Friday, July 5, 2013

The Bikini and I Nearly Share a Birthday

Micheline Bernardini introduces the bikini to the public, July 5, 1946.
Brigette Bardot in 1957.
As one who has a deep and abiding appreciation for feminine pulchritude, let me be the first to wish you a swell Bikini Day. A young woman named Micheline Bernardini--a nude dancer, as it were--made the first public appearance at a fashion show in a bikini July 5, 1946 (a few days before I was born on July 31).

Micheline was willing to appear in public in the outfit, created by Jacques Heim and Louis Reard (two pieces, two creators), which gave her the shot. Other models refused. The bikini was actually around a year earlier and women of Paris wearing bikinis was featured in a photo on the cover of Life Magazine.

Micheline's suit was actually a good bit more risque than the bikini was to become over the next few years (think "Beach Blanket Bingo"), but it has become far more immodest in recent years.

The swimsuit took a while to catch on. Brigette Bardot (bless her beautiful heart and every other part of her) wore one in "And God Created Woman" and "Girl in the Bikini" in 1957, six years after bikinis were banned from the Miss World contest. Brian Hyland sang "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" in 1960 and I danced at Fleming Teen Town in Augusta with Christine Cash to its bouncy rhythm.

Sports Illustrated made the bikini the official bathing suit of the world by featuring a model wearing one on its cover in 1964 (Swimsuit Edition, which has always been controversial, bikini or not--sometimes not, meaning no bathing suit).

I will mention that when I was about 10, I saw my first live breast, but it was not in a bikini. I was at the municipal pool in the small South Carolina town where I grew up. Mike Graybill and I hung out there from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, generally emerging looking like pink raisins. A young girl, probably 16 and very much an older woman to me, had on a one-piece bathing suit that must have belonged to an older--and larger--sister. If one--"one" being me--positioned himself just right, he could look right down the front of the suit while standing behind her as she sat on the edge of the pool and leaned forward. I availed myself of the opportunity and upon inspection, immediately ran to find Mike and shared the discovery.

No bikini could have improved upon that view.



  1. This from Betsy Gehman via Facebook:

    "The history of the bikini is a checkered one. Though the bikini shocked when it appeared on French beaches in 1947, its origins date back millennia. Depictions of bikini-like garments appear at the Chalcolithic site of Çatalhöyük, and two-piece bikini-like garments were worn by women for athletic purposes in Ancient Greece as far back as 1400 BC. Roman mosaic artwork in Sicily, dubbed Bikini Girls and dating back to the reign of Diocletian (286-305 AD) gained significant archeological renown, and Roman statues of Venus in a bikini were fou..." View more »

    Hmm, so the female athletes of antiquity beat the Olympic volleyball players (and Sports Illustrated) to this one. Guess the DOM is in the DNA!!!

  2. Let me note that in the early Olympics, men performed nude, which could be why women were not invited.