Louis Réard

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Louis Réard
Louis Réard bikini.jpg
Born 1897
Died 16 September 1984
Nationality French
Occupation automobile engineer, fashion designer
Known for inventing bikini

Louis Réard (1897 – 16 September 1984) was a French automobile engineer who invented the bikini in 1946.[1]

Invention of bikini[edit]

Louis Réard and Jacques Heim were competing to produce the world's smallest swimsuit.[2] In May 1946, Heim began advertising a two-piece swimsuit that he named the "Atome," the world's "smallest bathing suit".[3] The bottom of his design was just large enough to cover the wearer's navel. To promote his new design, Heim hired skywriters to fly above the Mediterranean resort advertising the Atome as "the world’s smallest bathing suit."[4][5][6]

Réard was a mechanical engineer who was had taken over his mother's lingerie business[7] near Les Folies Bergères in Paris.[8] He noticed women on St. Tropez beaches rolling up the edges of their swimsuits to get a better tan[7] which inspired him to produce his new design. Not to be outdone by Heim, he hired his own skywriters three weeks later to fly over the French Riviera advertising his design as "smaller than the smallest bathing suit in the world."[4]

Réard's design was a string bikini consisting of four triangles made from only 30 square inches (194 cm2) of fabric printed with a newspaper pattern.[7] When Réard sought a model to wear his design at its debut presentation, none of the usual models would wear the suit, so he hired 19 year old nude dancer Micheline Bernardini from the Casino de Paris to model it.[9] He introduced it to the media and public in Paris on 5 July 1946[10] at Piscine Molitor, a public pool in Paris.[11][12] It was a shocking swimsuit design that for the first time revealed the wearer's navel.[13]

Marketing of the bikini[edit]

Réard could not find a model who would dare to wear his design. He ended up hiring Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris as his model.[14] That bikini, a string bikini with a g-string back made out of 30 square inches (194 cm2) of cloth with newspaper type printed across, was "officially" introduced on 5 July 1946 at a fashion event at Piscine Molitor, a popular public pool in Paris. The bikini was a hit, especially among men, and Bernardini received some 50,000 fan letters.[11] Heim's design was the first worn on the beach, but the genre of clothing was given its name by Réard.[7] Réard's business soared, and in advertisements he kept the bikini mystique alive by declaring that a two-piece suit wasn't a genuine bikini "unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring."[11]

As afurther booster for sales, ex automotive engineer Louis Réard commissioned renowned carbody specialist Chapron to build an extravagant "road yacht" by converting a Packard V8 car into a mock luxury cabin cruiser complete with cockpit,portholes, anchor, signal mast and other nautical regalia. The car (not an amphibian) went on advertising parades and followed the Tour de France cycliste in the early 50's, with a crew of bikini clad girls, causing quite a sensation in period parochial France


Later life[edit]

Réard moved with his wife, Marcelle Réard, to Lausanne from France in 1980. He died in 1984 at the age of 87.[16]


  1. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica's Great Inventions". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 17 September 2008. 
  2. ^ "The Bikini: One Of Man's Greatest Inventions". CBS News. 2 July 2006. Retrieved 17 September 2008. 
  3. ^ Cole, Thomas G. II. "(The) Bikini: EmBodying the Bomb". Genders Journal. 
  4. ^ a b "Swimsuit Trivia – The Surprising History of the Bikini". Swimsuit-style.com. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  5. ^ Cocozza, Paula (2006-06-10). "A little piece of history". The Guardian. 
  6. ^ "The Bikini Turns 60, 1946 to 2006: 60 Years of Bikini Bathing Beauties". Lilith E-Zine. 
  7. ^ a b c d Westcott, Kathryn (5 June 2006). "The Bikini: Not a brief affair". BBC News. Retrieved 17 September 2008. 
  8. ^ "Happy birthday: the 'shocking and immoral' bikini hits 60". The Times. 16 April 2006. 
  9. ^ Rosebush, Judson. "Michele Bernadini: The First Bikini". Bikini Science. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  10. ^ David Louis Gold (2009). Studies in Etymology and Etiology: With Emphasis on Germanic, Jewish, Romance and Slavic Languages. Universidad de Alicante. pp. 99–. ISBN 978-84-7908-517-9. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c Bikini Introduced, This Day in History, History Channel
  12. ^ Hoover, Elizabeth D. (2006-07-05). "60 Years of Bikinis". American Heritage Inc. Archived from the original on 2007-09-09. Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  13. ^ Rubin, Sylvia (2 July 2006). "Fashion shocker of '46: the naked belly button / But the bikini wasn't a hit until Sixties". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  14. ^ Rosebush, Judson. "Michele Bernadini: The First Bikini". Bikini Science. Retrieved 17 September 2008. 
  15. ^ http://retroamerican.free.fr/louis_reard.html
  16. ^ "Louis Reard, Engineer, Dies; Designed the Bikini in 1946". The New York Times. 18 September 1984. Retrieved 17 September 2008. 

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