When Louis Rèard introduced the bikini in France in 1946, no models were willing to wear such revealing swimwear, so Rèard had to hire a stripper to model it
“The modern bikini was introduced by French engineer Louis Réard and separately by fashion designer Jacques Heim in Paris in 1946. Réard was a car engineer but by 1946 he was running his mother’s lingerie boutique near Les Folies Bergère in Paris. Heim was working on a new kind of beach costume. It comprised two pieces, the bottom large enough to cover its wearer’s navel. In May 1946, he advertised it as the world’s “”smallest bathing suit””. Réard sliced the top off the bottoms and advertised it as “”smaller than the smallest swimsuit””. The idea struck him when he saw women rolling up their beachwear to get a better tan. Réard could not find a model to wear his design. He ended up hiring Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris. That bikini, a string bikini with a g-string back of 30 square inches (194 cm2) of cloth with newspaper type print, was introduced on July 5 at Piscine Molitor, a public pool in Paris. The bikini was a hit, especially among men, and Bernardini received 50,000 letters. Heim’s design was the first worn on the beach, but the design was given its name by Réard. Reard’s business soared. In advertisements he kept the bikini alive by declaring that a two-piece wasn’t a genuine bikini “”unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring. French newspaper Le Figarowrote, “”People were craving the simple pleasures of the sea and the sun. For women, wearing a bikini signaled a kind of second liberation. There was really nothing sexual about this. It was instead a celebration of freedom and a return to the joys in life. But sales did not pick up around the world as women stuck to traditional two-piece swimsuits. Réard went back to designing orthodox knickers to sell in his mother’s shop. Actresses in movies like My Favorite Brunette (1947) and the model on a 1948 cover of LIFE were shown in traditional two-piece swimwear, not the bikini. In 1950, Time magazine interviewed American swimsuit mogul Fred Cole, owner of Cole of California, and reported that he had “”little but scorn for France’s famed Bikinis,”” because they were designed for “”diminutive Gallic women””. “”French girls have short legs,”” he explained, “”Swimsuits have to be hiked up at the sides to make their legs look longer.”” One writer described it as a “”two-piece bathing suit which reveals everything about a girl except for her mother’s maiden name. According to Kevin Jones, curator and fashion historian at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Réard was ahead of his time by about 15 to 20 years. Only women in the vanguard, mostly upper-class European women embraced it, just like the upper-class European women who first cast off their corsets after World War I.”” Australian designer Paula Straford introduced the bikini to Gold Coast in 1952.Despite the controversy, some in France admired “”naughty girls who decorate our sun-drenched beaches””. Brigitte Bardot, photographed wearing similar garments on beaches during the Film Festival (1953) helped popularize the bikini in Europe in the 1950s and created a market in the US. Photographs of Bardot in a bikini, according to The Guardian, turned Saint-Tropez into the bikini capital of the world. The Cannes Film Festival, held on the French Riviera each May, remains as a reminder of the days when a starlet was as big as her swimsuit was brief. Esther Williams, Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot all used the swimsuit as a career prop to their sex appeal, with Bardot identified as the original Cannes bathing beauty. Cannes played a crucial role in the career of Brigitte Bardot, who in turn played a crucial role in promoting the Festival, largely by starting the trend of being photographed in a bikini at her first appearance at the festival. As late as in 1959, Anne Cole, a US swimsuit designer and daughter of Fred Cole, said about a Bardot bikini, “”It’s nothing more than a G-string. It’s at the razor’s edge of decency.”” Modern Girl Magazine, a fashion magazine from the United States, was quoted in 1957 as saying: “”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””.
The bikini became more accepted in parts of Europe when worn by fifties “”love goddess”” actresses such as Bardot, Anita Ekberg and Sophia Loren. But, Spain, Portugal and Italy, three countries neighboring France, banned the bikini, and it remained prohibited in many US states. In July 1959, the New York Post searched for bikinis around New York City and found only a couple. Writer Meredith Hall wrote in her memoir that till 1965 one could get a citation for wearing a bikini in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. By the end of the decade a vogue for strapless styles developed, wired or bound for firmness and fit, and a taste for bare-shouldered two-pieces called Little Sinners. But, it was the halterneck bikini that caused the most moral controversy because of its degree of exposure. So much so as bikini designs called “”Huba Huba”” and “”Revealation”” were withdrawn from fashion parades in Sydney as immodest.In 1951, the first Miss World contest, originally the Festival Bikini Contest, was organized by Eric Morley as a mid-century advertisement for swimwear at the Festival of Britain. The press welcomed the spectacle and referred to it as Miss World, and Morley registered the name as a trademark. When, the winner Kiki Håkansson from Sweden, was crowned in a bikini, countries with religious traditions threatened to withdraw delegates. The bikinis were outlawed and evening gowns introduced instead. Håkansson remains the only Miss World crowned in a bikini, a crowning that was condemned by the Pope. Bikini was banned from beauty pageants around the world after the controversy. Feminist groups published fliers against bikinis in the contest in 1970. The National Legion of Decencypressured Hollywood to keep bikinis from being featured in Hollywood movies. The Hays production code for US movies, introduced in 1930 but not strictly enforced till 1934, allowed two-piece gowns but prohibited navels on screen. But between the introduction and enforcement of the code two Tarzan movies, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932) and Tarzan and His Mate (1934), were released in which actress Maureen O’Sullivan wore skimpy bikini-like leather outfits. Film historian Bruce Goldstein described her clothes in the first film as “”It’s a loincloth open up the side. You can see loin. In reaction to the introduction of the bikini in Paris, American swimwear manufacturers compromised cautiously by producing their own similar design that included a halter and a midriff-bottom variation The early bikinisoften covered the navel but if it showed in pictures, magazines like Seventeen airbrushed it out. Navel-less women ensured the early dominance of European bikini makers over their American counterparts”