Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rant #539: Bikini Atoll

Now that we are clearly in the summer mood with July 4 behind us, I must bring up a very important historical footnote for today's history lesson.

In 1946, 65 years ago, the bikini, created by Louis Reard, was worn by model Micheline Bernardini during a pool side fashion show in Paris, France.

Today, that might not cause much of a whimper, but think back to that time, and how revolutionary the debut of this type of bathing suit was.

It was right after the World War II, a war that devastated Europe. What better way to bounce back, literally, than to create a swimsuit that would change the way women wore such suits--and would simultaneously change the way men looked at women on the beach?

The story goes that Reard could not find a model to wear such a scandalous outfit, so he asked a nude dancer, Bernardini, to do the honors, she did, and the rest is history.

Prior to this event, women's bathing suits were one-piece outfits. Most showed off the figure well, but they kind of looked like corsets. I would imagine that they were uncomfortable.

And they didn't allow for much tanning.

But now came something revolutionary and new. They showed off a women's figure even more, and I would imagine that they were much more comfortable than the previous one-piece suits. And they allowed for a more all-over tan too.

Over the past 65 years, there have been all different types of bikinis. Some barely show off a woman's figure at all, but some leave little to the imagination.

They also had an impact on one-piece suits, which today, often show off as much of a woman's figure as the two-piece suits do.

Although it took a while before American women accepted this type of swimwear, they have become as much a part of pop culture as any piece of fashion. Think back to Brian Hyland's hit record "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" for evidence of that, a song that opened up American's eyes about this scandalous outfit.

Also, Annette Funicello appearing in all those "beach movies" probably had a lot to do with Americans' acceptance of this type of swimsuit. Funicello often didn't appear in a bikini--she was so buxom that it was felt it would take away from the other girls in these films, who often wore bikinis--but those films allowed the youth culture to embrace this type of swimwear.

So, I tip my hat to Mr. Reard for creating such a piece of swimwear, and certainly to Ms. Bernardini, who had the guts to wear such an outfit in public.

Here's to the bikini as it reaches Social Security age. What would the world be without such an invention?

(Spoken like the true male chauvinist pig that I am!)

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