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Revealing all: 60 years of the bikini

magazine article | Published in TES Newspaper on 7 July, 2006

"It revealed everything about the girl except her mother's maiden-name!" (Louis Reard, co-creator of the bikini.)

The bikini is 60-years-old this week. On July 5, 1946, model Micheline Bernadini introduced the two-piece swimsuit at a Paris fashion show, setting a trend that has captivated Sun-worshippers ever since.

Not that there's ever really anything new under the Sun. Minoan wall-paintings dating from 1600bc depict bikini-clad women, and Roman mosaics from ad300 show female gymnasts cavorting around in panties and bandeau-style tops.

But the credit for the modern two-piece goes to French engineer Louis Reard and fashion designer Jacques Heim, who revealed their sizzling creation in 1946, boasting that it was "smaller than the smallest swimsuit in the world".

The 1946 bikini was quite modest by today's standards. The bikini-bottom was cut above the navel, and the top covered the entire bust. However, never before had swimwear revealed so much of the female form.

The creation was guaranteed to send shockwaves through the fashion-world.

Reard almost certainly had this in mind when he named his sexy swimsuit after the Bikini Atoll - a group of Pacific islands where the US tested atomic bombs.

The fashion-journalists who witnessed the bikini's debut were both shocked and titillated at the sight of so much bare flesh.

Some predicted that it was simply too scandalous to catch on. But catch on it did - 60 years later, it's still going strong.

Bikini timeline 1600bc: Minoan wall-paintings depict bikini-clad women.

ad300: Roman mosaics show gymnasts wearing strapless two-pieces.

1940s: modern bikini introduced by Louis Reard.

1950s: Brigitte Bardot wears a bikini in And God Created Woman (1956). Its popularity soars.

1960s: designer Rudi Gernreich introduces the monokini - a topless swimsuit. It fails to catch on.

1970s: ultra-skimpy bikinis expose the navel and give minimal coverage of breasts.

1980s: thong bikini introduced, giving minimal coverage of the bottom.

1990s to the present: cleavage-enhancing designs become popular.

Range of styles for bikini-bottoms. Tankini introduced.


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