Though two-pieces have been around for centuries, the invention of the modern bikini is accredited to Louis Réard. Named after the Bikini Atoll where atomic testing was occurring the week prior, Réard was a French engineer that debuted the piece on 5 July 1946 at Piscine Molitor, a popular swimming pool in Paris.
New fashion and art trends are historically frowned upon, anything bucking tradition seen as scandalous and unseemly. The invention of the bikini was no different.
The early 20th century was largely a turning point for women’s swimwear, largely in thanks to Annette Kellerman of Australia. A competitive swimmer, Kellerman continually swam in form fitting pieces that did not interfere with her movements, which often brought her negative media attention. Previous swimming garments for women were not form fitting, let alone something one documented or proudly wore.
In the mid-20th century, two-piece swimsuits increased in popularity as fabric was rationed during World War II. In May of 1946 another French designer, Jacques Heim, premiered his two-piece swimsuit, dubbed the “atom,” due to the sensationalism of the atomic bomb. When Réard debuted his bikini, he specifically marketed it as, “Smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit,” in reference to Heim’s creation earlier that year.
The only willing woman Réard found to model the suit was a nude dancer, Micheline Bernardini, and mainstream media condemned the bikini for years after its debut. Claiming no decent woman would wear the like, sensationalism died down as bikinis were slowly integrated into women’s closets. Spreading across Europe throughout the fifties, by the 1960s bikinis had gained enough popularity that new styles and patterns emerged worldwide.
Today, bikinis are everywhere. What was once seen as a scandal is now an everyday sight - at least here on Maui - and the artistry and patterns that you see continue to expand to new horizons.
Back in 2011 we became the first Hawaiian brand chosen to be painted onto a model by Joanne Gair in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition. In celebration of the art of the bikini and that anniversary we reached out to Melissa Bruck, a local artist on Maui, to do another body painting on Alohi Vega Alvarado. The five hour process produced beautiful results and continues our work on our newest suit, coming soon.
Celebrating the artistry of a swimsuit and whoever wears it is one of our missions here at Maui Girl. We hope you feel as sensational as the invention of the bikini was on this anniversary, stay tuned for our newest suit later this month.
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