Go Ahead And Stare

Bikini Models
generic bikini bikinis swimsuit bathing suit

To many, the appearance of the bikini is the first real sign of summer, a return to the simple pleasures of the beach like warm sand and blue skies.

"The girls -- that's what I like the best. They make the day go faster," one lifeguard tells CBS Sunday Morning contributor Serena Altschul.

And while it's a perfect complement to the gifts of nature, the bikini is most definitely a creation of man. Two men, to be precise.

The year was 1946. The place was France. Rival designers Louis Reard and Jacques Heim were competing to produce the world's smallest swimsuit. Their race ended with a bang.

Although Heim's suit was first to hit the beach, it was Louis Reard who gave the bikini its memorable name. His inspiration: an American A-bomb test in the Pacific's Bikini Atoll.

And like the atomic bomb, Reard's bikini was a tour-de-force in manipulating tiny bits of matter. But for its July 5th debut in Paris, the designer had one big problem.

"He couldn't get models. Models would not wear the bikini. But he did, you know, enlist a stripper to wear the bikini and she wore it. And the picture is so cute," explains author Kelly Killoren Bensimon.

"Little did she know that she was gonna set the stage for the rest of the world," Bensimon, who wrote "The Bikini Book," adds.

Bensimon, as a model herself, is no stranger to the subject.

"The difference between a two-piece and the bikini is that the bikini exposes the navel, which is the zone of contention," Bensimon says. "That's why it became really provocative."

In the years that followed, films like "And God Created Woman" helped promote the bikini, not to mention one other French export.