The bikini is not to be confused with the two-piece swimming costume, a popular and relatively tame swimwear style of the 1940s worn by mainstream Hollywood actresses, including Ava Gardner. The difference between the two suits amounts to a few inches of fabric -- unlike the two-piece, a bikini is cut in such a way as to expose the navel. This now-tame fashion trend was introduced to a scandalised public by two French designers, Jacques Heim and Louis Reard. Although the two designers invented the suit at the same time, they were working separately. It was Reard who gave the suit its name.
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The bikini was considered so shocking at the time of its invention in 1946 that the designer was unable to get models to wear it -- Louis Reard had to hire a stripper for the photo shoot. It was the most revealing look that a woman had worn in public since 4th Century B.C. in Rome, when women wore bandeau tops with a revealing bottom half to exercise. It took until the mid-1950s for the suits to catch on in France, where they were worn on the Riviera. As the 1960s began, the style was just becoming fashionable in the U.S.
In the 1960s, psychedelic styles were popular, featuring striking colours and bold geometric patters. Although the bikini itself was still a cutting-edge fashion concept, the bikinis worn in the 1960s were relatively tame and modestly cut. Sometimes the swimming costumes were paired with a baby doll-style cover-up. The more revealing string bikini wouldn't become popular in the States until the mid-1970s.
Famous Bikinis of the 1960s
As the 1960s began, a tribute to the risqué two-piece suit was on the radio airwaves. Brian Hyland had a hit with the 1960 song "Itsy Bitsy, Teenie Weenie, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." Another milestone 1960s bikini moment happened when Ursula Andress famously appeared in a white bikini in the 1962 James Bond Film "Dr. No." In 1969, Goldie Hawn regularly wore a bikini accented with body paint on the TV comedy show "Laugh-In."
Retro: The 1960s Influence on Today's Swimwear
Fashion in cyclical and styles return in slightly modernised forms. The popular TV program "Mad Men," set in the early 1960s, is sometimes mentioned as a source of inspiration for modern styles. A 1960s- influenced bikini might include bold geometric shapes, a less revealing cut or sometimes, ruching detail.
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