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The History of Womens Bikini Swimwear

Updated on October 25, 2009
Micheline Bernardini modelling the very first bikini in 1946.
Micheline Bernardini modelling the very first bikini in 1946.

Womens bikini swimwear are two-piece bathing suits that are similar in shape to bras and panties. Although Jacques Heim and Louis Réard designed the first swimsuit known as womens bikini swimwear for a fashion show in 1946, the two-piece design predates their swimsuits style. Photographs and films from the early 20th century show ladies wearing two-piece swimwear, and there are also early Roman mosaics depicting women doing exercises in costumes that are very similar to modern-day womens bikini swimwear.

Your basic bikini swimwear style.
Your basic bikini swimwear style.

Womens Bikini Swimwear Were Scandalous!

Heim and Réard named their new two-piece swimsuit for the Bikini Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands. The site had recently been used for a nuclear weapons test, and the two men so named the bikini for the "explosive" effect it would have in society. Back then, the style was considered so provocative and scandalous that they were only able to find a nude dancer to model it. However, in later years, it began to take hold with the aid of bikini-clad film stars like Brigitte Bardot in the 1956 And God Created Woman. By the early 1960s, womens bikini swimwear had become the most preferred style in swimwear fashion.

Tankinis have become are a very popular choice of swimwear.
Tankinis have become are a very popular choice of swimwear.

There Are Many Styles of Womens Bikini Swimwear

There are numerous different styles of womens bikini swimwear. The one that was publicly introduced 1946 was a thong bikini, with small triangles of fabric modestly covering the genitals and breasts and string ties to make up the rest. Some string bikini swimwear also offers coverage for the behind, though the one in 1946 did not. Other styles consist of a tube-style top; a strip of fabric to cover the breasts, with cups like those of a push-up bra, and a more conservative bottom piece such as shorts, briefs or a skort. The tankini, an even more modern variation, is just like a tank top.

A modest version of the monokini.
A modest version of the monokini.

Flaunt It With Womens Bikini Swimwear!

A more recent type of swimwear inspired by womens bikinis is known as the monokini. A monokini may refer to just the bottoms of womens bikini swimwear worn by itself for semi-nude sunbathing, or it can be a scant one-piece suit that resembles the womens bikini, but leaves the midriff almost completely bare. The very first monokini was created by Rudi Gernreich in 1964 and actually bared the breasts, however it did provide a significant amount of coverage for the bottom parts of the body.

Womens Bikini Swimwear Throughout History

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    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      We guys all need some eye candy every once in a while! :)

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Informative with some lovely images for the boys.