Macro Oddities

The Bikini and the Beast

Nuclear means much more than atomic power. Since World War II it has inspired thoughts of Utopia and destruction, but most of all in trying to link objects with the ideas around the atom, popular culture around the world has produced icons.

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was enough to have Japan surrender before even a 3rd bomb could be dropped. Within a week the Smyth Report was released by the United States government, explaining the basics of the Manhattan project, and 3 days later Japan signed the final documents of its surrender. To those on the opposing side, bombs brought peace.

It was then, in 1945 that ‘nuclear’ entered the common tongue. The idea of nuclear and the post war relief led to an explosion of products and ideas that found ways to link themselves to the nuclear ideal. The most famous of these was probably some Parisian swimwear.I made this, and it's public domain, so feel free to use it.

Small and Devastating

Another marketing ploy, the entire bikini can fit into the matchbox in her left hand.

Micheline in the first Bikini | Hulton Archive

The first nuclear bomb to be dropped after the war was ‘Able’ on 1 July 1946, in the remote Pacific area known as Bikini Atoll. Previously unknown, the tests made the area famous, and 4 days after the first test the Bikini was born.

“like the bomb, the bikini is small and devastating” – Louis Réard

5 July, the Bikini was first revealed to the world at Piscine Molitor, Paris. The 2 piece swimwear was so shocking that its designer, Louis Réard couldn’t convince any models to wear it. The only new feature was that it left the bellybutton uncovered, but it was enough that in the end he had to employ a naked dancer to do model it. It was not a mild mannered event.

Louis Réard named it after Bikini atoll with the idea that it would blow away all who saw it, and usher the fashion world into a new era – and it certainly made an impact. Micheline Bernadini, the stripper who modelled it received 50,000 pieces of fan mail, and fashion magazines widely reported on it – helped by Reárd’s provocative claims.

It wasn’t entirely new though, either in design or theme. Only a few months before another French designer had introduced the Atome (Atom) swimsuit, then labelled the ‘World’s Smallest Swimsuit’ – a nod to the size of atoms. The Bikini was slightly smaller, leaving the belly button uncovered and cheekily marketed as ‘smaller than the world’s smallest swimsuit’.

Despite the Vatican claiming it as sinful, and being banned from the beaches of many European countries the Bikini eventually became commonplace and outgrew its link with nuclear cheer, though to this day it draws controversy in many countries.

8 years later, in a turn of events Bikini Atoll helped inspire new creations, this time made in fear. Read more

Deployed on by Alexandre Coates in Macro Oddities, Puzzling Past Leave a message?