The History of the Bikini

From fabric rationing to g-strings, swimsuits have come a long way, baby. Scroll down to see the timeline of how the summer staple changed through the years!

19131913

1913
Thirteen years after women are allowed to compete in the Olympics, Carl Janzten introduces a two-piece bathing costume to enhance their performance. It's really just shorts and a T-shirt but tight-fitting enough to cause a bit of a scandal.

1930s and '40s
In Europe, women start wearing bathing outfits that reveal a sliver of skin at the waist, and suits shrink stateside as fabric is rationed during World War II. For the most part, hems are shortened and skirts eliminated, but in some cases they do split into two.

19461946

1946
With the war over and spirits soaring, Parisian designer Jacques Heim, who works mostly with fur, debuts the atome-the world's smallest swimsuit.

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19471947

1947
Louis Réard, a Parisian engineer, introduces an even smaller suit-made from just 30 inches of fabric-and calls it the bikini after Bikini Atoll, the Pacific Ocean site famous for hosting the first atomic bomb test on July 1 of the previous year. Showgirl Micheline Bernardini debuts the suit at a popular swimming pool in the center of Paris.

Early 1950s
Beaches across Europe and the Mediterranean try to ban bikinis, as do most Catholic countries and the Miss World pageant. But Réard receives more than 50,000 fan letters and launches an aggressive ad campaign saying it's not a real bikini "unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring."

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19571957

1957
Brigitte Bardot makes a splash at the Cannes Film Festival, where she's photographed wearing a bikini on every beach in the south of France. Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe and Esther Williams follow suit in the U.S., but Modern Girl magazine writes: "It is hardly necessary to waste words over the so-called bikini since it is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing."


Early 1960sEarly 1960s

Early 1960s
In 1960, Bryan Hyland releases a hit single: "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." Two years later, Ursula Andress emerges from the sea wearing a belted white bikini as Honey Ryder in Dr. No, Sean Connery's first James Bond film. That same year, Playboy finally puts a bikini on the cover.

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19661966

1966
Raquel Welch wears a fur bikini in One Million Years BC. The rugged, tattered loincloth she wears on the poster ends up becoming more famous than the actual film, and propels her toward a crowning achievement: Playboy's Most Desired Woman of the 1970s.

1983
Carrie Fisher takes the bikini off the beach. In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Princess Leia rocks a gold metal bikini that will spawn years' worth of Halloween costumes.

19881988

1988
Réard's company finally closes, but the bikini's popularity continues to soar, accounting for more than 20 percent of swimsuit sales in the United States. The suit grows smaller than ever, as G-strings make their way north from Brazil and suits are cut higher than ever at the thigh.

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20032003

2003
It takes more than a string bikini to make a splash these days, but when Demi Moore walked out of the ocean in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, her comeback turned into the year's favorite topic of conversation. That scene was credited with reviving her career.

20102010

2010
Eva Herzigova wears a retro-looking leather bikini on Adriana Degreas's Sao Paolo runway. It's the first bikini that could double as an outfit-if you have Herzigova's body, that is.

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20112011

2011
Gwyneth Paltrow takes her family on vacation and is caught showering in a bikini on the deck of Steven Spielberg's yacht. The mother of two shows off an impossibly fit body and women the world over start praying to the altar of Tracy Anderson.

20122012

2012
Kate Upton, a relatively unknown model best recognized for doing the Dougie at a baseball game in a Youtube video, lands Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover of the year. She wears a swimsuit (if you can call it that) that would make Reard himself blush.

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