Some summer fun!
The bikini—named for the Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific’s Marshall Islands, where the U.S. tested nuclear weapons—was a sensation when French designer Louis Reard introduced it soon after World War II.
here is good old Louis working on his design
There is more!
But Reard did not originate (the bikini): Mosaics in a Roman villa from 300 B.C.E. show women athletes wearing similar skimpy two-piece apparel.
I think this is what we are talking about
But wearing a bikini in the 1950’s could lead to trouble. Here a police officer writes a ticket for disturbing the peace? to a bikini wearer in 1957.
But times change
Acceptance of the style took time in the USA—as the 1960 radio hit “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” suggests, wearing one was not for the shy.
This video of Brian Hyland singing that song seems very dated today! Enjoy!
The scanty swimsuit has come full circle and is now the uniform for women’s beach volleyball.
The recent trend towards more revealing beach attire is rather extraordinary. Not too long ago, women would only venture into the water in “bathing machines”
… the purpose of the bathing machine was all about those crazy rules of bathing etiquette that they upheld in the 18th and 19th century, which kept women and their beach bodies out of sight (while the men frollicked freely on the beach, of course). The wooden carts with two doors on either sides allowed bathers to change out of their clothes and into their bathing suits without having to be seen by the opposite sex walking across the beach in ‘improper clothing’, which in those days, on the gender-segregated beaches of Europe, would have been the modern-day equivalent of the walk of shame. The four-wheeled box would be rolled out to sea, usually by horse or sometimes human power and hauled back in when the beachgoer signalled to the driver by raising a small flag attached to the roof. Some machines were equipped with a canvas tent lowered from the seaside door, capable of being lowered to the water, giving the bather greater privacy.
That makes one wonder about the history of nudity in general. We know from the Roman mosaics that prudery was not always the norm. How did things change so drastically?
The usual suspect is the Catholic Church in its insistence on chastity, etc. But it appears that up through the middle ages stripping down was still not such a big deal.
The Middle Ages saw a resurgence in bathing, both in indoor bathhouses and open air, and was largely still without clothing. Contemporary illustrations depict men and women bathing together, either nude, or with cloth wrapped around the groin. The end of the era saw more restrictions placed on bathing attire; a 1548 German law required bathers to wear drawers or cloth around the waist or pay a fine.
The rediscovery of Greco-Roman culture in the Renaissance restored the nude to the heart of creative endeavor. Nude figures based on antique models appear in Italy as early as the mid-thirteenth century, and by the mid-fifteenth century, nudes had become symbols of antiquity and its reincarnation.
Woodcut illustrations of ballad-sheets, such as the Roxburghe Ballads, depict what purports to be a courtly fad for topless fashion, …
And even Queen Elizabeth herself dabbled in it
The French ambassador diplomatically described seeing Queen Elizabeth dressed to reveal “the whole of her bosom” (“tout sa gorge”). Campaigners against such low-cut apparel railed against “these naked paps” with “their round, roseate buds immodestly [laid] forth” in unashamedly public display.
All in all, one can make the case that our current attitudes reflect a more healthy approach to the human form — with one serious exception. Even as we suffer from an epidemic of obesity, one is still expected to cover up unless one has a “perfect” body. We are still not as comfortable with this
What do you think?