You may love or hate the bikini, but the skimpy beach and swimwear celebrates 70 years in the shops.
The bikini provokes argument – men and women both love assertion and freedom the design brings to those who want to flaunt their assets, while both genders also claim the bikini is a step too far.
Nevertheless, the fashion is enduring and can be seen on beaches and poolside around the world – but rarely in Muslim countries where religious rules demand women should cover their bodies.
Created by designer Louis Reard in 1946, the bikini came out of the wardrobe and on to the beach in 1956, but remained quietly inconspicuous until film star Bridgette Bardot shocked the world at the Cannes Film Festival on France’s Cote d’Azur in 1957.
Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie
The reputation of the two-piece swimsuit grew from that fateful day even though Bardot’s bikini is considered immodest compared with some modern designs, such as the string bikini.
The bikini has graced movie stars, models and celebrities, such as the sight of dripping wet Bond girl Ursula Andress rising from the sea like the Greek goddess Aphrodite in Dr No.
The swimming costume was embraced by popular culture in the song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini by Bobby Darin.
Although de rigeur beachwear for many women now, the bikini struggled to go public.
“Indeed, the bikini was so scandalous when it premiered that Reard had difficulties finding a model to wear it, so had to hire a nude dancer instead,” said fashion historian Amber Butchart.
“As the post-war economy boomed and the jet age began, as the bikini offered more tanning options than a one-piece it quickly caught on.”
Butchart also explains the bikini was named after a small group of islands in the Pacific where France tested the atom bomb as Reard felt it would have an effect of ‘atomic proportion’ on the world of fashion.
And the answer to what sort off bikini is right for you– go for a snug fit and lots of support with a halter neck to make the waist look smaller. Choose a flattering colour against your skin tone and if in doubt, pick dark blue.