Today marks 70 years since the invention of the bikini by Parisian designer Louis Réard. Here, we explore the history of the two-piece.

Louis Réard was a mechanical engineer turned fashion designer who had taken over his mother’s lingerie business near Les Folies Bergères in Paris in around 1940.

While visiting St. Tropez beaches, he noticed women rolling up the edges of their swimsuits to get a better tan, which inspired him to design a swimsuit with the midriff exposed.

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Réard’s invention was a string bikini consisting of four triangles made from 30 square inches of fabric printed with a newspaper pattern.

The bikini made its first appearance in Paris on July 5, 1946 at the Fête de l’Eau beauty pageant. Réard didn’t know it at the time, but he had just made fashion history.

Most models taking part in the pageant refused to wear the bikini, fearing it would expose too much skin, but Micheline Bernardini (pictured), an exotic dancer at the Casino de Paris, was bold enough to take the plunge.

The launch came as a culture shock and the scandalous two-piece was forbidden on certain European beaches, but by the late 1950s, movie stars began to wear the bikini, and it soon became synonymous with seduction and sex appeal.

The tiny swimsuit gradually gained popularity and has since become one of fashion’s biggest phenomenons.

Did you know? The name ‘bikini’ comes from Bikini Atoll, a coral reef island in the Pacific Ocean.