Would you believe that the bikini as we know it today was invented by a French automotive engineer?
Yes, you read that right! Louis Réard (10 Oct 1896 – 16 Sept 1984) worked as an automotive engineer until about 1940 when he helped his mother out by running her lingerie business and became a clothing designer in the process.
Or did Réard “invent” the bikini?
The facts are this is a yes and no answer Two-piece swimsuits had been around since around 1930, however, the navel was always completely covered.
No, Louis Réard did not invent the first “bikini”. In May 1946, Jacques Heim designed a two-piece swimsuit that was just high enough to cover the navel, almost a bikini. He called it the “Atome,” He ran an extravagant, for the time, advertising campaign proclaiming it the world’s “smallest bathing suit”. He even hired skywriters to fly over Mediterranean beaches promoting it.
Réard Creates an Iconic Piece of Swimwear
Now we can talk about Louis Réard. Being a clothing designer, Réard was not to be outdone by Mr. Heim so he created what we know as the modern string bikini. Now, this design was something to behold. Réard used a mere 30 square inches;4 triangles; of fabric, which he had a newspaper design printed on. This string bikini was so scandalous at the time that he had to hire a 19-year-old nude dancer named Micheline Bernardini to model it.
Timing is Everything
And his timing could not have been better for his advertising idea. He named the new swimwear “Bikini” after Bikini Atoll, a Pacific Ocean Island where the US detonated 2 atomic bombs during weapon testing. He believed that his new beachwear would create as much of an explosion in the fashion world as the atomic bombs did in the Bikini Atoll area.
He took advantage of the timing of the bombing by debuting his bikini, in Paris on 5 July, only 4 days after the testing took place, the papers were still filled with reports of the tests at Bikini Atoll. Réard wanted to be sure he could one up the competition, so he hired skywriters as well to fly over the French Riviera. His message was “Smaller than the smallest bathing suit in the world.” In addition to skywriting, he took his swimsuit and his beautiful bikini model to the media and to the public at the Piscine Molitor, an extremely popular public pool in Paris. The press went wild! The International Herald Tribune ran nine stories with photographs of Bernardini and about the event. Réard applied for and received a patent for his design. Fourteen days later the modern Bikini was born.
Pushing the Boundaries
The string bikini was revolutionary for its time – it was far more daring than any other swimsuit design, exposing much more skin. Réard’s string bikini was made to be worn by women who weren’t afraid to make a statement and push the boundaries of fashion.
The bikini has come a long way since its inception in the 1940s. Today, it is considered an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe and is popular among all ages. Whether you’re looking for a bikini to hit the beach or just want to add some playful style to your poolside look, there are countless designs available.
Here are some examples of the most popular bikini styles.
- String bikini, which features thin strings that tie around the waist and neck.
- Bandeau bikinis are a popular style for those who want to cover more of their body, as they fit close to the body and offer full coverage.
- The tankini, which is a two-piece set with a top that covers more of the body than bikini bottoms
- Triangle bikini, which features triangular cups that tie behind the neck.
The bikini has come a long way since its creation in 1946. Louis Réard’s revolutionary design changed the way we look at swimwear and it continues to be a symbol of freedom and self-expression for women around the world. Whether you choose a string bikini, tankini or bandeau bikini, make sure to pay homage to the bikini’s rich history and flaunt it with pride! Thanks to this iconic piece of clothing, summertime has never been more stylish.