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July 5, 1946: the bikini

Gerald Ghislain

Posted on July 25 2018

July 5, 1946: the bikini - Histoires de Parfums

On July 1st, 1946, Americans test a nuclear bomb on an atoll in the pacific called Bikini. Four days later, French engineer Louis Réard participates in the water festivities at the pool of Paris's hotel Molitor and unveils his newest creation that he presents as an anatomic bomb: the bikini!

 The bathing suit is made of two pieces: a top formed by two triangular pieces and a V-shaped bottom: scandalous! However, Louis Réard does not find any models to display his creation. He is forced to call the nude dancer Micheline Bernardini who then becomes the first woman in the world to wear a bikini.

However, women have been wearing two piece bathing suits since 1936. So what exactly changed with the bikini? Just a couple centimeters less of fabric that expose the belly button. Unacceptable for many, the bikini is banned in numerous countries including Spain, Italy and Belgium. In France, the bikini is tolerated on the Mediterranean beaches, but banned everywhere else.

In the United States, the bikini is highly criticized. Fred Cole, Chairman of the famous swimsuit brand, Cole of California, announces to Time magazine that he does believe in the bikini style that came from France.
He argues that the bikini was created for the small silhouette of French women stating: "French women have shorter legs than American women, their bathing suits must thus sit higher up on their hips to make their legs appear longer."

But the bikini becomes a trend thanks to movie stars. Beginning with Brigitte Bardot who was first photographed on the Carlton beach in 1953 during the Festival de Cannes. She is also seen wearing a bikini in the 1956 film "Et Dieu créa la femme..."
However, the real turning point for the bikini happens in 1962 with the James Bond girl Ursula Andress and her famous white bikini in "James Bond against Dr no."

Adopted by the bronzed youth of the 1960's, the bikini finally conquers the world in 70's. And even if we see the return of the one-piece bathing suit on beaches and runway shows, in France, in 2016, 80% of women's bathing suit sales were bikinis.

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