Choose the Right Bikini for Summer
In 1946, Louis Reard, an engineer-and a Frenchman, of course! -fashioned a two-piece women's swimsuit from 30 inches of fabric. Reard's rival in bikini design, Jacques Helm, was actually the first to create the iconic two-piece swimsuit of the 20th century. Helm called his design the "atome" in a nod to the smallest particle in the world known at the time. A marketing genius, Reard introduced his skimpy two-piece design five days after the United States began atomic tests in the Bikini Atoll and named it "bikini" to suggest that it would have the same explosive impact on society as an A-bomb.
The bikini is a women's two-piece swimsuit that covers the breast and groin areas. It was considered risqu when it first appeared in 1946, but the two-piece design was actually a throwback to very ancient times. Wikipedia cites the earliest form of a bikini appearing in the Chalcolithic Era (3500 BCE to 1700BCE). Bikinis appear in ancient Roman mosaics and murals, suggesting they were popular as swimming costumes among Roman women. Archaeologists have found Minoan wall paintings (circa 1600 BCE) showing a two-piece design very similar to the modern bikini, and women wearing bikinis appear on ancient Greek urns, ancient Sicilian floor mosaics, and statues from Pompeii.
Bikinis were accepted as mainstream swimwear fashion on the French Riviera long before being embraced by the public in the United States. The bikini was introduced to the U.S. in 1947, but its scandalous status remained in force well into the 1950s.
Many American cities even passed laws to prohibit the wearing of a bikini in public. In 1957, Modern Girl magazine stated "It is hardly necessary to waste words over the so-called bikini since it is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing." American women didn't really jump on the bikini bandwagon until the late 1960s with the start of the so-called Sexual Revolution. Since that time, the bikini and its stylish variations have become the most popular swimsuit style in the U.S.
Because there are so many variations in bikini design, it helps to be familiar with the available styles before going shopping. Be aware, too, that your body shape and your level of self-confidence will also have an impact on the style you ultimately select.
The following bikini glossary provides basic descriptions of the many types of bikinis currently on the market.
String bikini-This classic, skimpy style features four strategically placed triangles connected by strings.
Tankini- A tank-style top and a traditional, string, or thong bottom.
Bandini-A strapless tube or bandeau top combined with a regular bikini bottom.
Camikini- A camisole top that will support larger breasts combined with any type of bikini bottom.
Thong- A bikini top with a bottom that covers the groin with a small piece of fabric connected by strings on the sides and between the buttocks.
Halter bikini- A top with a strap that circles the neck and attaches to the bodice combined with a traditional bikini bottom.
Micro bikini- A string bikini top with tiny triangles that cover the nipples and little more, with a g-string bottom.
Monokini- A skimpy bikini connected with a strip of fabric that runs from top to bottom or a bikini bottom worn without a top.
Sports Bikini- Worn by women who love sports, it features a top that is as supportive as a bra and a traditional bikini bottom.
Seekini- Any type of bikini that is "see-through" and usually can be worn only on certain beaches.
Bikini Materials, Colors, and Care
Armed with this knowledge of the most popular bikini styles, you can now move on to consider the type of material your bikini is made of, its color options, and the care it will require. The best selection of bikini styles and style options can be found by visiting a regular brick-and-mortar store or an online shop that lets you mix and match tops and bottoms for the best fit. The ability to combine tops and bottoms also lets you be creative in using solid colors and/or patterns to develop your own personal bikini style.