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On July 5, 1946 French model Micheline Bernardini paraded onto the runway  at a poolside fashion show in Paris wearing a two piece bathing costume. A number of American fashion correspondents were both shocked and titillated by the model’s skimpy attire.

Although archaeologists had discovered wall paintings depicting women wearing two-piece costumes it is generally accepted that the bikini was invented and launched (almost simultaneously) by two French fashion designers: Jacques Heim and Louis Reard.

Heim was a swimsuit designer who had created a two-piece suit to be sold in his beach shop in Cannes. He marketed the swimsuit as the “Atome,” (named for its small size and meant to be compared with the atom, the smallest particle of matter yet known). To market his new innovation, Heim hired skywriters to advertise his new, scandalously tiny swimsuit.

The same summer of 1946 in which Heim was introducing his “Atome,” Louis Reard was creating his own similar, two-piece swimsuit. He named and marketed his swimsuit  “the bikini”. His bathing suit was designed to be explosive and was named after the South Pacific “Bikini Atoll” – the site where atomic bombs were being tested. Like the “A” bomb (and the later “H” bomb) the bikini swimsuit was expected to cause the same earth-shattering reaction among those who viewed it as was inspired by the rising mushroom clouds of atomic bombs. The “bikini” quickly superseded the “Atome” as the official appellation of the two-piece swimsuit.

Compared to these days the original bikinis of the 1940s and 1950s were fairly modest in their coverage but despite this rather modest beginning, the bikini has evolved and become ever more skimpy. The string bikinis of the 1970s exposed the navel for the first time by fitting the bottoms just on the hips. The top left little to the imagination, providing only minimal bra-style coverage. In the 1980s, the popular thong bikini – supposedly based on the traditional clothing of Amazonian tribes in Brazil  offered the scantiest coverage yet imagined in the rear of the suit.

For many men of my age the sight of Ursula Andress emerging from the waves in the James Bond movie “From Russia With Love” remains an unforgettable sight. By today’s standard her bikini is hardly skimpy – but coorrrr!… I defy anyone, male or female, young or old, to look at that scene and remain unaroused. Or at the least unmoved.

It was just after that memorable scene, which I saw at the ABC Cinema in Paisley (Scotland), that an announcement flashed on the screen saying “the President of the United States has been shot in Dallas”. Everyone assumed it has something to do with the film. It wasn’t until I got home that I discovered that it was actual fact.

Yes, when John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States of America, was shot dead in Dallas on the 22nd November 1963 I was ogling Ursula Andress.

2 Responses to “The Bikini Exploded on the Fashion Scene – and Men Have Been Hooked Ever Since!”

  1. James Green says:

    Sorry Alan, that’s just a stock photo from a free source library :>(

  2. Alan says:

    WOW – that’s a wonderful sight. Do you know her well? Any chance of an introduction do you think or does she date from 1946?

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