Bikini’s debut was anything but welcomed

By: By Kasie Strickland - kstrickland@civitasmedia.com
The new ‘Bikini’ swimming costume (in a newsprint-patterned fabric), which caused a sensation at a beauty contest at the Molitor swimming pool in Paris. Designer Louis Reard was unable to find a ‘respectable’ model for his costume and the job of displaying it went to 19-year-old Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris. She is holding a small box into which the entire costume can be packed.
Louis Réard, inventor of the bikini.

Every now and then, it’s fun to take a look back in time and find out just what happened on a particular date in history.

Now, had this publication been issued on July 6, perhaps we would be discussing the Battle of Grenada or the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh.

Alas, July 5 is what was destined by the Gregorian calendar and we find ourselves with a very different subject matter: bikinis.

Seventy-one years ago, the term “bikini” was coined by its inventor, a French auto engineer named Louis Réard.

According to the fashion at the time, respectable women didn’t “flaunt” their skin … ever. In fact, typical beach attire was just beginning to be form fitting and was still — by modern standards — very conservative.

Even the most “daring” swimsuits at the time only displayed a tiny sliver of skin on the stomach — and certainly not a woman’s belly button.

But here’s what happened: the war was over and people at the time were all about celebrating their freedoms, expressing them in any way possible.

Réard was running his mother’s lingerie shop in Paris trying to figure out a name for his new “swim costume” when the U.S. Army conducted atomic bomb tests on the Bikini atoll in the Pacific on July 1, 1946.

Suddenly, he had the perfect name: Bikini.

And yet, another problem arose: no respectable woman would model it for him.

Enter Micheline Bernardini: Nude dancer and the first woman ever to don a bikini.

It wasn’t exactly an immediate hit …

Countries Italy and Spain issued blanket bans on the “scandalous” attire and hardly anyone bought one. That is until Bridget Bardot was photographed wearing one in Cannes and it began to find a market across Europe and finally into the United States.

Réard ended up opening a shop that specialized in bikinis in Paris. He sold the suits for 40 years before moving with his wife, Marcelle Réard, from France to Lausanne, Switzerland in 1980.

Réard died in Lausanne in 1984 at the age of 87.

The new ‘Bikini’ swimming costume (in a newsprint-patterned fabric), which caused a sensation at a beauty contest at the Molitor swimming pool in Paris. Designer Louis Reard was unable to find a ‘respectable’ model for his costume and the job of displaying it went to 19-year-old Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris. She is holding a small box into which the entire costume can be packed.
https://www.sentinelprogress.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/web1_MichelineBernardini.jpgThe new ‘Bikini’ swimming costume (in a newsprint-patterned fabric), which caused a sensation at a beauty contest at the Molitor swimming pool in Paris. Designer Louis Reard was unable to find a ‘respectable’ model for his costume and the job of displaying it went to 19-year-old Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris. She is holding a small box into which the entire costume can be packed. Photo by Keystone | Getty Images

Louis Réard, inventor of the bikini.
https://www.sentinelprogress.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/web1_Louis_Rard.jpgLouis Réard, inventor of the bikini. Courtesy photo

By Kasie Strickland

kstrickland@civitasmedia.com

Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.

Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.