Happy Birthday Bikini!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Grace Kelly photographed in Jamaica by Howell Conant
The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb. 
Diana Vreeland
It's hard to imagine a time before bikinis. There once was a period when beachwear consisted of ankle length dresses and stockings (1890s), and then scandalous, immodest swimsuits appeared in the 1920's that were still subject to strict suit regulations on beaches like West Palm Beach in Florida ("Bloomers to Bikinis: Bathing Suits Through History"). Finally on this day in 1946, French designer Louis Reard unveiled a bathing suit that would change summer forever ("Bikini Introduced").
Though there were several iterations of the bikini before Reard's, it was this bathing suit that went down in history as the first bikini because it was indeed the smallest bathing suit up to this point. Because it was so flashy, the only model he could find brave enough to model it was a Parisian dancer from the Casino de Paris, Michelle Bernardini. This courageous/flashy/scandalous costume was named the "bikini" after Bikini Atoll, the location of a US nuclear bomb test. So the bikini and the atom bomb are connected in more ways than Diana Vreeland's confounding comment.

So why is the bikini this important? Sure it was scandalous. It drove men wild. Women were now free to lounge around in their underwear. Correction: lounge around in public in their underwear. Now the bikini is barely a second thought. It is a summer staple from the east coast to the west coast, worldwide. Now there are countless styles to choose from: triangle, halter, French, bandeau. As ubiquitous as this bathing costume is, however, I stand that its power and importance remains. For what remains is confidence and utter femininity. It takes a confident woman to rock a bikini. They are provocative, scandalous, revealing, yes, but now that they are considered somewhat appropriate (at the beach mind you, or the pool), I think they are a fantastic way to show confidence in oneself, no matter one's shape or size.

Bikinis, like all clothes, come in many shapes and sizes, and should definitely be chosen carefully. Over the past few years I've curated quite a collection, and I've narrowed down three bikini staples that of course you can mix and match:

1. The LBB - Meet the Little Black Dress's (LBD's) provocative cousin: The Little Black Bikini. Perhaps the very best bikini I've ever owned, the LBB is by far really the only bikini I ever need. It is universal: it whistles Mediterranean coast, French Riviera, and South Carolina beach music. It looks chic and easily pulls off that "oh I just slipped this right on" that a favorite pair of worn-in jeans does. The LBB is a summer staple as much as those jeans. Perfect for pool party and bohemian beach bash alike.

2. The Pattern - The more classic the better. Polka dot, gingham, floral, striped or seersucker bring splashes of color and splashes of fun to any bikini. Think Brigitte Bardot and Marilyn Monroe.

3. The High-Waisted - Albeit controversial these days, I've asked myself this in prior seasons and I'll ask it again: is this obsession of raising waistlines really doing anything for our figures? Do high waisted jeans and skirts and swimsuits really flatter the figure? To be honest I really don't know, and I don't care. I recently ordered a retro high waisted suit and bandeau top and let me tell you, this was quite possibly the best purchase I have made all summer. I plan on wearing it with my vintage Italian Panama hat (from Cortona, sigh) and my favorite extra obnoxious H&M sunglasses.

{Currently Listening To}

I bet that yellow bikini girl had So. Much. Sass.

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