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Although the word ‘bikini’ has only been in existence since 1946, the two piece swim-suit that it represents has been around much longer, since around 1600 BC. Minoan wall paintings have been discovered in recent decades showing images of women involved in gymnastic exercises wearing skimpy two piece costumes that look a lot like modern day bikinis.

The Romans have long been known to have worn similar out-fits based on depictions on mosaics and murals. The Villa Romana del Casale, situated about three and a half miles from the town of Piazza Amerina in Sicily and built around 330 AD has a well-preserved mosaic, entitled "Coronation of the Winner".

It features trim young women wearing bikini like garments exercising with balls, discus, and hand weights and the winner is holding a palm leaf and a crown of roses (shown above).

In modern times, the two-piece swimsuit made its first appearance in the summer of 1946, designed by Jacques Heim, it was displayed in a beach shop in France. He named his creation ‘The Atome’, after the Atom bomb, and advertised all over Cannes beaches that the world’s smallest bathing suit was now available to buy.

Three week after the ‘Atome’ was released, Louis Reard engineer turned swimsuit designer, brought out a similar swimsuit which he sold along the French Riviera. Reard named his creation the ‘Bikini’ after a small island in the South Pacific where the atomic bomb was being tested. Like the ‘Atome’, it was made up of two small pieces of cloth and for the first time in the modern era, women were publicly revealing their backs and navels.

A year after it was released in France, Reard’s bikini was released in America causing an amount of curiosity but very little in the way of sales and was even outlawed in some states as a result of its scantiness.

For the next twenty years, the bikini was little more than a side show in the fashion industry but by the late 1960s, the ‘Sexual Revolution’ took hold in America and the rest of the western world and the tiny swimsuit became a success. Today, the bikini is world famous and by far the most popular form of swimwear for women worldwide and is an $811 million industry in America alone.

Read more articles at Triond
Image Source: Women's History Magazine

Women's History Magazine

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