On July 5, 1946, French designer Louis Réard unveiled his newest creation to the public: a revealing summer swimsuit with only 30 square inches of fabric. He called it a bikini.
The summer fashion that we all know today as the “bikini” was named so after the nuclear weapons test site “Bikini Atoll,” (meaning coconut place) located in the Pacific Ocean. Réard had been inspired by a recent and significant atomic test made by the U.S. at Bikini Atoll. Somewhat ironically (perhaps intentionally ironic), Réard’s skimpy new swimsuit was designed to symbolize the spirit of freedom and liberation felt by Western Europeans and their first war-free summer in years. Back then, however, no one would dare to show so much skin, and Réard needed a model to showcase his revolutionary new design. It was then that Réard recruited 19 year old exotic nude dancer Micheline Bernardini (pictured above) to model his creation. Needless to say, Réard’s invention was an instant success, particularly among young men. Since then, the bikini has been adopted into our popular culture, and continues to grow in popularity.
The 60′s further immortalized the bikini with “beach blanket” movies and American pop songs. Nowadays, itty bitty teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikinis are seen everywhere; even men sport “man bikinis” with their speedos, much to our dismay. From Miss America to Heidi Klum, to moms and teenagers everywhere, summertime is the time for widespread, rampant bikini use. As time continues to progress, California surfers and bands from the Beach Boys to Katy Perry continue to celebrate this bikini trend that began 66 years ago to this day.
So whether you’re making a fashion statement or symbolizing our country’s spirit of freedom with the recent Fourth of July holiday, make sure you wear lots of sunscreen! Here at Smith, we hope all of you are enjoying your bikini-and-sunshine-filled summer.