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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy Birthday, Itty Bitty Teeny Weeny

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Thu, Jul 5, 2012 at 3:44 PM

The typically sputtering start to a Portland summer just reinforces the feeling that the Fourth of July is the real kickoff to summer (did you know it's going to be warmer in Portland than L.A. this week? Well, it is.), so the fact that today is the anniversary of the bikini is just evidence that someone's keeping the party going. A bit of cultural history:

On July 5, 1946, less than a week after the United States detonated an atomic bomb above tiny Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific, a Frenchman named Louis RÉard — an automobile engineer moonlighting as a fashion designer — introduced to the sunbathing public the world’s smallest swimsuit. RÉard called his creation the bikini, a name inspired, he later said, by the sight of women rolling up their bathing suits in order to acquire a more complete tan.

Two-piece swimsuits had been around for decades before RÉard came along. In fact, the concept was even far older than that; Greek urns and mosaics created more than 3,000 years ago depict women athletes wearing two-piece outfits. But RÉard’s genius was to devise a garment, out of as little fabric as possible, that one could still legally wear in public. (He marketed his new fashion brilliantly, as well — pronouncing, for example, that a bathing suit wasn’t a true bikini unless both pieces could be pulled through a wedding ring.)


Circa 1942
  • Peter Stackpole—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
  • Circa 1942

Lots more photos of bikini moments from the '40s to the 70s here.

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