DAY IN HISTORY: Showgirl unveils very first bikini

FASHION history was created when showgirl Micheline Bernardini modelled the very first bikini by the side of a pool in Paris on July 5, 1946.

The daring new two-piece was the brainchild of French designer Louis Reard, who outgunned compatriot Jacques Heim in the stakes of creating the world's skimpiest swimsuit.

Heim called his product the "atom" and described it as "the world's smallest bathing suit".

But Reard trumped his rival by claiming his design, made from just 76cms of fabric, was the "smaller than the world's smallest bathing suit".

Micheline Bernardini unveils the bikini in Paris in 1946.
Micheline Bernardini unveils the bikini in Paris in 1946.

However, the bikini, named after the US atomic test in the Bikini Atoll, was beset by a major problem on its debut - no woman wanted to model it!

Unable to find a professional model, Reard turned to exotic dancer Bernardini, who knew a thing or two about barely-there costumes.

After one final adjustment - Reard, hinting at the predicted headlines, printed newspaper type across the garment - Bernardini stepped out into the spotlight at the popular Piscine Molitor and the bikini was presented to the world.

The swimsuit quickly became a favourite along the Mediterranean, and despite some brief resistance from the governments of Spain and Italy, the bikini dominated European beaches in the 1950s.

On the other side of the Atlantic, America was able to hold off the bikini invasion until a new generation of beach goers dared to bare in the early 1960s.


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