Happy 70th Birthday Bikini! A Brief History + Our Favorite Bikini Moments of All Time

Micheline Bernardini I Happy 70th Birthday Bikini! A Brief History + our Favorite Bikini Moments of All Time

Our kind of birthday suit.


On July 5th, 1946 the bikini as we know it first made its appearance to the world at a fashion show in Paris – poolside, of course. Designed by French engineer and part-time lingerie designer Louis Réard from just 30″ of fabric, the barely there 2-pc suit was so scandalous that no French model would dare wear it. Luckily Micheline Bernardini (above), an exotic dancer at the Casino de Paris, was up for the challenge – and immediately received 50,000+ fan letters.

An entrepreneurial Réard came up with the idea when he realized the U.S. government’s introduction of fabric rationing during World War II presented him with a money-making opportunity. Cha-ching. Fashion houses and designers had already begun using rationing as an excuse to redesign the swimsuit using less fabric and revealing more skin, and Réard, well, took it one step further. Good man.

As other designers followed suit (pun intended), the inventor kept his bikini in demand via creative marketing practices, including stating a two-piece suit wasn’t a real bikini unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring. Why bikini? Réard named the skimpy suit after the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, an island being used at the time for atom bomb testing. Waves of culture shock were sent around the world as the skin-baring bikini was declared sinful by the Vatican and banned throughout European beaches, but public acceptance finally came around in the mid-late 1950s when movie stars such as Brigitte Bardot made the 2-piece de rigueur.

Here, a few of our fave bikini moments in honor of the birthday suit’s 70th.

Click any image below to launch gallery view. 

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