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How the Bikini Came to Be

history of bikini

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When you think of beaches, such as the picturesque Boracay, you not only think about the sea in its different shades of blue, the sand, or the food—you might also think about tourists wearing the bikini—one of the most popular summer staples around, as far as wardrobe is concerned.

But, have you ever wondered how the bikini came to be? Well, it’s time to learn more about its history!

1913 to 1946

1913 bikini

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Before it was even called the “bikini”, a two-piece bathing costume was created by Carl Janzen for women competing in the 2013 Olympics. It was tight-fitting, sure, but it’s mostly just a shirt and shorts—and it was already enough to cause a stir back in the day!

As time went by, women started to wear suits that really show a bit of skin, with shorter hemlines that are split in half—mostly because fabric was scarce due to the Second World War.

Then, in 1946, the war finally came to an end and Jacques Heim, a Parisian Designer who’s known for using fur in his creations, went on to create the Atome—which was then known as the smallest swimsuit in the world!

1947: The Birth of the Bikini

1947 bikini

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The term bikini only started to be used in 1947 when a Parisian Engineer named Louis Reard created a suit from just 30 inches of fabric—the smallest at that time! He then named it the Bikini, after the Bikini Atoll—the infamous site of the first atomic bomb test located in the Pacific Ocean. The Bikini was then modeled by Micheline Bernardini, a famous showgirl, in one of those early Parisian swimming centers.

1950s: The Bikini Controversy

1950 bikini

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Things didn’t really go smoothly for the bikini at first. In fact, in the early 1950s, the famous Miss World Pageant together with a number of Catholic countries decided to ban the bikini, calling it an insult to women, and saying that it could not do anything good for women.

Some beaches in the Mediterranean and Europe tried to follow suit, but over 50,000 fans sent aggressive letters, protesting the bikini ban, and saying that it made them feel better as women—and it couldn’t be called a bikini unless it could slip through a wedding ring!
In 1957, famous supermodel and actress Brigitte Bardot pretty much wore the bikini in every beach in the South of France during the Cannes Film Festival.

In the United States, actresses Esther Williams and Marilyn Monroe also wore the bikini a lot, but were ridiculed by some writers of Modern Girl magazine, saying that decent and tactful women should not be wearing the bikini at all.

1960s to 1970s: The Acceptance

One famous karaoke song in the Philippines—and anywhere in the world—is Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, which was released by Bryan Hyland in the 1960s to pay homage to the bikini.

In Dr. No, the first James Bond film that starred Sean Connery, the bikini was prominently worn by Ursula Andress—and the bikini also made its debut on Playboy magazine in the said decade—it even earned Racquel Welch the distinction of being the most desired woman in the world after wearing a bikini in the film One Million Years BC.

1980s to 2000s: The Rise of the Bikini

1980's bikini

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By this time, the bikini was no longer controversial. The Star Wars’ Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher, introduced the infamous Slave Costume—made from a golden bikini. Sports Illustrated magazine also published the popular SI Swimsuit Edition yearly, with bikini-clad women on the cover!

The Bikini Today

bikini today

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Today, the Bikini is not just a runway or magazine staple: it is the most comfortable, yet stylish summer wear that anyone could ask for—and its colorful history makes it even better!