5 Jul: Birth of the Bikini

Rerun: Swimwear never made more of a splash than when designer Louis Réard unveiled his daring new two-piece at the Piscine Molitor in Paris on July 5th, 1946. Showgirl Micheline Bernardini modelled the new attire, named after US nuclear testing site Bikini Atoll. Really.

Eleven years later, Modern Girl magazine still considered it ‘inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency’ would ever be seen wearing a bikini. Yet, by the sixties, it had become commonplace on beaches around the world.

In this episode, Rebecca, Arion and Olly consider the role rival designer Jacques Heim played in inspiring the garment; reveal the countries where it remains illegal to wear a bikini (sometimes); and unearth Sarah Brightman’s surprising role in Bombalurina’s 1990 cover version of ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’…

Further Reading:

• 15 Hilarious First Reactions to the Invention of the Bikini (BestLife, 2019):


• Fred Cole’s scorn for bikinis (‘Fashion: In The Swim’, TIME, 1950):


• That Bombalurina video, featuring the future Mrs Barlow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LagoycfdCA

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