The funny thing about the word “bikini” is that the “bi” syllable at the front part of the word makes it seem like “kini” is the word for a one-piece swimsuit, and a “bi-kini” would be a suit that’s cut into two.
This, in fact, is not the case.
The word “bikini,” a cute word, overall, despite its misleading sounds, was first coined by Louis Reard, a French car engineer who designed one of the very first of the two-piece getups, and he named the scraps of fabric after Bikini Atoll, the place where atomic bomb testing went down.
Atom bombs are bad — very, very bad — but bombshells of the female species are a wonderful thing indeed. And Reard certainly knew that his swimsuit would make shock waves (in the shapes of giant mushroom clouds?) as soon as it erupted on those French beaches. On those French ladies on those French beaches.
How big was the first bikini? The better question is actually, how minuscule was it? Practically microscopic. Using only 30 square inches of fabric, Reard, car/bikini engineer extraordinaire, dubbed his racy design “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit.” He said he got the notion for making the wee triangles from watching the way women rolled up their beach duds to get better tans. He was watching out for the ladies. He was a nice man like that.
The year? 1946. And the trouble was despite all the excitement generating around the mere existence of the bikini, Mr. Reard could locate no model to sport one for any ad campaign. Foiled!
Finally, and lord knows how he even came to be in such a place, Reard happened on a certain shamelessly naked lady dancer in a casino. Her name was Micheline Bernardini. She agreed to be the world’s first bikini model.
Thank you, Micheline. Thank you very much for paving the way for women everywhere like that. That was real swell.
Ain’t she cute.
Another two-piece designer’s suit was actually the first to hit the beaches (damn), but Reard gets cred for inventing the suit’s moniker, and the slogan that a two-piece isn’t a bikini “unless it can be pulled through a wedding ring.” (Wedding ring? What.)
But was this the first first first bikini, really? Nope. Two-piece bathing suits have been a good idea ever since the apple and the garden and the scraps to cover Mr. Adam’s and Mrs. Eve’s bits in Eden, practically.
Like back in ye olde Greco-Roman antiquity, ladies donned the two-piece to… play women’s volleyball? Apparently it was also not allowed in the Olympics but remained, nonetheless, a well-attended sporting event.
Art dating from 286-305 CE in Sicily shows some ladies in garments very much resembling the modern bikini, and in Pompeii, there are depictions of Venus in a bikini, too, which goes to prove what we’ve known all along — a lady in a bikini undoubtedly channels the spirit of the goddess of L-O-V-E.
Aw. Bikini love. That’s nice. That’s something we can get behind.
Now here’s some pics of the bikini spectrum to further educate you in your tireless pursuit of bikini knowledge.
VARIATIONS ON A THEME OF BIKINI
See how it’s actually all one piece? With the string bits in the middle?
This is the mono, aka, you have a fever and your lymph nodes are swollen bikini.
Suburban MILF never hurt no one.
It kind of flutters a little on the hindquarters like that.
THE GRANNY BIKINI
Ain’t nuthin’ granny going on here.
THE STRING BIKINI
Note the strings. That’s why they call it a string bikini.
THE BRAZILIAN BIKINI
It scrunches up there. That’s what it does.
Next week in TSJ’s Bikini History: The Most Iconic Bikinis in Pop Culture.