Today the bikini turns sixty-five. It was on July 5th, 1946 in France that a nude dancer (they just call them dancers in France) made her indelible mark on history, baring her midriff and pelvic area for all to see.
In the summer of 1946 Louis Réard, a Parisian automobile engineer learned that a French designer had constructed a miniscule bathing suit and aptly dubbed it “the atom.” Undeterred by the atomic event, Réard crafted his own scandalous costume and titled the creation “the bikini,” after the Bikini Atoll where the US had recently conducted nuclear tests.
Réard couldn’t find a model willing to don the scandalous suit. Fortunately he stumbled upon Micheline Bernadini, a performer at the infamous Casino de Paris. Precisely sixty-five years ago today, the nineteen-year-old femme attended a fashion event at public pool in Paris, forever altering the course of beachwear history.
The original bikini was made from 30 inches of newsprint fabric. As a Frenchman not afraid to bear a little derriere, the back of Réard’s creation was a g-string. As impostors soon arose, Réard claimed a bathing suit could not be called a bikini “unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring.”
In 1950 Réard defended the bikini against charges by that it was obsolete and tasteless. The Reading Eagle recorded Réard’s retort. “‘Bikinis are a necessity in any beautiful woman’s wardrobe,’ he insisted. ‘She wants to strip for a sunbath, so she can show herself off to her husband… and his friends.’”
And so, sixty-five years later the bikini’s purpose hasn’t changed. We have Monsieur Réard to thank for the iconic summer image of big breasted beach beauties strutting around public shorelines wearing increasingly scanty suit styles.
Here’s to another sixty-five.