Bikini Day on July 5th celebrates the iconic swimsuit that women have been wearing since its reveal on this day in 1946. Making its debut on the beaches of southern France, the history of the bikini is wrought with contention. It is not entirely clear who the original inventor of the itty-bitty swimsuit was, with arguments for both Louis Reard, a Parisian-based mechanical engineer who took over his mother’s lingerie business in the 1940s, and Jacques Heim, a fashion designer and owner of the fashion house House of Jacques Heim.

Both men developed two piece swimsuits which exposed the naval, which for the time was a very dashing fashion choice. Jacques Heim’s suit, called the “Atom,” was marketed as the “world’s smallest bathing suit,” and was available to the public in the 1932.

Réard’s design, however, was the suit released on this day in 1946, four days after the U.S. military  conducted nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll,  in the Marshall Islands, establishing International Bikini Day.  Réard’s design was much smaller than Heim’s, closely resembling the string bikini seen today. The size of the bikini was important, with Réard stating that “a bikini is not a bikini unless it can be pulled through a wedding ring.”

Since its debut in 1946, the bikini has become an iconic piece of fashion for women all over the world’s beaches. Celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot and Marilyn Monroe sported the two piece, adding to the popularity of the suit in the 60s. The debate surrounding the invention of the bikini rages on, but on July 5th, the world can celebrate the ittsy bitsy teeny wheeny yellow polka dot bikini thanks to the two parisian designers, Jacques Heim and Louis Réard.

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The Atom, “The world’s smalles bathing suit,” designed by Jacques Heim

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Louis Réard designed the string bikini, a garment “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit.”

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The “bikini” was named after nuclear testings at Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands.

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On July 5, 1946,Micheline Bernardini, a French nude dancer from the Casino de Paris, was the first woman to model a bikini at the Piscine Molitor in Paris. The bikini was so small it could fit into a matchbox, like the one she’s holding in front of the camera. Louis Reard Bikini Lola Who Fashion Music Photography 3
A vintage photo of Micheline Bernardini, wearing the “scandalous” bikini. She received more than 500, 000 fan mail.
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Louis Réard, seen here in 1974.Louis Reard Bikini Lola WHo Fashion Music Photography blog 5
Bridget Bardot is highly credited for popularizing the bikini.

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Video: “The bikini was an explosion everywhere”

By Sophie Gray