one new thing a day

Some wise person once (or multiple times?) said everyone should strive to learn one new thing a day. Recently, I feel like all I do is learn new lessons and skills and every now and again it feels great to teach someone else a method or trick!

Today’s lesson on the origin of the word “bikini” is not something entirely useful, but nonetheless interesting and will come in handy whilst conversing on the beach during these last few weekends of summer. I thought to pass my new found knowledge along:

I learned this history lesson today accidentally (which is the most compelling way to learn, isn’t it?) by clicking through a few links from to the new site,

Wow, does this increasingly teenier wardrobe staple have a complex past!

Well of course we’ve all seen photographs of bathers 100 years ago wearing more clothing at the shore than most people wear today on a daily basis – far, far away from water. So naturally we can assume that the invention of this immodest suit from France in 1946 was the shock heard round the watering hole. And yes, our assumption turns out to be true in more than one sense of the word “shocking” – the summer of 1946 brought two new things to the beach: one, atomic testing in the South Pacific; two, scandalously scanty swimwear.

Louis Réard is credited with naming the two piece, the “bikini”.

He chose this word (which is a decidedly strange one once you think about it!!) to ensure his invention had equal billing in the news reels, competing with the testing off-shore. What testing, you ask? The one happening on Bikini Atoll, an island where 200 Atollers lived before they were shipped off the to the Marshall Islands (and years later paid $150 million in reparations for radiation related sickness).

How uncool is it that we walk around wearing these suits, calling these things “bikinis” not knowing that the name came from the island Bikini Atoll; that the origin of these sexy suits comes from controversial, life-stealing atomic bomb testing?

Not incidentally, Jacques Heim, credited with designing the first of the itty-bitty suits, named his suit the “atom”, because it was so small. He would be shocked today to see how truly tiny these things have become; afterall, his “atom” suit didn’t even reveal the belly button!!! But shouldn’t we be more shocked at the lack of respect these designers had for something so powerful as the atomic bomb? They admittedly had little knowledge of the effects of the radiation and its retrospective recourse, but their intent to exploit a current event is shameful, I think. We certainly wouldn’t let a slicker called the “Valdez” stand on the shelves today, would we, society? Today you can hardly hold a conversation without worrying if your words are politically, socially or culturally correct.

While the designers of the 40’s may have lacked p.c.-ness, they certainly were modest compared to the designers and models of today – in July of 1946, when the bikini debuted, a stripper had to be hired to model the design, for no woman otherwise would put it on in public. After all, even lingerie, worn in private, was made of more material than Réard’s suit! And so while it is true that the bikini originated in the first half of the 20th century, it took nearly twenty years for the idea of liberating a woman’s body in public to take hold. And take hold it did.

Original story and credit, here.

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