July 5, 1946: First bikini introduced in France
When you think of vintage fashion, you think everything has to be modest. But on July 5, 1946, French designer Louis Reard surprised the world with a new swimsuit: a daring two-piece swimsuit, now known as a bikini. When it was introduced, it would later become a summer staple for American women. But what’s the history behind the “skimpy garment”?
Before the bikini
Before two-piece swimsuits were invented, women wore modest one-piece suits. In the 1930s, however, European women began wearing two-piece suits with only a scant sliver of midriff visible. It wasn’t until after World War II when fashion began to reflect everyone’s new sense of freedom. On July 5, 1946, Reard introduced a swimsuit made with only 30 square inches of fabric.
Parisian showgirl Micheline Bernardini arrived at the Piscine Molitor, a popular swimming pool in Paris, wearing the first bikini. Women (and men) couldn’t look away from the new fashion design, surprised that Bernardini was “baring her assets.” But women were also excited about wearing the swimsuit themselves.
Popular in Europe
It didn’t take long for bikinis to become popular in Europe. American women weren’t keen on wearing the skimpy two-piece garment yet, but European women were quick to dive into the new fashion trend. In the 1950s, it became a sensation along the Mediterranean coast, with many women wanting the infamous “bikini body.” But it would take a while longer for American women to warm up to the two-piece swimsuit.
Becoming a summer staple
By the 1960s, however, Americans were on board with the swimwear trend. Teenagers wore bikinis to public beaches and the swimwear was popularized by pop singer Brian Hyland’s 1960 song, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini. Hollywood embraced bikinis in “beach blanket” movies, starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. Finally, the California surfing culture was celebrated by pop groups, like The Beach Boys, establishing bikinis as a summer staple in the United States.
By the late 1960s, everyone was wearing bikinis. You couldn’t avoid them. Whether you approved of the garment or not, they were a staple in American society. Nothing has changed since then, except for the fact that body-positivity movements encourage women of all shapes and sizes to wear bikinis. You don’t need to have the “bikini body” to wear the two-piece swimsuit anymore, and we’re happy about the change in the fashion trend.