PARIS – The French are celebrating the birth of the “immoral swimsuit”. 65 years old today.
The bikini is typically a women’s two-piece swimsuit. One part of the attire covers the breasts; the other the groin and part or all of the buttocks, leaving an uncovered area between the two. Merriam-Webster describes the bikini as “a woman’s scanty two-piece bathing suit” or “a man’s brief swimsuit.”
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 $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 suntanning industries.
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.
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, panties or knickers. For men, a bikini is a type of undergarment that is smaller and more revealing than men’s briefs.
All photos: Splash/All Over Press
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