to hold a large knife. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the bikini, in a survey of 1,000 women, Ursula Andress was voted ‘The Ultimate Bikini Goddess’. In 2001 Ursula Andress auctioned the bikini at Christie’s in London, selling it for £35,000. Hot stuff.
The iconic bikini made a famous lady even more unforgettable. Carrie Fisher was fed up of wearing long, flouncy dresses in previous films, which concealed her womanly curves, so she had this gold metal bikini especially designed and moulded to her body shape, to reveal a whole lot more in Return of the Jedi.
My Bikini Tips
- If you are long in the body, try wearing a brightly coloured, patterned bikini which will draw attention to your hips and breasts.
- If you are short in the body, an all-in-one swimsuit will help to elongate your body, but a bikini in one colour in a fine, luxury fabric can be worn.
- For a big bust, wear under-wired bikini tops with built-in support.
- For a small bust, try a bikini with fringing or big bows.
- If you have broad shoulders, choose a halter-neck bikini, which takes the emphasis away from your shoulders.
- If you’re worried about your derriere and voluptuous tummy, opt for high-waisted bikini bottoms or mini-short shapes. Also try bikini bottoms with a trim.
- For a triangular body shape, go for a halter neck which gives the illusion of curves up top, and pair with some boy shorts for extra coverage.
- If you have a rectangular body shop, choose fussy feminine styles with ruffles. A halter-neck works best with this body shape.
- Hourglass body shapes need to be careful of mismatched tops and bottoms, but can carry off any bikini style.
If in doubt, try one of these lovely costumes, which I came across in a magazine. They are from boohoo.com and very stylish.
boohoo do a wide range of attractive swimwear to suit everyone. I am loving my daughter’s recent purchase of this pretty, fresh-looking bikini, which can be worn as a halter-neck, or bandeau style.
Beware the ‘Sling’ bikini!
Did you know that in France, if you are a man and want to go swimming in a public swimming pool, baggy Bermuda shorts or loose swim trunks are not allowed. One has to wear teeny weeny super tight Speedo style swim trunks. Apparently it is because they are more hygienic. According to those in power, if you wear swim shorts as normal shorts, they may pick up dust when you’re out and about. This law dates back to 1903 when longer swimming shorts were banned by the government. Despite this subject having been raised countless times, so far it’s a firm ‘non’ from the French parliament.
If, like me, you’re no longer a beach babe …
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :)