The Newly-Designed Bikini

The Newly-Designed Bikini


When it originally debuted in 1946, the bikini was considered scandalous and even models refused to wear the newly-designed bikini.


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When bikini originally debuted in 1946, it was considered scandalous—and that was the point. The point of bikinis was not you need a tan belly. It was very much intended to shock.

Named after Bikini Atoll, a coral reef in the Marshall Islands where nuclear weapons were tested, Diana Vreeland referred to the new suit as "the atomic bomb of fashion." According to the designer Louis Réard, it was "smaller than the world's smallest swimsuit" and you were supposed to be able to pull it through a wedding band.

It wasn't actually the first two-piece swimsuit. Those had already become popular during the war years, as rationing meant there was less fabric available for swimwear. However, unlike high-waisted '40s two-pieces, the bikini revealed the belly button.

The navel was super shocking at the time. Even as late as 1965, censorship rules meant that a belly button could not be shown on television.

In 1946, models refused to wear the newly-designed bikini because it was way too shocking. So it was first seen on a French nude dancer, Micheline Bernardini.


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