Fashion History Classics: Who invented the Bikini?
The Bikini was invented by French automobile engineer Louis Réard (1897 – 1984) and fashion designer Jacques Heim (1899 – 1967) 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 a Parisian fashion designer and manufacturer of women’s furs and couture. In May 1946, Réard introduced the bikini as a smaller version of a swimsuit to the public. The idea struck him when he saw women rolling up their beachwear to get a better tan. Réard named his swimsuit the “bikini” after Bikini Atoll, one of a series of islands in the South Pacific, the site of atomic bomb testing.
His swimsuit was basically a bra top and two inverted triangles of cloth connected by a string. Since it was made out of a scant 30 inches of fabric, he promoted his creation as “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit”. According to that, Réard could not find a model who would dare to wear his design. He ended up hiring Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris, who was introduced at a photo shoot on July 5th 1946 at Piscine Molitor, a public pool in Paris.
Today, 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”.
By the mid 2000s, bikinis had become an $811 million business annually, according to the NPD Group, a consumer and retail information company.
|1_Fashion Style Tip: Victoria Secret’s bikini|
|2_Louis Reard in speakfashion’s fashion dictionary|
|3_Fashion Style Tip: Cut-out swimmsuit|
Tags: 1946, Bikini, Fashion 1900, Fashion 19th Century, Fashion 20th Century, Fashion 21th Century, Fashion Classics, Fashion History, Fashion Today, French Fashion History, Jacques Heim, Louis Réard, Micheline Bernardini, speak fashion, speakfashion, speaking fashion