Sunday, July 02, 2006

Bikini Season is upon us

"Women shop for a bikini with more care than they do a husband. The rules are the same. Look for something you'll feel comfortable wearing. Allow for room to grow."
- Erma Bombeck

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the bikini.

Swimsuit shopping can be one of the most painful experiences of a woman’s life as she comes face-to-face, three ways, with every furtive chocolate bar she ever consumed, an event made even more wretched by the fact that department store dressing rooms always have the most unflattering light possible. You'd think they would install soft pink bulbs of very low wattage to hide all but the most glaring bodily horrors, but the fashion industry has always traded on misery.

The history of this gear we love and hate so much began far before the introduction of the bikini swimsuit in modern times. Roman mosaics of 300 AD depict women wearing two-piece bathing attire, and ancient Minoan wall paintings circa 1600 BC provide evidence that they've been around even longer.

In 1946, one year after the end of World War II, when the world was still gasping at the audacity of the United States to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two French designers marketed the bikini swimsuit. Jacques Heim, a fashion designer and beach shop owner in Cannes, introduced the “Atome,” named for the smallest then-known particle of matter which had become so notorious. He sent skywriters above the beach at Cannes advertising "The world's smallest bathing suit."

Within days, Louis Reard, a mechanical engineer and designer wannabe, also sent skywriters over the French Riviera marketing his own creation, “The Bikini — smaller than the smallest bathing suit in the world,” named after the famous Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Marshall Islands where the U.S. was still setting off test bombs. It's fair to speculate that the projected success of the bikini was also based upon shock.

"A bikini is not a bikini unless it can be pulled through a wedding ring," said Louis Reard.

The thong bikini appeared in the 1970s and was introduced to the American market by Rudi Gernreich. Inspired by the traditional garb of Amazonian tribes in Brazil, it quickly gained popularity and is still going strong today.

"Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital."
- Aaron Levenstein


Jazzbo said...

Holy Crisco, I think I"m in love.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

If you're referring to Wompa, your chances are probably good.

jali said...

Guess I'd better head back to the gym. (sigh)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Right behind you.