Lets take a look back in time at the history of the Bikini

One of the earliest depictions of a woman wearing a bikini style garment dates back to the Diocletian period ( 286-305 AD ). The artwork was excavated by Gino Vinicio Gentile in Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily in the form of floor mosaics. The images of ten women dubbed the " Bikini Girls " excercising in clothing that would pass as bikinis today, are the most replicated mosaic among the 37 million colored tiles found at the excavation site. Some of the mosaics depict the Bikini Girls weight lifting, discus throwing, running and what can only be described as dancing as their bodies resemble dancers more than athletes.

In ancient Rome, the bikini style bottom, a wrapped loincloth of cloth or leather was called a subligar while a band of cloth or leather to support the breasts was called a stroghium. There has been no evidence that these garments were used for swimming or sunbathing. Finds especially in Pompeii show the Roman goddess Venus wearing a bikini. The Kings of Naples discovered these Pompeii artifacts including one statue of Venus that is almost one meter tall and is painted in gold leaf with something like a modern bikini. They found it so shocking that for long periods the secret chamber was opened only to " mature persons of secure morals". The Naples National Archaeological Museum which opened its limited viewing gallery of more explicit exhibits in 2000, also exhibits a " Venus in Bikini ". The exhibits include female statues wearing see-thru gold lame brassiere and knickers.
The first domestic swimsuit for "decency" appeared in 1830. Featuring red and white horizontal stripes from ankle to wrist, it was nicknamed the "prison suit". In 1907, Australian swimmer and performer Annette Kellerman was arrested on a Boston beach for wearing a form-fitting one-piece although it became accepted swimsuit attire for women by 1910. n 1913, inspired by the introduction of females into Olympic swimming, the designer Carl Jantzen made the first functional two-piece swimwear, a close-fitting one-piece with shorts on the bottom and short sleeves on top. By the 1930s, necklines plunged at the back, sleeves disappeared and sides were cut away. Hollywood endorsed the new glamour with films such as Neptune's Daughter in which Esther Williams ( pictured right ) wore provocatively named costumes such as "Double Entendre" and "Honey Child". With new materials like latex and nylon, the swimsuit started hugging the body and had shoulder straps to lower for tanning.
Swimwear of the 1940s, 50s and early 60s followed the silhouette mostly from early 1930s. Keeping in line with the ultra-feminine look dominated by Dior, it evolved into a dress with cinched waists and constructed bustlines, accessorized with earrings, bracelets, hats, scarves, sunglasses, hand bags and cover-ups. Fashion houses pushed the boundaries of bathing suits, exposing considerably more flesh than ever before. War rationing provided the stimulus for the two-piece, when the U.S. government ordered manufacturers to reduce the amount of fabric they used, resulting in the bare midriff.

The modern bikini was invented by French engineer Louis Réard in 1946. He named it after the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, the site of an atomic bomb test on July 1, 1946. Réard hoped that the burst of excitement it caused would be as explosive as an atomic bomb. The Bikini was so controversial no model would wear it so Réard hired Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer, who became the first woman ever to wear a bikini, during a July 11, 1946, showing for the press at the fashionable Piscine Molitor in Paris. The bikini was so small it could fit into a matchbox, like the one she's holding in the picture on the right. The claim was if you can't pull it through a wedding ring it is not a Bikini!. The bikini was a big hit, especially among men and Bernardini received 50,000 letters from fans.

In 1951, the first Miss World contest, originally the Festival Bikini Contest, was organized by Eric Morley as a mid-century advertisement for swimwear at the Festival of Britain. The press welcomed the spectacle and referred to it as Miss World, and Morley registered the name as a trademark. When, the winner Kiki Håkansson from Sweden, was crowned in a bikini, countries with religious traditions threatened to withdraw delegates. The bikinis were outlawed and evening gowns introduced instead. Håkansson remains the only Miss World crowned in a bikini, a crowning that was condemned by the Pope. The Bikini was banned from beauty pageants around the world after the controversy. Who would've thought at that time we would eventually have the wild bikini contests we have today.

An iconic moment in cinema history came in 1962, when Swiss actress Ursula Andress, playing Honey Rider in the James Bond film Dr. No, strode out of tropical Caribbean waters wearing her homemade bikini. Nearly 40 years later, it sold for $60,000 at an auction in 2001. According to Andress, "This bikini made me into a success ". That white bikini has been described as a "defining moment in the sixties liberalization of screen eroticism". Because of the shocking effect from how revealing it was at the time, she got referred to by the joke nickname "Ursula Undress".


Playboy first featured a bikini on its cover in 1962. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue debuted two years later. The story behind this debut has it that editor Andre Laguerre could find no compelling sporting events to write about during the winter months and asked fashion reporter Jule Campbell to help fill some space, including the cover, with a model. She found Babette March, above, and the rest is history. The annual SI Swimsuit edition is easily one of the most anticipated magazines world wide and has launched many model's careers into Supermodel status.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the one-piece made a big comeback. This led to a large number of subsequent variations, often with a hilarious lexicon — string bikini, monokini or numokini (top part missing), seekini (transparent bikini), tankini (tank top, bikini bottom), camikini (camisole top and bikini bottom), hikini, thong, slingshot, minimini, teardrop, and micro. To meet the fast changing tastes, some of the manufacturers have made a business out of making made-to-order bikinis in around seven minutes. The world's most expensive bikini was designed in February 2006 by Susan Rosen. The bikini, made up of over 150 carats of flawless diamonds, was worth a massive £20 million.
The bikini represents a social leap involving body consciousness, moral concerns, and sexual attitudes. According to Gina Bellafonte of The New York Times, actresses in action films like Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and Blue Crush have made the two-piece "the millennial equivalent of the power suit." PETA used celebrities like Pamela Anderson, Traci Bingham and Alicia Mayer wearing a bikini made of iceberg-lettuce for an advertisement campaign to promote vegetarianism.
So here we are in 2012 some 66 years after the Bikini first debuted with a mind-set that pretty much anything goes when it comes to swimwear. While the fashion world continues to try and influence our tastes which increases their sales, there is no denying that nothing is more beautiful on a woman at the beach than an itsy bitsy teenie weenie bikini. Thank you to all those that paved the way for the evolution of the bikini to become what we enjoy today and for having contests to see which is best!