Imagine going out in public in clothing smaller than your underwear.
I don't know about you, but I do that multiple times every summer. And from the looks of it I'm not alone. The bikini is what I am referring to and typically, I only wear one when in close proximity to a pool or ocean (never lakes). Although, there was that one time in college when I ran out of clean clothing, but that's a story for another time.
French designer Louis Réard launched the bikini in 1946 just after the US tested an atom bomb in the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. I guess you could say the bikini really became a lasting style when Diana Vreeland declared, on a 1946 trip to St. Tropez, that "the bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb." Just one year later, the bikini made its debut in the May issue of Harper's Bazaar. Photographed by Toni Frissell, a sunbathing Dovima scantily clad in a polka-dot bikini, by Carolyn Schnurer, lies seductively on a large rock in Montego Bay, Jamaica. One of my personal favorite fashion photographs, I love how this photo (pictured above), although 70 years old, still looks like it could have been taken yesterday.
Of course, controversy surrounded the barely-there swim attire known as the bikini. While the 1930s introduced lower cut and figure-hugging swimwear silhouettes, the minuscule size of Réard's bikini was unlike anything worn on public beaches by women before. Lucky for us, the bikini became widely accepted and marked the start of the leisure and sportswear revolution. Just think, we could still be lounging on the beach in wool dresses and bloomers. Hard pass.
Information for this post was sourced from the following resources:
Fashion since 1900 second edition by Valerie Mendes & Amy de la Haye, 1999,2010
Harper's Bazaar April 2017, The 1940s by Stephen Mooallem