The bikini or two piece is a women's
swimsuit with two parts, one covering the
breasts, the other the
groin and, optionally, part or all of the
buttocks, leaving an uncovered area between the two.
It is often worn in hot weather, while
swimming or sunning. The shapes of both parts of a
bikini resemble women's underwear, and the lower part can range from revealing
g-string to briefs and modest square-cut
Merriam–Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition) describes the
bikini as "a woman's scanty two-piece bathing suit", "a man's brief swimsuit"
and "a man's or woman's low-cut briefs".
While two-piece bathing suits had been worn on the beach
before, the modern bikini was invented by French engineer
Louis Réard in 1946.
He named it after
Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, the site of the
Operation Crossroads nuclear weapon tests in July that year.
The bikini is perhaps the most popular female
beachwear around the globe, according to French fashion historian
Olivier Saillard due to "the power of women, and not the power of
fashion". As he explains, "The emancipation of swimwear
has always been linked to the emancipation of women."By
the mid 2000s bikinis had become a
US$811 million business annually, according to the
NPD Group, a consumer and retail information company.
The bikini has boosted spin-off services like
bikini waxing and the
sun tanning industries.
The "Bikini girls" mosaic showing women exercising, first
quarter of the 4th century AD.
Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily
Predecessors of the bikini date back to
Çatalhöyük and the
Greco-Roman world. Artwork dating back to the
Diocletian period (286-305 AD) in
Villa Romana del Casale,
Sicily depicts women in garments resembling bikinis in mosaics on the
floor. The images of ten women, dubbed the "Bikini
Girls",exercising in clothing that would pass as bikinis today, are the most
replicated mosaic among the 37 million colored tiles at the site.
Archeological finds, especially in
Pompeii, show the Roman goddess
Venus wearing a bikini. A statue of Venus in a
bikini was found in cupboard in the southwest corner in Casa della Venere,
others were found in the front hall.
A statue of Venus was recovered from the
tablinum of the
house of Julia Felix,and another from an
atrium at the garden at
The groundwork for the modern bikini began to be laid in
1907, when Australian swimmer and performer
Annette Kellerman was arrested on a
Boston beach for wearing a form-fitting one-piece swimsuit, which became
an accepted beach attire for women by 1910. In 1913,
inspired by the introduction of women into Olympic swimming, designer
Carl Jantzen made the first functional two-piece
swimwear, a close-fitting one-piece with shorts on the bottom and short
sleeves on top.By the 1930s, necklines plunged at the
back, sleeves disappeared and sides were cut away.
Hollywood endorsed the new glamour with films such as
Neptune's Daughter in which
Esther Williams wore provocatively named costumes such as "Double
Entendre" and "Honey Child".
With new materials like
nylon, by 1934 the swimsuit started hugging the body and had shoulder
straps to lower for tanning.
By the early 1940s two-piece swimsuits were frequent on
Hollywood stars like
Rita Hayworth and
Lana Turner tried similar swimwear or
Pin ups of Hayworth and
Esther Williams in the costume were widely distributed.
Finally, the modern bikini was introduced by French engineer
Louis Réard and fashion designer
Jacques Heim in Paris in 1946. Réard was a car
engineer but by 1946 he was running his mother's lingerie boutique near
Les Folies Bergères in Paris. Heim was working on a
new kind of beach costume. It comprised two pieces, the
bottom large enough to cover its wearer's navel. In May
1946, he advertised it as the world's "smallest bathing suit".
Réard named his swimsuit the "bikini", taking the name from the
Bikini Atoll, one of a series of islands in the South Pacific where
testing on the new atomic bomb was occurring that summer.
Historians assume Reard termed his swimsuit the "bikini"
because he believed its revealing style would create reactions among people
similar to those created by America’s atomic bomb in Japan just one summer
earlier. Réard sliced the top off the bottoms and
advertised it as "smaller than the smallest swimsuit".
Réard could not find a model to wear his design. He
ended up hiring
Micheline Bernardini, a
nude dancer from the Casino de Paris.That bikini, a
string bikini with a
g-string back of 30 square inches (194 cm2) of clothes with
newspaper type printed across, was introduced on July 5 at
Piscine Molitor, a public pool in Paris.
Heim's design was the first worn on the beach, but clothing was
given its name by Réard.
From a 1949
Los Angeles Times report: "The bathing beauty queen—blond
Bebe Shopp, 18, of Hopkins, Minn.—got an enthusiastic welcome in Paris,
but she said she hasn't changed her mind about French swim suits. ...
'I don't approve of Bikini suits for American girls,' Bebe told
her French interviewers. 'The French girls can wear them
if they want to, but I still don't approve of them on American girls."
The bikini has spawned many stylistic variations.
A regular bikini is defined as a two pieces of garments that
cover the groin and buttocks at the lower end and the breasts in the upper
end. Some bikinis can offer a large amount of coverage,
while other bikinis provide only the barest minimum.
Topless variants may still be considered bikinis, although technically no
longer two-piece swimsuits. Along with a variation in
designs, the term bikini was followed by an often hilarious lexicon
including the monokini (top part missing), seekini (transparent bikini),
tankini (tank top, bikini bottom), camikini (camisole
top and bikini bottom) and hikini.
Since fashions of
different centuries exist beside one another in early 21st century, though it
is possible to imagine a woman combining a bikini and a 1910 bathing costume.
Bikini tops come in several different styles and cuts,
including a halter-style neck that offers more coverage and support, a
bandeau, a rectangular strip of fabric covering the breasts that minimizes
large breasts, a top with cups similar to a
push-up bra, and the more traditional triangle cups that lift and shape
the breasts. Bikini bottoms vary in style and cut and in
the amount of coverage they offer, coverage ranging anywhere from complete
underwear-style coverage, as in the case of more modest bottom pieces like
shorts, or briefs with a small skirt-panel attached, to almost full
exposure, as in the case of the
thong bikini. Skimpier styles have narrow sides,
including V-cut (in front), French cut (with high-cut sides) and low-cut
string (with string sides). In just one major fashion
show in 1985 were two-piece suits with
cropped tank tops instead of the usual skimpy bandeaux, suits that are
bikinis in front and one-piece in back,
ruffles, and daring, navel-baring cutouts.Subsequent
variations on the theme include the monokini, tankini, string bikini, thong,
slingshot, minimini, teardrop, and micro.
Types of underwear worn by both men and women are identified
as bikini underwear, similar in size and revealing nature to the bottom
half of a bikini bathing suit. For women, bikini
underwear can refer to virtually any tight, skimpy, or revealing undergarment
that provides less coverage to the midsection than traditional underwear,
knickers. For men, a bikini is a type of
undergarment that is smaller and more revealing than men's
There is evidence of ancient Roman women playing Expulsim
Ludere, an early version of
handball.Female athletes who play
beach volleyball professionally usually wear two-pieces.
These bikinis are designed with functionality rather than
fashion in mind.
In 1994, the bikini became the official uniform of women's
beach volleyball, sparking controversy, with some sports officials
considering it exploitative and unpractical in colder weather and athletes
admitting that the regulation uniform is intended to be "sexy" and to draw
attention. Dancers, sex appeal and bikinis worn by women
players as much as athletic ability made beach volleyball the fifth largest
television audience of all the sports at the Games at
Bondi Beach in Australia in 2000 Olympics.
Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball, a video game for
Xbox, was attributed to the scantily clad women.
Often the women in the sport of
athletics also wear bikinis, not much larger than in beach volleyball.
Amy Acuff, a US high-jumper, wore a black leather bikini instead of a
track suit, at Sydney
2000 Summer Olympics. Speedster
Florence Griffith-Joyner mixed bikini bottoms with one-legged
tights in Seoul
1988 Summer Olympics, which earned her more attention than her record
breaking in Women's 200 meters. Towns like
Porto Seguro in Brazil has become an attraction for beach athletics in
bikini for the tourists.
Skimpy bikinis have been a major component of marketing
woman's sports, raising some objections. In 2007, fans
voted for contestants in the
WWE Diva contest after watching them playing beach volleyball in skimpy
bikinis. In the 2004 and 2008
Olympic Games, inclusion of bikini-clad athletes raised eyebrows, while a
controversy broke out around bikini-clad
cheerleaders performing at a beach volleyball match.
Bikinis stirred up a controversy at the 2006
Asian Games at Doha, Qatar, and the Iraqi teams refused to wear such
clothing. In the 2007
South Pacific Games, players were made to wear shorts and cropped sports
tops instead of bikinis. In the
West Asian Games 2006, bikini-bottoms were banned for female athletes, who
were asked to wear long shorts.
String bikinis and other skimpy clothes are also common in
surfing, paving the way for some
hooliganism in the past.