Whether it’s itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, or embellished with yellow polka dots; the bikini has come a long way over the past six and a half decades.
On July 5, 1946, French fashion designer Louis Réard thrilled men across the globe when he revolutionized women’s swimwear but simply chopping the classic swimsuit in half, allowing women to reveal their navels publicly for the very first time. He dubbed his creation the “bikini,” after the Bikini Atoll where the US had recently conducted nuclear tests. Réard chose the title because he believed the swimsuit would cause more chaos than the controversial tests. The Frenchman advertised his landmark creation as “smaller than the smallest swimsuit.”
Réard’s first bikini, donned by nude model Micheline Bernadini on a Parisian runway, was constructed from 30 inches of material with newspaper type printed across the chest. The bottom? A barely-there g-string, of course. The waterproof lingerie quickly rose in popularity but also sparked a fair amount of outrage for its provocative hemlines. Designers across the globe put their own spin on the original, and attempted to make daring ensemble more socially acceptable by adding a little more fabric. Réard hated the changes, and said the coveted ‘bikini’ title was reserved for swimwear that “could be pulled through a wedding ring.”
After sixty-five years, it’s clear that Monsieur Réard’s legendary contribution to the fashion world is here to stay. Take a look at the evolution of the swimsuit that just keeps getting smaller.