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This article is about the women's bathing suit. For the island group, see Bikini Atoll. For other uses, see Bikini (disambiguation).
Woman wearing a bikini at a beach

A bikini is generally a women's two-piece swimsuit.[1][2] The design is simple: two triangles of fabric on top cover the woman's breasts and two triangles of fabric on the bottom cover the groin and the buttocks, leaving the woman's midriff exposed.[1] What distinguishes the bikini from other swimsuits is its brevity.[1] The size of the panty can range from full coverage to a revealing thong or g-string design.

The modern bikini was introduced by French engineer Louis Réard and separately by fashion designer Jacques Heim in Paris in 1946. Many western countries declared it illegal and the Vatican declared it sinful. Popularized by filmstars like Brigitte Bardot and Ursula Andress it became common in most western countries by the mid-1960s.

Further variants were added to the bikini family of beachwears and bathing costumes, contributing to the popular lexicon a variety of -kinis and -inis: monokini, microkini, tankini, trikini, pubikini, bandeaukini, skirtini and sling bikini. A man's brief swimsuit may also be referred to as a bikini.[2] A variety of men's and women's underwear are known as bikini underwear.


While the two-piece swimsuit as a design existed in classical antiquity,[3] the modern design first attracted public notice in Paris on July 5, 1946.[4] French mechanical engineer Louis Réard introduced a design he named the "bikini," taking the name from the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean,[5][6] where, four days earlier, the United States had initiated its first peace-time nuclear weapons test as part of Operation Crossroads.[7] The island's English name is derived from the German name Bikini, given to the atoll when it was part of German New Guinea, which itself is transliterated from the Marshallese name for the island, Pikinni, ([pʲi͡ɯɡɯ͡inʲːii̯]), meaning surface of coconuts.[8] Réard hoped his swimsuit's revealing style would create an "explosive commercial and cultural reaction" similar to the explosion at Bikini Atoll.[9][10][11][12][13] His name for the garment stuck with the media and the public.[11]

Through analogy with words, like bilingual and bilateral, containing the Latin prefix "bi-" (meaning "two" in Latin), the word bikini was first back-derived as consisting of two parts, [bi + kini] by Rudi Gernreich, who introduced the monokini in 1964.[14][15][16] Later swimsuit designs like the tankini and trikini further cemented this false assumption.[17] Over time the "–kini family" (as dubbed by author William Safire[18]), including the "–ini sisters" (as dubbed by designer Anne Cole[19]), expanded into a variety of swimwear, often with an innovative lexicon,[20] including the monokini (also numokini or unikini), seekini, tankini, camikini, hikini (also hipkini), minikini, and microkini.


Main article: History of the bikini

In antiquity[edit]

The ancient Roman Villa Romana del Casale (286–305 AD) in Sicily contains one of the earliest known illustrations of a bikini.

The origins of the two-piece swimsuit can be traced to antiquity, in Çatalhöyük, where a mother goddes is depicted astride two leopards wearing a costume somewhat like a bikini,[3] and the Greco-Roman world, where bikini-like garments worn by women athletes are depicted on urns and paintings dating back to 1400 BC.[21] In Coronation of the Winner, a mosaic in the floor of a Roman villa in Sicily that dates from the Diocletian period (286–305 AD), young women participate in weightlifting, discus throwing, and running ball games dressed in bikini-like garments (technically bandeaukinis in modern lexicon).[4][22] The mosaic, found in the Sicilian Villa Romana del Casale, features ten maidens who have been anachronistically dubbed the "Bikini Girls".[23][24] Other Roman archaeological finds depict the goddess Venus in a similar garment. In Pompeii, depictions of Venus wearing a bikini were discovered in the Casa della Venere,[25][26][27] in the tablinum of the House of Julia Felix,[28] and in an atrium garden of Via Dell'Abbondanza.[29]

Bikini precursors[edit]

Annette Kellerman reclines on diving board wearing her self-designed swimwear, 1909

Swimming or bathing outdoors were discouraged in the Christian West, and so there was little demand need for swimming or bathing costume until the 18th century. The bathing gown of the 18th century was an loose ankle-length full-sleeve chemise-type gown made of wool or flannel, so that modesty or decency was not threatened.[30]

During the 1920s and 1930s, people began to shift from "taking in the water" to "taking in the sun," at bathhouses and spas, and swimsuit designs shifted to accommodate this change. Rayon was used in the 1920s to manufacture tight-fitting swimsuits,[31] but its durability, especially when wet, proved problematic;[32] jersey and silk were also sometimes used.[33] By the 1930s, manufacturers had lowered necklines in the back, removed sleeves, and tightened the sides. Hollywood endorsed the new glamor in films like Neptune's Daughter in which Esther Williams wore provocatively named costumes such as "Double Entendre" and "Honey Child".[34] With the development of new clothing materials, particularly latex and nylon, through the 1930s swimsuits gradually began hugging the body, with shoulder straps that could be lowered for tanning.[35]

Wartime production during World War II required vast amounts of cotton, silk, nylon, wool, leather, and rubber. In 1942 the War Production Board issued Regulation L-85, cutting the use of natural fibers in clothing[36] and mandating a ten percent reduction in the amount of fabric in women's beachwear. To meet the regulations, swimsuit manufacturers produced two-piece suits with bare midriffs.[37]

The modern bikini[edit]

Micheline Bernardini modeling Réard's bikini. It was so small it could fit into a small 2 by 2 inches (51 by 51 mm) box like the one she is holding. July 5, 1946

The modern bikini was invented in Paris separately by fashion designer Jacques Heim and engineer Louis Réard in early 1946. Réard was a mechanical and automotive engineer by education who in 1946 was running his mother's lingerie boutique near Les Folies Bergère in Paris.[38] Heim new beach costume comprised two pieces, the bottom large enough to cover the woman's navel. In May 1946, he advertised it as the world's "smallest bathing suit". Réard topped Heim's announcement by slicing the top off the bottoms and advertising his design as "smaller than the smallest swimsuit".[39][40] The idea struck him when he saw women rolling up their beachwear to get a better tan.[4]

Réard could not find a model who was willing to showcase his revealing design.[41] He instead hired Micheline Bernardini, a 19 year old nude dancer from the Casino de Paris.[42] His swimsuit design featuring a g-string back of 30 square inches (200 cm2) of cloth with newspaper-type print was a hit.

Reard introduced his design in a press conference on July 5, 1946 at Piscine Molitor, a public pool in Paris. Heim had named his design the "atome", after the smallest known particle of matter,[11] but Réard's name for the swimsuit design, the bikini, stuck. Réard held his press conference five days after the first test of a nuclear device (nicknamed Able) over the Bikini Atoll during Operation Crossroads.[43] Bernardini received 50,000 fan letters, many of them from men.[5][44]

Réard said that "like the bomb, the bikini is small and devastating".[45] Fashion writer Diana Vreeland described the bikini as the "atom bomb of fashion".[45] Heim's design was the first worn on the beach, but Réard's description of the two-piece swimsuit as a bikini stuck.[46][4] Réard's business soared. In advertisements he declared the swimsuit couldn't be a genuine bikini "unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring."[5]

French newspaper Le Figaro wrote, "People were craving the simple pleasures of the sea and the sun. For women, wearing a bikini signaled a kind of second liberation. There was really nothing sexual about this. It was instead a celebration of freedom and a return to the joys in life."[44] The early success of Bikini is partly attributed to post-war fabric rationing.[47]

Social resistance[edit]

As subsequent history would show, the bikini was more than a skimpy garment. It was a state of mind.

Lena Lenček, The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth, 1998[48]

Despite the garment's initial success in France, worldwide women still stuck to traditional one-piece swimsuits, and, his sales stalling, Réard went back to designing and selling orthodox knickers.[49] In a 1950 Time magazine interview, American swimsuit mogul Fred Cole,[44] owner of mass market swimwear firm Cole of California,[50] stated that he had "little but scorn for France's famed Bikinis"; Réard himself would late describe it as a "two-piece bathing suit which reveals everything about a girl except for her mother's maiden name."[51] Fashion magazine Modern Girl Magazine in 1957 stated that "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".[4][44]

In 1951 Eric Morley organized the Festival Bikini Contest, a beauty contest and swimwear advertising opportunity at that year's Festival of Britain. The press, welcoming the spectacle, referred to it as Miss World,[52][53] a name Morley registered as a trademark.[54] When the winner, Kiki Håkansson of Sweden, was crowned in a bikini, several religiously-minded nations threatened to withdraw delegates; to placade them Morley banned bikinis from the pageant, introducing evening gowns instead.[55] Håkansson remains the only Miss World crowned in a bikini,[54] and after the controversy the bikini was explicitly banned from many other beauty pageants worldwide.[56][57] The swimsuit was declared sinful by the Vatican and banned in the French Atlantic coastline,[58] Spain, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Australia, and prohibited or discouraged in a number of US states.[59][60] The National Legion of Decency, a Roman Catholic body guarding over American media content, pressured Hollywood to keep bikinis from being featured in Hollywood movies.[61] The Hays production code for US movies, introduced in 1930s and abandoned in 1960s, allowed two-piece gowns but prohibited the display of navels.[62] As late as 1959, Anne Cole, one of the United State's largest swimsuit designers, said, "It's nothing more than a G-string. It's at the razor's edge of decency."[63]

Rise to popularity[edit]

During the 1950s, Hollywood stars such as Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner,[64][65] Elizabeth Taylor,[66] Tina Louise,[67] Marilyn Monroe,[68] Esther Williams, and Betty Grable[69] took advantage of the risqué publicity associated with the bikini by posing for photographs wearing them—pin-ups of Hayworth and Williams in costume were especially widely distributed in the United States.[44] In Europe Brigitte Bardot was photographed wearing a bikini on the beach during the 1953 Cannes Film Festival; similar photographs were taken Anita Ekberg and Sophia Loren, among others. Increasingly common glamour shots of popular actresses and models on either side of the Atlantic played a large part in bringing the bikini into the mainstream.[1][70]

According to The Guardian, Bardot's photographs in particular turned Saint-Tropez into the bikini capital of the world,[39] with Bardot identified as the original Cannes bathing beauty.[71] Bardot's photography helped to enhance the public profile of the festival, and Cannes in turn played a crucial role in her career.[72] In 1952, she wore a bikini in Manina, the Girl in the Bikini (1952; released in France as Manina, la fille sans voiles), a film which drew considerable attention due to her scanty swimsuit. During the 1953 Cannes Film Festival, working with her husband and agent Roger Vadim she garnered significant attention with photographs of her wearing a bikini on every beach in the south of France.[73] Vogue magazine's June 1953 issue featured suits by California companies, including Cole of California, Caltex, Catalina and Rose Marie Reid.[74] Brian Hyland's novelty-song hit "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" became a Billboard No. 1 hit during the summer of 1960: the song tells a story about a young girl who's too shy to wear her new bikini on the beach, thinking it too risqué.[75] Playboy first featured a bikini on its cover in 1962; the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue debut two years later featured Babette March in a white bikini on the cover.[70]

Ursula Andress, appearing as Honey Rider in the 1962 James Bond film, Dr. No, wore a white bikini, which became known as the "Dr. No bikini". It is cited as the most famous bikini of all time and an iconic moment in cinematic and fashion history.[76][77][78] Andress said that she owed her career to that white bikini, remarking, "This bikini made me into a success. As a result of starring in Dr. No as the first Bond girl, I was given the freedom to take my pick of future roles and to become financially independent."[76][79] In 2001, Andress sold the Dr. No bikini she wore in the film at auction for £35,000 ($61,500).[4] In 1965, a woman told Time that it was "almost square" not to wear a bikini; the magazine wrote two years later that "65% of the young set had already gone over",[64] Raquel Welch wore a deer skin bikini in One Million Years B.C. (1966) that made her an instant pin-up girl.[4] Her role wearing the fur bikini raised Welch to the status of a fashion icon[80] and the photo of her in the bikini became a best-selling pinup poster.[81] Welch was featured in the studio's advertising as "wearing mankind's first bikini",[82] and the fur bikini was later described as a definitive look of the 1960s.[81] In 2011, Time listed Welch's B.C. bikini in the "Top Ten Bikinis in Pop Culture".[83][notes 1]

The 1967 film An Evening in Paris,[84] is mostly remembered today because in it Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore became the first Indian actress to wear a bikini on film.[85] She also posed in a bikini for the glossy Filmfare magazine.[86][87] The costume shocked a conservative Indian audience,[88] but it also set in motion a trend carried forward by Zeenat Aman in Heera Panna (1973) and Qurbani (1980),[89] Dimple Kapadia in Bobby (1973),[89] and Parveen Babi in Yeh Nazdeekiyan (1982).[89][90]

Mass acceptance[edit]

By 1988 the bikini made up nearly 20% of swimsuit sales, though one survey indicates 85% of all bikinis never touch the water.

In 1997 Miss Maryland Jamie Fox became the first contestant in 50 years to compete in a two-piece swimsuit during the Preliminary Swimsuit Competition at the Miss America Pageant.[91] By 1988 the bikini made up nearly 20% of swimsuit sales, more than any other model in the US,[63] though one-piece suits made a comeback during the 1980s and early 1990s.[92] Réard's company folded in 1988,[93] four years after his death.[94] By the end of the century, the bikini had become the most popular beachwear around the globe. According to French fashion historian Olivier Saillard, this was due to "the power of women, and not the power of fashion". As he explains, "The emancipation of swimwear has always been linked to the emancipation of women",[4] though one survey indicates 85% of all bikinis never touch the water.[95] Actresses in action films like Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and Blue Crush made the two-piece "the millennial equivalent of the power suit", according to Gina Bellafonte of The New York Times,[44]

Huludao City, Liaoning, China set the world record for the largest bikini parade in 2012, with 1,085 participants and a photo shoot involving 3,090 women.[96][97] According to Beth Dincuff Charleston, research associate at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "The bikini represents a social leap involving body consciousness, moral concerns, and sexual attitudes."[44] By the early 2000s, bikinis had become a $811 million business annually, according to the NPD Group, a consumer and retail information company,[98] and had boosted spin-off services like bikini waxing and the sun tanning industries.[99]

Bikini variants[edit]

Main article: Bikini variants

While the name "bikini" was at first applied only to beachwear that revealed the wearer's navel, today the fashion industry considers any two-piece swimsuit a bikini.[100] Modern bikini fashions are characterized by a simple, brief design: two triangles of fabric that form a bra and cover the woman's breasts and a third that forms a panty cut below the navel that cover the groin and the buttocks.[1] The coverage offered can vary widely, from revealing pubikini, microkini and string bikinis to a fuller designs such as the tankinis, skirtinis or bandeaukinis.[101]

Bikinis can and have been made out of almost every possible clothing material, and the fabrics and other materials used to make bikinis are an essential element of their design.[102] The use of cotton makes the swimsuit more practical, and the increased reliance on stretch fabric after 1960 simplified construction. Modern bikinis were first made of cotton and jersey. DuPont's introduction of Lycra (spandex) in the 1960s completely changed how bikinis were designed and worn, as according to Kelly Killoren Bensimon, a former model and author of The Bikini Book, "the advent of Lycra allowed more women to wear a didn't sag, it didn't bag, and it concealed and revealed. It wasn't so much like lingerie anymore."[103] Alternative swimwear fabrics such as velvet, leather, and crocheted squares surfaced in the early 1970s.[1]

Bikini variations has grown to include a large number of more or less revealing styles — string bikinis, monokinis (topless), seekinis (transparent), tankinis (tank top, bikini bottom), camikinis (camisole top, bikini bottom), hikinis (also hipkini), "granny bikini" (bikini top, boy shorts bottom), thong, minikinis, microkinis, miniminis, slingshot, tie-side and teardrop.[20][104] In one major fashion show in 1985, there were two-piece suits with cropped tank tops instead of the usual skimpy bandeaux, suits that resembled bikinis in front and one-piece in back, suspender straps, ruffles, and deep navel-baring cutouts.[105] Metal and stone jewelery pieces are now also often used to dress up look and style according to tastes, and to meet the fast pace of demands, some manufacturers now offer made-to-order bikinis ready in as few as seven minutes.[106] The world's most expensive bikini was designed in February 2006 by Susan Rosen; containing 150 carats (30 g) of diamond, it was valued at £20 million.[107]

Major variants[edit]

Variant Image First Description
A bandeaukini (alternatively called a bandini)[108] is any bikini bottom worn with a bandeau as the top (no straps going over the shoulders).[109][110] It is the oldest form of bikini, with earliest examples found in Sicilian Villa Romana del Casale (dubbed the "Bikini Girls) dating back to 4th century AD.[23][24][111][112] Reintroduced, its appeal grew fast among young women,[113] with bandeau tops edging into the sales of the classic tankini.[114] Sometimes the same design has been called a bandeaukini and a tankini.[115] Actress Halle Berry wore a skimpy bikini top with matching pants to the MTV Video Music Awards, fueling the trend of wearing a bandeau top as an out-of-home dress.[116]
Microkini noborder 1995 A microkini, including sub-genres like minikini and minimini, is an extremely skimpy bikini.[117] The designs for both women and men typically use only enough fabric to cover the genitals and, for women, the nipples. Any additional straps are merely to keep the garment attached to the wearer's body. Some variations of the microkini use adhesive or wire to hold the fabric in place over the genitals. Microkinis keep the wearer just within legal limits of decency and fill a niche between nudism and conservative swimwear.[118]
Monokini noborder 1964 A monokini (also called unikini or numokini) is a women's one-piece garment equivalent to the lower half of a bikini.[119] The term monokini is also now used for any topless swimsuit,[120] particularly a bikini bottom worn without a top.[121] In 1964, Rudi Gernreich designed the original monokini in the US.[122] His version looked like a bikini bottom suspended from two halter straps between breasts that were left bare. Peggy Moffitt, who modeled the suit for Gernreich, said it was a logical evolution of Gernreich's avant-garde ideas in swimwear design.[69] The modern monokini, which is less racy than Gernreich's original design, and is also described as "more of a cut-out one-piece swimsuit,"[123] with designers using various materials to link the top and bottom sections together.[124]
Pubikini 1985 Designer Rudi Gernreich unveiled the pubikini, a bathing suit designed to expose the wearer's pubic region, in 1985.[125] It featured a thong-style bottom [126] while the front portion of the pubikini is a tiny V-shaped strip of fabric that dips below the woman's mons pubis, exposing her pubic hair and portions of her vulva.[127]
Skirtini noborder
The skirtini, which features a bikini top and a small, skirted bottom, is also an innovation for bikini-style clothes with more coverage.[128] Two-piece swimsuits with usual skirt panels were popular the US before the government ordered a 10% reduction in fabric used in woman's swimwear in 1943 as wartime rationing.[129] In 2011, The Daily Telegraph identified the skirted bikini as one of the top 10 swimwear design of the season.[130]
Sling bikini noborder
The sling bikini (also known as sling-kini, suspender bikini or sling swimsuit) is an unbroken suit, technically one-piece, which leaves the entire sides of the torso and, like a thong most of the buttocks uncovered. There are monokini types, too. When designed for or worn by a men, it is has been called a mankini. Usually, a slingshot resembles a bikini bottom with the side straps extending upwards to cover the breasts and go over the shoulders, or encircling the neck while a second set of straps pass around the midriff (also known as pretzel bikini or pretzel swimsuit).[131] Corresponding to the advent of Lycra, sling swimsuits first emerged in the early 1990s, and are more popular on the beaches of Europe.[132] Sling bikinis were introduced in the mainstream in 1994, and became an instant hit for New York's major stores.[133]
String bikini noborder 1974 A string bikini (or a tie-side) gets its name from its design that consists of two triangular shaped pieces connected at the groin but not at the sides, where a thin "string" wraps around the waist tied together to connect the two parts. The first formal presentation of string bikini was done by Glen Tororich, a public relations agent, and his wife Brandi Perret-DuJon, a fashion model, for the opening of Le Petite Centre, a shopping area in the French Quarter of the New Orleans, Louisiana in 1974. String bikinis are one of the most popular variations of bikini.[134]
Tankini noborder 1998 The tankini is a swimsuit combining a tank top, mostly made of spandex-and-cotton or Lycra-and-nylon, and a bikini bottom introduced in the late 1990s.[109][135][136] Tankini has rendered its name to things ranging from a lemonade-based martini (Tankini Martini)[137] to server architecture (Tankini HipThread).[138] Designer Anne Cole was the originator of this style,[115] When her label introduced the tankini in 1998 it became and instant hit, and she scored the biggest hit of her career.[139] Tankinis can be made of spandex-and-cotton or Lycra-and-nylon.[140] A variation is named camkini, with spaghetti straps instead of tank-shaped straps over a bikini bottom.[141]
Trikini noborder 1967 The trikini appeared briefly in 1967, defined as "a handkerchief and two small saucers." It reappeared a few years ago as a bikini bottom with a stringed halter of two triangular pieces of cloth covering the breasts.[142] The trikini top comes essentially in two separate parts.[143] The name of this woman's bathing suit is formed from bikini, replacing "bi-", meaning "two", with "tri-", meaning "three".[144] Dolce & Gabbana designed trikinis in summer 2005 as three scintillating sequined fabric pieces that barely covered the essentials.[145] In a variation the three pieces are sold as part of one continuous garment.[146] A variation called a strapless bikini[147] or a no string bikini[148][149] by various manufacturers, this swimwear is often a combination of pasties with a matching maebari-style bottom.

Bikini underwear[edit]

Bikini underwear

Certain types of underwear worn by both men and women are identified as bikini-style underwear because they are similar in size and form to the bottom half of a bikini bathing suit. For women, bikini underwear can refer to virtually any tight, skimpy, or revealing undergarment that provides less coverage to the midsection than traditional underwear, panties or knickers. For men, a bikini is a type of undergarment that is smaller and more revealing than men's briefs. Bikini briefs can be low- or high-side bikini briefs but are usually lower than true waist, often at hips, and usually have no access pouch or flap, legs bands at tops of thighs. String bikini briefs have front and rear sections that meet in the crotch but not at the waistband, with no fabric on the side of the legs.[150]

Swimwear and underwear have always had close design connections because of their shared proximity to the body; the primary distinguishing feature between them is that swimwear takes underwear to the public view.[151] The swimsuit was and is closely aligned to underwear in terms of styling,[152] and at about the same time that attitudes towards the bikini began to change underwear underwent a redesign towards a minimal, unboned design that emphasized comfort first.[153]


Women's underwear


As the swimsuit was evolving, the underwear started to change. Between 1900 to 1940, swimsuit lengths followed the changes in underwear designs.[154] In the 1920s women started discarding the corset, while the Cadole company of Paris started developing something they called the "breast girdle".[155] During the Great Depression, panties and bras became softly constructed and were made of various elasticized yarns making underwear fit like a second skin. By 1930s underwear styles for both women and men were influenced by the new brief models of swimwear from Europe. Although the waistband was still above the navel, the leg openings of the panty brief were cut in an arc to rise from the crotch to the hip joint. The brief served as a template for most all variations of panties for the rest of the century.[156] Warner standardized the concept of Cup size in 1935. The first underwire bra was developed in 1938.[155] Beginning in the late thirties skants, a type of skanty men's briefs, were introduced, featuring very high-cut leg openings and a lower rise to the waistband.[156] Howard Hughes designed the push-up bra worn by Jane Russell in The Outlaw in 1943. In 1950 Maidenform introduced the first official bust enhancing bra.[155]

By the 1960s, the bikini swimsuit influenced panty styles and coincided with the cut of the new lower rise jeans and pants. In the seventies, with the emergence of skintight jeans, thong versions of the panty became mainstream, since the open, stringed back eliminated any tell-tale panty lines across the rear and hips. By the 1980s the design of the French-cut panty pushed the waistband back up to the natural waistline and the rise of the leg openings was nearly as high (French Cut panties come up to the waist, has a high cut leg, and usually are full in the rear[157]). As with the bra and other type of lingerie, manufacturers of the last quarter of the century marketed panty styles that were designed primarily for their sexual allure.[156] This decade marks the sexualization and eroticization of the male body through advertising campaigns for brands such as Calvin Klein, particularly by photographers Bruce Weber and Herb Ritts. Male bodies and men's undergarments were commodified and packaged for mass consumption, and swimwear and sportswear were influenced by sports photography and fitness.[158] Over time, swimwear evolved from weighty wool to high-tech skin-tight garments, eventually cross-breeding with sportswear, underwear and exercise wear, resulting in the interchangeable fashions of the 1990s.[159]

Sports bikini[edit]

There is evidence of ancient Roman women playing Expulsim Ludere, an early version of handball, wearing a costume that has been identified as bikinis.[160] Bikinis have become a major component of marketing various women's sports, raising some objections. [161] The bikini is an official uniform for beach volleyball and is widely worn in athletics. Towns like Porto Seguro in Brazil have become tourist attractions because of beach athletics in which bikinis are worn.[162]

Beach volleyball[edit]

Kerri Walsh (USA) and Larissa França (Brazil) in Semi-final of Women's Beach Volleyball in Beijing Olympics

In 1994, the bikini became the official uniform of women's Olympic beach volleyball, although some sports officials consider it exploitative and impractical in colder weather.[163] Competitors such as Natalie Cook[164] and Holly McPeak[165] agree with the FIVB's statements that the uniforms are practical for a sport played on sand during the heat of summer, but British Olympian Denise Johns argues that the regulation uniform is intended to be "sexy" and to attract attention.[166]

In 1999, the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) standardized beach volleyball uniforms, with the swimsuit becoming the required uniform both for men and women.[167] This drew the ire of some athletes.[168] According to FIVB rules, female beach volleyball players have the option of playing in shorts or a one-piece swimsuit,[169][170] but most players prefer the bikini.[165] In early 2012, the International Volleyball Federation announced it would allow shorts (maximum length 3 cm (1.2 in) above the knee) and sleeved tops at the London 2012 Olympics. Richard Baker, the federation spokesperson, said that "many of these countries have religious and cultural requirements so the uniform needed to be more flexible".[171] At the time of the event, the weather at the evening games in London during 2012 was so cold that the players sometimes had to wear shirts and leggings.[172] At the 2006 Asian Games at Doha, Qatar, only one Muslim country fielded a team in the beach volleyball competition because of concerns that the uniform was inappropriate. The Iraqi team refused to wear bikinis.[173]

Beach volleyball became the fifth largest television audience of all the sports at the 2000 Summer Olympics at Bondi Beach in Australia owing to the sex appeal of bikini-clad players as well as their athletic ability.[174] Kimberly Bissell conducted a study on the camera angles used during the 2004 Summer Olympic Games beach volleyball games. Bissell found that 20% of the camera angles were focused on the women's chests, and 17% on their buttocks. Bissell theorized that the appearance of the players draws fans attention more than their actual athleticism.[175][176] The popularity of Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball, a video game for Xbox, was attributed to the scantily clad women.[177] In 2007, fans voted for contestants in the WWE Diva contest after watching them playing beach volleyball in skimpy bikinis.[178]

During the 2004 Olympics, an exotic dance team from the Canary Islands entertained fans but drew some criticism from female competitors.[179][180] During breaks in between points and matches, the group, wearing bikinis, raced on to the sand and danced to techno-pop music. Australian athlete Nicole Sanderson commented, "It's kind of disrespectful to the female players. I'm sure the male spectators love it, but I find it a little bit offensive."[181]


Field: German pole vaulter Lisa Ryzih at the 2011 German Athletics Championships

Women in athletics often wear bikinis the same size as those worn in beach volleyball. Amy Acuff, a US high-jumper, wore a black leather bikini instead of a track suit at the 2000 Summer Olympics.[182] Runner Florence Griffith-Joyner mixed bikini bottoms with one-legged tights at the 1988 Summer Olympics, earning her more attention than her record breaking performance in the Women's 200 meters event.[183]

In the 2007 South Pacific Games, the rules were adjusted to allow players to wear less revealing shorts and cropped sports tops instead of bikinis.[184] At the West Asian Games in 2006, organizers banned bikini-bottoms for female athletes and asked them to wear long shorts.[185]


Bikini is the uniform for both male and female bodybuilding.

During 1950s to mid-1970s men's contest formats was often supplemented with women's beauty contests or bikini shows. The winners earned titles like Miss Body Beautiful, Miss Physical Fitness and Miss Americana, and also presented trophies to the winners of the men's contest.[186] In the 1980s, the Ms Olympia competition started in the USA and in UK the NABBA (National Amateur Body Building Association) renamed Miss Bikini International to Ms Universe. In 1986, Ms Universe competition was divided in to two sections – "physique" (for a more muscular physique) and "figure" (traditional feminine presentation in high heels).[187] In November 2010 IFBBF (International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness) introduced women's bikini contest for women who do not wish to build their muscles to figure competition levels.[188]

Costumes are regulation "posing trunks" (bikini briefs) for both men and bikini for women.[189] Female bodybuilders in America are prohibited from wearing thong or T-back swimsuits in contests filmed for television, though they are allowed to do so by certain fitness organizations in closed events.[190] For men, the dress code specifies "swim trunks only (no shorts, cut-off pants, or Speedos)." A similar policy by Virginia FCCLA bans "skimpy bikini or thong type suits" for women and specifies "swim trunks" for men ("no speedos").[191]

Other sports[edit]

The Bikini Basketball Association is an American women's basketball league, created by Cedric Mitchell and A. J. McArthur in 2012.[192] The players wear sports bras and boy shorts, during games.[193] Commentators found it variously funny,[194] offensive,[195] and smart business.[196] String bikinis and other skimpy clothes are also common in surfing. In 2001, Vicky Botwright, then 16th seeded in women's squash circuit and dubbed as the 'Lancashire Hot Bot', was prohibited by Women's International Squash Players Association (WISPA) from wearing her trademark outfit, a thong and a sports bra, in the British Open Championships.[197] In 2004, Alexander Putnam competed in the London Marathon in a green thong and painted as a tropical tree to protest against logging in Congo.[198]

Men's bikini[edit]

Men's bikini

The term men's bikini is used to describe a specific type of men's swimsuit. Men's bikinis can have both high or low side panels, string sides or tie sides, and most lack a button or flap front. Unlike swim briefs, bikinis are not designed for drag reduction and generally lack a visible waistband. Suits less than 1.5 inches wide at the hips are less common for sporting purposes and are most often worn for recreation, fashion, and sun tanning. The posing brief standard to bodybuilding competitions is an example of this style. Male punk rock musicians have performed on the stage wearing women's bikini briefs.[199] The 2000 Bollywood film Hera Pheri shows men sunbathing in bikinis, who were mistakenly believed to be girls from a distance.[200]

Swimsuits shown in men's wear collections by Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Paul Smith have tended to be black and snug fitting, throwbacks to the designs of the 1930s and '40s. Gianni Versace's ads contain heroic depictions of Miami bathers in contrast to popular, sports-inspired beach wear—bright and baggy Bermudas or boxer shorts. The Greek designer Nikos Apostolopoulos put a different spin on his bathing suits (for both sexes, but with the focus on the male), making them anatomical creations, cut and stitched to outline the body and its sexual characteristics.[201] Male bikini tops, a visual gag, also exist.[202]

A mankini is not a form of a bikini, despite its name, but a type of sling swimsuit worn by men. It was popularized by Sacha Baron Cohen, who donned one in the film Borat.[203][204]

Bikini body[edit]

The bikini body is a body ideal across beauty pageants (left) and surf culture (right)

In 1950 American swimsuit mogul Fred Cole, owner of Cole of California, told Time magazine that bikinis were designed for "diminutive Gallic women", as because "French girls have short legs...swimsuits have to be hiked up at the sides to make their legs look longer." [44] The New York Times reported the opinion that the bikini is permissible for people are not "too fat or too thin."[205] In the 1960s etiquette writer Emily Post decreed that "[A bikini] is for perfect figures only, and for the very young."[206] In The Bikini Book by Kelly Killoren Bensimon, swimwear designer Norma Kamali says, "Anyone with a tummy" should not wear a bikini.[206] Since then, a number of bikini designers including Malia Mills have encouraged women of all ages and body types to take up the style. The 1970s saw the rise of the lean ideal of female body and figures like Cheryl Tiegs, who possessed the figure that remains in vogue in the 21st century.

The fitness boom of the 1980s led to one of the biggest leaps in the evolution of the bikini. According to Mills, "The leg line became superhigh, the front was superlow, and the straps were superthin."[207] Women's magazines used terms like "Bikini Belly",[208] and workout programs were launched to develop a "bikini-worthy body".[209] The tiny "fitness-bikinis" made of lycra were launched to cater to this hardbodied ideal,[210] epitomized by six-time Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model Elle Macpherson.[99] Movies like Blue Crush and TV reality shows like Surf Girls has merged to concept of bikini model and athletes together, further accentuating the toned body ideal.[211]

One survey commissioned by Diet Chef, an UK home delivery service, reported by Daily Mail and The Today Show and ridiculed by More magazine showed that women should stop wearing bikinis by the age of 47.[212][213][214] Yearly Spring Break festivities, which mark the start of the bikini season,[215] trigger many with eating disorders because of the over-promotion of the bikini body ideal.[211]

In 1993, Suzy Menkes, then Fashion Editor of the International Herald Tribune, suggested that women had begun to "revolt" against the "body ideal" and bikini "exposure." She wrote, "Significantly, on the beaches as on the streets, some of the youngest and prettiest women (who were once the only ones who dared to bare) seem to have decided that exposure is over."[69] Nevertheless, professional beach volleyball player Gabrielle Reece, who competes in a bikini, claims that "confidence" alone can make a bikini sexy.[70][206]

Bikini waxing[edit]

Main article: Bikini waxing

Bikini waxing is the epilation of pubic hair in and around the pubic region (also known as bikini line), commonly by women, by the use of wax. With certain styles of women's swimwear, pubic hair may become visible around the crotch area of a swimsuit.[216] The bikini line delineates the part of a woman's pubic area which would normally be covered by the bottom part of a swimsuit. In the context of waxing, it is generally understood to describe any pubic hair visible beyond the boundaries of a swimsuit.[216] Visible pubic hair is widely culturally disapproved of and, considered to be embarrassing, is often removed.[216]

Waxing or shaving pubic hair "removes a cushion against friction, leaves microscopic open wounds and exposes you to infections" - says Emily Gibson, MD.[217] People who wax or shave their bikini areas face the risk of folliculitis, commonly caused by Staphylococcus aureus, an infection around the hair follicle.[218]

Bikini line[edit]

The bikini line delineates the part of a woman's pubic area which would normally be covered by the bottom part of a swimsuit. In the context of waxing, it is generally understood to describe any pubic hair visible beyond the boundaries of a swimsuit.[216] With the reduction in the size of swimsuits, especially since the advent of the bikini after 1945, the practice of bikini waxing has also come into vogue.[216]

The term bikini line is generally understood to describe any pubic hair that is visible beyond the boundaries of typical swimsuit. The history of fashion and body hair suggests that it can be safely assumed that women began removing this hair when bathing suits became so abbreviated that this area of the body was no longer covered. Christian Hope postulates in her article “Caucasian Female Body Hair” that, as history illustrates, the more clothes women were allowed or expected to remove, the more hair they were also expected to remove. The bikini line is an extension of the same trend.[219]

Bikini tan[edit]

Bikini tan lines

The tan lines created by the wearing of a bikini while tanning are known as a bikini tan. These tan lines separate pale breasts, groin, and buttocks from otherwise tanned skin.[220] Bikinis leave the rest of the body to be tanned, thereby exposing large amounts of skin to potentially dangerous UVB light. Overexposure to UVB radiation can cause sunburn and some forms of skin cancer, among other harmful effects.[69] In humans, prolonged exposure to solar UV radiation may result in acute and chronic health effects on the skin, eye, and immune system.[221] Moreover, UVC radiation can cause adverse effects that can be mutagenic or carcinogenic.[222] As a result, medical organizations recommend that bikini-wearers protect themselves from UV radiation by using sunscreen, which contain ingredients that have been shown to protect mice against skin tumors. However, some sunscreen chemicals produce potentially harmful substances if they are illuminated while in contact with living cells,[223][224][225] and the quantity of sunscreen that penetrates the skin may be sufficient to cause damage.[226][227][228] Chemical company BASF has incorporated nanotechnology into bikinis for better UV protection as wet clothes have reduced protection against UV light. Made of Day-Glo leopard skin polyamide (nylon)-6 these bikinis have titanium dioxide embedded and provide a variable sunblock factor-80 for the beach and 15 for a spring day.[229]


  1. ^ Gibson, Megan (2011-07-05). "Top 10 Bikinis in Pop Culture". Time. "The full list: Micheline Bernardini Models the First-Ever Bikini, 'Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini', Annette Funicello and Beach Party, The Belted Bond-Girl Bikini, Sports Illustrated's First Swimsuit Issue, Raquel Welch's Fur Bikini in One Million Years B.C., Phebe Cates' Bikini in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Princess Leia's Gold Bikini in Return of the Jedi, The Official Uniform of the Female Olympic Beach-Volleyball Players, Miss America Pageant's Bikini Debut in 1997" 


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