Episode 20: The History of the Bikini

Sep 21, 2022

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The two-piece bathing suit was introduced in 1930’s in Europe initially as a halter top and shorts. Only a sliver of midriff was revealed, and the navel was well covered.  The excitement was dwarfed by WWII, however, when wartime fabric rationing put swimwear on the back burner

It wasn’t until post-war times that the bikini really had its shot at popularity, as post-war Western Europe eagerly headed back to the beaches in summer 1946. In response to the liberated mood, two French designers, Jacques Heim and Louis Réard, simultaneously had the genius idea to develop a two-piece swimsuit. Heim advertised it as “the world’s smallest bathing suit.” Réard’s version, however, went even skimpier, simply featuring a bra top and two inverted triangles of cloth tied together by string. Created from a scant 30 inches of fabric, Réard promoted his creation as “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit”, and gave it the name bikini, named after Bikini Atoll, the site of the first atomic bomb test the previous year. It’s quite obvious which name stuck.


Shocker! Louis Réard had issues finding a professional model to wear his super skimpy two-piece, so he turned instead to someone who had no problem appearing nearly nude in public an exotic dancer. Réard knew his creation would create headlines, so he beat ‘em to the punch and printed newspaper type across the suit. No surprise, the bikini was a smash.

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