The history of the bikini
It has been 70 years since the bikini came on the fashion scene, sparking a scandalous reaction.
The Vatican thought it was sinful. It was banned in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Australia and Belgium.
Revealing a woman's navel created an uproar. We have a Frenchman to thank for it... actually, two.
But times were changing. Shifting social mores, increasing independence for women, and the rise of the leisure class would soon lead to acceptance of more revealing swimwear.
Three swimsuit models are pictured wearing new two-piece bikinis and matching pareos on June 8, 1951 at the Molitor open-air swimming pool in Paris.
It might surprise people to know that the word "bikini" was taken by Louis Réard from Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, where the first atomic bomb test was carried out on July 1, 1946 and 22 subsequent nuclear bombs were detonated.
Another Frenchman, Jacques Heim, had come out with a two-piece suit called the "Atome" three weeks before the bikini made its debut, billed as the world's smallest swimsuit. But the atome was quickly usurped by "le bikini."
The nuclear allusions might seem strange, but beautiful women were called "bombshells" in the 1940s.
In this photo, Micheline Bernardini introduces the "tiny" bikini, made from only 30 inches of fabric, at the Molitor swimming pool in Paris, July 5, 1946, holding a matchbox to show off that the new swimsuit could fit entirely into it.
"You had two-piece bathing suits in France from the 1930s on" said Valerie Steele, museum director at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology. "But as they got skimpier, the exposure of the belly button with bikinis caused a huge uproar. And for a long time, that was really quite taboo in America. Two-piece was fine to show some midriff. But you didn't want to show the belly button itself."
Réard had a stripper, Bernardini, wear the bikini after professional models found it too risqué.
Just a year after the debut of the bikini many, including actress Marilyn Monroe seen here in 1947 at age 21, still opted for the non-navel bearing, more demure, two-piece style.
It was all about revealing the belly button. Literally. Hollywood film decency standards known as the Hays production codes, prohibited navels on screen. Magazines too had their prohibitions about navel gazing and some resorted to airbrushing. It was the reason many early two-piece suits were high enough to cover the belly button.
Réard told the world a two-piece suit wasn't a real bikini "unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring." It was all about skimpiness (little did Réard know just how skimpy future iterations would be).
After Sweden's Kiki Håkansson was crowned the first Miss World in 1951 in a bikini, Pope Pius XII called the fashion sinful. Moral disapproval, often fueled by religious convictions, provide an initial deterrent to wide acceptance. Bikinis were subsequently banned from beauty pageants worldwide. It wasn't till 1977 that the Miss America pageant permitted two-piece swimsuits for its contestants.
Brigitte Bardot starred in the 1952 French film "Manina, the Girl in the Bikini" at age 17, one of the first times the bikini appeared in a movie. The young actress made her debut at the 6th International Cannes Film Festival wearing a bikini in 1953 as well. It worked so well for her that she wore a bikini again in the 1956 movie "And God Created Woman."
A bikini-clad Bardot was a breakthrough in making the swimwear popular in Europe, but the U.S was slower to catch on. It also helped garner much-coveted media attention for the fledgling actress. The film managed to skirt the U.S. prohibition against baring midriffs in 1958 because it was foreign film.
Ursula Andress made an entrance in the 1963 James Bond film "Dr. No" as Honey Ryder that few Bond women could match. She emerged from the ocean in a white bikini accessorized with a knife strapped to her hip.
It is definitely one of the all-time top bikini movie moments. The actress said the scene made her career.
The coveted bikini sold for $61,500 in an auction in 2011.
The Urula Andress iconic bikini moment got a reprise in another James Bond film, "Die Another Day," in 2002. This time Halle Berry wore an orange version as she emerged from the ocean.
In 1962 Playboy featured a bikini on its cover for the first time.
Though wearing a fairly conservative pink bikini (with no navel showing), former Disney Mouseketeer Annette Funicello made waves in the teen flick "Beach Party" appearing with co-star Frankie Avalon in the early part of the 60s with its 1950s conservative hangover.
Funicello reportedly had a an agreement with Disney to appear in non-Disney films as long as she didn't wear a bikini, and her former employer was none too happy about the 1963 movie.
The hit film ushered in an era of clean teen fun and the beach party movie genre. Perhaps more importantly, Funicello made the bikini acceptable and increasingly popular with American women. The bikini had gone mainstream.
The pop culture soundtrack of the early 60s included songs such as "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" by Brian Hyland.
Sports Illustrated 1964
The first Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue featured model Babette March in a bikini.
By the mid-1960s the sexual revolution embraced the bikini.
While the movie "One Million Years BC" in 1966 wasn't a critical favorite, Raquel Welch in a tattered deer skin bikini made for a super popular pin-up poster.
In "Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" Carrie Fisher's "Slave Leia" appeared in a gold and metal bikini AND chained to a giant slug, Jabba the Hutt. It was a memorable film moment - turning Fisher into a sex symbol and making the outfit a popular Halloween costume year after year.
Moviegoers and the general public took note when 40-year-old Demi Moore (post kids) showed off her black-bikini-clad body in "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" in her return to the big screen.
The bikini has gone from scandalous fashion attire to a ubiquitous summertime staple.