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Bikini never gets old, even at over 70 years old

In 1946, a French engineer came up with a scandalous new piece of clothing for women: the bikini, strips of cloth that revealed more than they hid on the beach and in the pool.


The story of four triangles

Four tiny triangles held together by string – that’s about as small as you can get. On July 5, 1946, a striptease dancer by the name of Micheline Bernardini posed in front of cameras by Paris swimming pool, wearing a two-piece swimsuit: the very first bikini. It was invented by French mechanical engineer, Louis Réard. Little did he know, the bikini was here to stay.


‘The first an-atomic bomb’

World War II was over, the Cold War had just begun. The US was testing nuclear bombs above ground in the Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific. That inspired the name for Réard’s new beachwear. His ads for the two-piece bathing suit were a clever play on words: “The bikini, the first an-atomic bomb.”


The ancient Romans

In reality, the French engineer didn’t invent the bikini at all. The idea of wearing scant bits of clothing goes back hundreds of years to the Romans. A fourth century mosaic at the Villa Romana del Casale on the island of Sicily shows Roman women playing sports – in ancient bikinis.


Just right for pin-up girls

Before she started acting, Marilyn Monroe worked as a pin-up model. For her and other pin-up girls, the revealing bikini was a godsend – and that’s what they all wore. This 1949 photograph on display at the Brooklyn Museum is titled “Marilyn on the Beach.”


Hold on tight

In the US in the 1950s, Hollywood’s recipe for success included bikini-clad swimmers performing water ballet and acrobatics on water skis. Here, two mermaids are pictured cooling off. Their tops look like they’re in constant danger of causing a dreaded nipple-gate, while their bikini bottoms appear able to withstand top speeds behind a water ski boat.


The Bond girls

When Ursula Andress, clad in a skimpy bikini, gracefully stepped out of the ocean in 1962, cinema-goers’ chins dropped to the floor. Even James Bond (Sean Connery) had to interrupt his hunt for Dr. No to pause and catch his breath. The same thing happened 40 years later to Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in “Die Another Day.” Bond girl Halle Berry appeared in a very similar beach scene.


How much fabric is enough?

After figuring prominently in the Bond films, bikinis gained even greater mainstream acceptance. The latest styles were presented at the Hamburg harbor in 1963. The Capri model (left) bears a resemblance to Ursula Andress’ bikini. The Sissi model on the right is meant to have a more athletic touch – and be a bit more modest.


Crochet it yourself

Women were crazy about the modern bathing gear in communist East Germany too. In 1971, a women’s magazine praised the crocheted bikini – an inexpensive variation that required little material and time. The only disadvantage was that the cotton yarn soaked up lots of water and became heavy, stretching out the bikini. Today, crocheted bikinis are made with synthetic materials that dry quickly.


Home of the string tanga

In the 1950s, an anti-bikini organization was founded in a place known for showing lots of skin: Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian string tanga had a rather bad reputation up until the 1970s. Nowadays, however, women on Brazil’s beaches tend to opt for the tiniest bikini bottoms they can find.


Bikini body

The world’s most beautiful beaches attract not only the rich and famous, but also paparazzi hoping to snap a compromising photo. They zoom in to determine whether celebrities have put on an extra pound or two. Even after three children, model and television presenter Michelle Hunziker (left) still looks amazing. Her sister-in-law Gaia Trussardi, however, is a bit too skinny.


The volleyball uniform

Beach volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1996, and its popularity grew – in particular, because there is a lot to see. Up until 2012, women volleyball players were required to wear bikinis, until the World Volleyball Federation relaxed the sexist rule. Now they’re permitted to wear anything they want – from a string tanga to bicycle shorts.


A classic look

The word “bikini” literally means “land of coconuts.” The residents of the radioactive atoll have long since evacuated the area, but the swimsuit bearing its name has lived on. The swimwear label TCN returned to the classic model at the Barcelona Fashion Week in June: four squares and a string.


Author: Silke Wünsch (db, kbm)



03.07.2018 | 13:27