It may be just itsy bitsy, but the bikini has without a doubt had a huge impact on popular culture. It has changed the world of fashion like few other garments have. Turning sixty-two on 5th July, women’s’ bikinis have weathered shock and scandal, shrugged off the whims of fashion, been celebrated for emancipating women, only to be lambasted for turning women into objects of desire.
Some of those who have worn these two piece swimsuits have gone on to become iconic images of 20th century culture e.g. Bond girl Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in a white bikini, knife tucked into a wide belt. So iconic was the look that 40-years later it was repeated by another Bond girl – Halle Berry in Die Another Day. Then there was Bridget Bardot, who set pulses racing when she appeared in a bikini in And God Created Woman. Raquel Welch became an instant pin-up girl when she appeared in an animal skin two- piece in One Million Years BC.
Historically, one can say the bikini is more than 1,700 years old. Mosaics dating from 300 AD have been found at the Villa Romana del Casale in Sicily, which depict girls exercising in bikinis. However, it was not until the late 1950s that bikinis took off as a fashion item and became a symbol of female expression, says American writer and former model Kelly Killoren Bensimone in her book ‘The Bikini Book’. She writes: “The bikini is emblematic of freedom. It’s about fun, it’s about play, its’ a lifestyle.” Certainly, the little two-piece had a hard time convincing the public that decent women could wear it.
Invented by an engineer after he noticed women on the beaches of St Tropez rolling up their bathing suits to try to get a better tan, the bikini certainly caused a sensation, but few women were prepared to wear it, until Brigitte Bardot sparked the French craze and St Tropez was set alight by women in two-pieces. However, as the sexual revolution in the 1960s took hold, so did the bikini, except in Catholic countries, where it was banned.
And, as the beginning of summer and beach season upon us, everyone wants to show off their bikinis, those two piece swimsuits, while lounging poolside or basking on the sand. Sixty years old but still sprightly and sexy looking, bikinis represent fun, freedom, and a sense of liberation when one sheds those layers of winter clothing. Reminiscing about the bikini, Bensimone writes in her book: “… it was such a shock and such a scandal.”
A shock and a scandal it may have been, but today there is nothing risquÃ© about the bikini and even Women Fashion Wears swears by these two tiny strips of cloth that cover strategic areas of women’s bodies, while revealing deliciously luscious curves. Today the bikini is no longer considered vulgar or inadequate, but a fashion statement that liberates them from conventional wear, a man magnet for some summer fun and frolic on the beach!