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Materials to make a bikini

Updated February 16, 2017

Looking for innovative materials to create a stylish bikini? With environmentally friendly material options and bikinis made from vintage T-shirts, bikinis are no longer loyal to just lycra. From eco-friendly hemp, organic cotton and yarn to spandex and polyester blends, bikini designers are using unique materials to create new categories of swimwear. As the materials to make a bikini expand, at-home seamstresses and fashion designers have a multitude of style options and fabrics at their disposal.

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Frenchman Louis Reard created the modern bikini in 1946. He named the design "bikini" after the United States' nuclear testing site, Bikini Atoll. Reard's design was popular among upper-class European women.

Prior to the French swimwear’s debut, ancient Greek women wore two piece garments, similar in style to the modern bikini, for athletic purposes. According to Wikipedia, ancient Roman bikini bottoms were made of cloth or leather.


Modern women view bikinis as important wardrobe items for lounging by the pool and swimming. This provocative swimsuit has two components: the top of the bikini covers the breasts, while the bottom covers the groin and the buttocks. Variations of the two piece bikini include: the tankini, monokini, sling bikini, microkini and string bikini. String bikinis are the most popular variation of the bikini sold.


The first modern bikinis were created from cotton or jersey. In the 1960s and 1970s, swimsuit designers incorporated lycra and nylon into bikinis. Man-made materials allow bikinis to retain their original shape during frequent washings and exposure to sand, harsh chemicals and the ocean. Swimsuit designers combine shells, appliques and beading with new fabric options to create couture-inspired designer bikinis.


With the advent of the green movement, eco-conscious shoppers want viable alternatives to Lycra, nylon and spandex. Bikinis made from recycled and repurposed materials like polyester yarn won't harm the earth when discarded.

Using cotton T-shirts and vintage fabrics, organic pointelle and bamboo, designers create fashionable bikinis that are not only innovative but are environmentally friendly. Advocates for a vegetarian lifestyle often make bikinis out of lettuce leaves and vegetables to promote healthy eating choices.

Expert Insight

According to market research company NPD Group, in the early 2000s, bikinis were an £527 million dollar business annually. In 2006, the bikini industry reached £1.1 billion in revenue.

Prices of designer bikinis--with beading, embellishments, Swarovski crystals, and padded materials--range from £195 to a £357. The most expensive bikini was created by Pennsylvania-based jewellery designer Susan Rosen. This £19 million diamond bikini, made of 150 carats of white diamonds, was worn by Molly Sims in the 2006 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

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About the Author

Mimi Abney

Mimi Abney is a lifestyle writer specializing in online content for women. Her work has appeared in NewsOK.com and "Keepsake Magazine," among other publications. With over 15 years of writing and editing experience for the web and print, Abney is also a contributor to online health, beauty and fashion publications. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Spelman College.

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