The History of the Bikini – The Evolution of Swimming Suits

history of bikini

history of bikini

Many women have been lucky to grow up in a world where bikinis are commonplace and no rules or societal pressures have forced them to cover up. However, when the bikini first arrived it caused a lot of controversy and people had to campaign to wear it.

So how did we get to the bikini?

Although bikini-type clothing can be seen in images from Ancient Greece it wasn’t until the 20th century it really took off and started to become a familiar sight on beaches around the world.

The modern bikini can be credited to a French engineer called Louis Réard. Back in 1946 he named the bikini after ‘Bikini Atoll’ which was the site of an atomic bomb test. He hoped that the bikini would be as explosive as the atomic bomb; he wasn’t wrong!

After seeing women rolling up their beach wear in order to get a better tan so he decided women needed something smaller to sunbathe in. He created a string bikini that was only made from 30 inches of fabric.

Ban the bikini!

In the early 1950’s beaches across Europe tried to ban the bikini. Many Catholic countries disapproved and even the Miss World pageant prohibited contestants from wearing them. However the bikini had already proved so popular that Réard received 50,000 letters from fans of support and he launched an advertising campaign saying it’s not a real bikini “unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring.”

There are many significant moments in history that have contributed to the bikini being as successful as it is today. Brigitte Bardot was photographed in one, as was Marilyn Monroe. However, most of us will remember THAT scene in the Bond film Dr No, where Ursula Andress surfaces from the sea in a white bikini.

Front cover

The 60’s are known for free love and peace man and it was in 1962 that Playboy first put a bikini on the front cover. Now these are very familiar on the front of men’s magazines. The 80’s saw Carrie Fisher take the bikini to space in Star Wars as Princess Leia which has now become an iconic figure.

The brazilian bikini shot to fame during this time as well with G-string bikinis becoming popular; although Peter Stringfellow should have stuck to boardies! In the 90’s we had Baywatch making the swimsuit sexy with Pammy and co slow motion running into the sea. Beach volleyball only got the bikini as their official uniform in 1994. But many athletes in various sports will wear training bikinis as they are the most effective.

Nowadays we are overwhelmed with the choice of bikini styles; halter neck, bandeau, Brazilian, string, high-waisted, and even Spongebob Squarepants lives in Bikini Bottom! We are fortunate to be able to have such a choice but then that’s the dilemma; what style do you go for?!

And who would have thought you have Playboy to thank for your bikini!


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