SUP Women | National Bikini Day | A History of the Iconic Swimsuit

Can't beat the view. Photo: Paula Sgarbi

Can’t beat the view. Photo: Paula Sgarbi

National Bikini Day | A History of the Iconic Swimsuit

July 5th marks a monumental day in the watersports community. It’s the day the first-ever bikini was sighted seventy years ago. Since its invention, this classic piece of women's swimwear has experienced both celebration and criticism. Today's styles are varied and include classic cuts, one-pieces, active wear, and even retro pieces that date back to earlier times. In honor of National Bikini Day, we thought it only fitting to explore the evolution of women's swimwear throughout the ages.

1890s/Early 1900s

At the turn of the century, women showed up to the beach fully clothed, then stepped into a dressing room on wheels to change into their bathing costumes. The costumes were essentially a conservative dress, complete with weights sewn into the bottom to prevent the skirt from flying up.

1910s

In 1913, Carl Janzten introduced a form-fitting two-piece suit to enhance athletic performance. The full-coverage suits were essentially shorts and a T-shirt or tank, but the transition was quit revolutionary.

1930s

One-piece swimsuits continued to dominate, but a backless cut was introduced, marking a huge change stylistically.

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Before the backless cut of the 1930s, this is what women’s bathing suits looked like.

1940s

World War II called for fabric rationing, thus sparking the appearance of two-piece suits that revealed a sliver of skin at the waistline.

Swimwear has changed a bit since the 1940s...

Swimwear has changed a bit since the 1940s…

1946

On July 5, 1946, French engineer Louis Rèard designed the world's first bikini. He claimed that it was smaller than the world's smallest swimsuit and was the first suit to reveal the belly button.

The suit was named after a nuclear test site–Bikini Atoll–because Rèard believed his design would be as explosive as a bomb. Rèard had to hire a nude dancer to model his design because nobody else wanted to be seen in his suit.

Ever wonder what the world's first bikini looked like? Well, now you know.

Ever wonder what the world’s first bikini looked like? Well, now you know.

1950s

A few individuals sported the bikini, but one-pieces continued to reign throughout the 50s. Many countries banned the bikini and many considered it sinful to wear.

1960s

By the 1960s, the bikini became commonplace and was the swimsuit of choice. In 1962, Ursula Andress appeared in the James Bond film, Dr. No, sporting a homemade bikini. In 1964, Sports Illustrated launched its first swimsuit issue. The bikini, it seemed, was finally accepted.

1970s

The 70s were decorated with high-cut bottoms and low-coverage tops. Designers jumped on the more accepting times and released a wide variety of barely-there suits.

1980s

Neon colors and high-cut bottoms dominated the scene throughout the 80s. The G-string made its first appearance in Brazil during the later end of the decade.

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Function, fashion, freedom. Aline Adisaka, exercising her woman’s rights in Hawaii. Photo: Paula Sgarbi

1990s

Bikinis remained immensely popular during the 90s, but additional styles like the tankini, adjustable bra-style tops, and the classic Baywatch red, one-piece monopolized the water.

2000s

These days, bikinis come in too many styles to keep track of. There are strapless tops, cheeky bottoms, monokinis, athletic styles, high-waisted bottoms, and eco-friendly suits. You name it and your local SUP shop has it. It's a beautiful time to be a paddler.

The Future

The bikini has come so far since its debut in 1946 and like everything, it will continue to evolve for years to come. Will suits become more geared towards athletes? Will we see the return of a style from a previous era? Or will we be introduced to a new style entirely? Only time will tell.

Happy National Bikini Day! Now get out and paddle.

Shredding waves, soaking rays. That's what bikinis are made for. Photo: Beto Marcondes

Shredding waves, soaking rays. Aline Adisaka knows, that’s what bikinis are made for. Photo: Beto Marcondes

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