76 years ago, on July 5, 1946, 18-year-old Micheline Bernardini, a stripper at the Casino de Paris, first demonstrated in public a stunning tiny bathing suit created by Parisian fashion designer Louis Réard – a bikini. Professional models refused to wear this immodest thing.
The swimsuit was named after the Bikini Atoll, where the American hydrogen bomb had been tested four days earlier. The advertising slogan of the swimsuit emphasized the fact that it was a separate and very small model of a bathing suit: “Bikini – split the atom!” Only 76 cm² of fabric was used to make the first bikini, and it had to be folded into a tiny box that the model held in her hands.
Photo: Micheline Bernardini showing off bikini and a box for it by the Molitor Hotel pool, July 5, 1946
Crazy popularity awaited Micheline Bernardini. Within a few months, she received 50,000 letters from male fans, many of whom proposed marriage to her.
It took almost 10 years for bikinis to stop being frowned upon and allowed to be worn on public beaches. Roger Vadim’s film Et Dieu… créa la femme (1956) in which Brigitte Bardot appeared in a white bikini contributed to the popularity of the swimsuit.
In fact, Louis Réard was not the first to invent the separate bathing suit for women. The Romans did it 2,000 years before. But, like many other things created by the Greeks and Romans, this one was also forgotten for a long time.
Photo: Mosaic of ancient Roman girls exercising in subligaculums and strophiums (“ancient bikinis”). Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily, Italy, AD 286-305.