On a hot summer day in July, ’46 right after the end of the second World War, while indulging his eyes with beautiful women strolling happily on a remote beach in Southern France, Louis Réard, an engineer of sorts, had a glimpse of genius that would start a revolution bigger than everything we could have imagined. He wanted to see more skin, more beauty. He wanted women to feel free and enjoy themselves, while others like him would enjoy the pretty sight of azure skies, white sandy beaches, teal seas and luscious bodies.
Thus the Bikini was born. Curiously, the name comes from Bikini Atoll, a place where atomic bomb post-war testing was done during those times.
Shrouded in acceptance, controversy, scandals, outrage, acceptance again, then some other scandals, outrages and banishment, the Bikini’s rise to power as we know and love it today has been a voracious battle.
At the turn of the millennium, the bikini has won a difficult war that spanned for more than 50 years, due to “the power of women, and not the power of fashion” according to French fashion historian Olivier Saillard. Today it is the most popular beachwear around the globe, as he explains that “the emancipation of swimwear has always been linked to the emancipation of women”.
Thanks to TIME Magazine, we were able to find the main actors of the insurgent rise to power of the Bikini. Let’s offer our gratitude to the women who fought for us and pay them a tribute.
Micheline Bernardini models the first-Ever Bikini (1946)
Bettmann / Corbis
“Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” (1960)
Annette Funicello and Beach Party (1960s)
The belted Bond-girl bikini (1962)
Sports Illustrated’s first Swimsuit Issue (1964)
Raquel Welch’s fur bikini in One Million Years B.C. (1966)
Phoebe Cates’ Bikini in Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Princess Leia’s golden bikini in Return of the Jedi (1983)
The official uniform of the female Olympic Beach Volleyball players (1996)
Popperfoto / Getty Images
Miss America pageant’s bikini debut (1997)
B. Vartan Boyajian / AP
Here’s to beautiful women all over the world, wearing their bikinis, changing times.
P.S. Go Women!