American History: July 5–National Bikini Day

July 5: Today marks the 61st anniversary of National Bikini Day, celebrating what was once upon a time a revolutionary fashion mode.

French engineer Louis Réard introduced the modern bikini, modeled by Micheline Bernardini, on July 5, 1946. He borrowed the label for his design from the Bikini Atoll, during the post-WWII testing on the atomic bomb.

French women welcomed the design but the Catholic Church, and, surprisingly, large segments of the public, initially thought that it was too bold, too risqué, too scandalous.

Contestants in the first Miss World beauty pageant wore them in 1951, but the bikini was then banned from the competition.

It was French Actress and sex icon Brigitte Bardot, who elevated the international visibility of the bikini, when she was photographed wearing a bikini on the beach during the 1953 Cannes Film Fest.

Other movie stars, including Esther Williams, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, and Ava Gardner, also drew much media attention when they wore bikinis, on screen and off.

During the early 1960s, the design appeared on the cover of Playboy and Sports Illustrated, giving it additional legitimacy.

Ursula Andress made a huge impact when she emerged from the surf wearing what is now an iconic bikini in the James Bond movie Dr. No (1962), starring Sean Connery.

The deer skin bikini Raquel Welch wore in the film One Million Years B.C. (1966) turned her into an international sex symbol.

The bikini gradually gained wider acceptance. French fashion historian Olivier Saillard claims that the bikini is the most popular type of female beachwear because of “the power of women, and not the power of fashion: “The emancipation of swimwear has always been linked to the emancipation of women.

Bikinis had become a billion dollar industry, if one includes spin-off services like bikini waxing and the sun tanning.

In his 2011 article in Time magazine online, Chris Gayomali enlisted the “Top 10 Bikinis in Pop Culture”

 ·       Micheline Bernardini models the first-Ever Bikini (1946)

·       Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” (1960)

·       Annette Funicello and Beach Party (1960s)

·       The belted Bond-girl bikini (1962)

·       Sports Illustrated‘s first Swimsuit Issue (1964)

·       Raquel Welch’s fur bikini in One Million Years B.C. (1966)

·       Phoebe Cates‘ Bikini in Fast Times at Ridgemont High

·       Princess Leia’s golden bikini in Return of the Jedi (1983)

·       The official uniform of the female Olympic Beach Volleyball players (1996)

·       Miss America pageant’s bikini debut (1997)