Whether the word bikni fills you with dread, has you reaching for the nearest kaftan or gets you hot-footing it to a wax bar (you’re welcome), spare a thought for the 66-year-old reinvention.

[Read more: 5 ways to look good in a bikini over 50 – just like Lorraine Kelly]

Not always so loved and revered, the bikini has managed to shock, scandalise and even have a top 10 hit. We take a look at the history of the bikini.

Early days

The earliest sighting of the bikini was found on Greek urns and paintings from 1400 BC, which featured pictures of women wearing a two-piece garment while playing sports.  It wasn’t seen again until the fourth century AD on a Roman mosaic discovered in Sicily.

Fast forward a few thousand years to the early 1900s and women were so conservative with their swimwear that they often sewed weights into the hems to prevent them from riding up. 

[Read more: History's freakiest fashion, revealed]

Cutting back

During the 1940s, women in Europe started to reveal slivers of skin as World War II rationing pushed manufacturers to reduce the amount of fabric they used to make swimsuits. But it wasn’t until 1946 that things really began to heat up…


Women waited years for a bikini and then two came along! Parisian designer Jacques Heim debut the atome, the world’s smallest swimsuit. That same year, fellow Frenchman Louis Reard, a Parisian engineer, unveiled an even smaller suit to the world– made from just 30 inches of fabric.

Named after Bikini Atoll, the Pacific Ocean site famous for hosting the first atomic bomb test, Reard hoped his invention would be just as explosive.  

Star appeal

Beaches across the world tried to ban the bikini – the revelation of a woman’s belly button was considered scandalous, even in the fifties. But Reard received 50,000 fan letters proving public opinion felt otherwise. Hollywood heavyweights Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and Bridget Bardot were soon pictured frolicking on many a glamorous beach in a two-piece.

Bond bikini

In 1960, Bryan Hyland released the song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. Two years later, Ursula Andress emerged from the sea in a white belted bikini in Sean Connery’s first Bond movie Dr. No and an icon was born.

Thong song

The more bikinis grew in popularity, the smaller they became. The string bikini was de rigeur in the seventies while the eighties were all about the thong bikini, the scantiest version yet. In 1983, the bikini was taken off the beach and into space in Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi.  Thankfully it was on Princess Leia and not an ewok.

Sound of summer

Who can forget the 1990 cover of Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny yellow Polka Dot Bikini? With vocals from Timmy Mallet (yep, the Wacaday presenter) it was No1 all summer long.

[Read more: Fashion rules - is 48 too old to wear a bikini?]

Pop’s finest

Even Victoria Beckham wasn’t immune to the power of a bikini and, along with Steps and Destiny’s Child, the Spice Girls chose bikini tops for many a poptastic performance in the nineties. 

Two’s company

It took another Bond girl and one of Charlie’s Angels for the bikini to become a water cooler topic again. Halle Berry had us clamouring for our own orange belted bikini from Die Another Day in 2001 and Demi Moore’s bikini in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle was credited with reviving her career in 2003.

Well it was pretty tiny.

Mrs Carter

2013 will go down in history as the year Beyonce wore that yellow two-piece for an H&M ad campaign. We think Reard would be proud of his creation, don’t you?

Selfie swimwear


These days, you’re not anyone unless you pose poolside in your bikini. Not a day goes past when a celebrity isn’t pictured on the beach in theirs, from Taylor Swift in her 50s get-up to a toned and honed Dame Helen Mirren – not forgetting Lorraine Kelly who posed in hers for a national campaign. Well, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

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