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crocheted bikini from the 1970s,
Smederevo Museum
Roman women playing sports, around 350 AD, mosaic from the Villa Romana del Casale
Harpastum playing Roman women in bandeau bikinis

The bikini is a two-piece swimwear for women . It is named after the Bikini Atoll .

History of the bikini


Two-piece suits similar to today's bikini were already worn in ancient times . This is evidenced by ancient wall paintings and an ancient mosaic from the fourth century AD in the Villa Romana del Casale near Piazza Armerina in Sicily . Nine of the originally ten shown Roman athletes wore bikinis.

Attic bowls from 440 BC BC and mosaics from the 4th century AD document the early existence of the two-parter. Young women only wear panties and breastbands that are similar to today's bikini. It remains unclear whether this clothing is underwear , sports or swimwear .

Early 20th century

The Freiburger Valentin teachers created in 1900 two-piece swimwear, cover the breast and shame. They were worn exclusively by nudists. Around 1920, women's swimsuits were made from jersey , tricot and silk fabrics. Women who exposed too much bare skin in public were arrested on the beach. The trend changed in the 1930s from "elegant paleness" to "healthy" tan. In Germany , the American two-part "Palm Beach Combination" became increasingly popular. The lower part was a short skirt or bodice-like pants, the upper part resembled a bra. In 1932, the Prussian Reich Commissioner and Interior Minister Franz Bracht issued the Zwickeler decree . He banned wearing a two-piece suit in public. The National Socialists tightened the standards of swimwear. Only one-piece suits with an attached leg were allowed. Nevertheless, u. a. Eva Braun's two-piece and the bikini continued to be featured in the print media. B. on the cover of the magazine Der Stern 1939.

After the Second World War

Bathers in the Müritz , 1952
Student on a job assignment in Badrina (1959)

The bikini atoll , a territory of the Marshall Islands, was named after the bikini . On July 1, 1946, an American B-29 dropped the first atomic bomb of the post-war period over Bikini Atoll , initiating a test series of 23 atomic and hydrogen bomb explosions. Louis Réard then chose Bikini as a marketing product name and presented the bikini top for swimwear a few days after July 1, 1946 in Paris. It was intended to serve as a positive identification for contemporary buyers: the bikini was exotic (like the South Sea Atoll) and a revolutionary change in dress code. At that time, nuclear tests were rated as “progressive”, “resounding”, “sensational”, “exciting” and so on. The negative long-term effects did not become public awareness until the 1970s, when the permanent contamination of the atoll became known and more and more people developed cancer . Furthermore, the bi-bikini can be motivated by folk etymology with “two” (cf. Monokini ).

In 1946, the trained auto mechanic and later fashion designer Louis Réard designed the triangle bikini and patented it on July 18, 1946. This consists of four triangles: two triangles, connected by a cord, form the trousers, two small triangles cover the chest. On July 5, 1946, the bikini was presented to the public in the Piscine Molitor bath in Paris . Whether he hired the nude dancer Micheline Bernardini because other mannequins had canceled is disputed. In the first few years, the garment could not establish itself because it was considered shameless and was banned in many seaside resorts, u. a. in Italy , Spain and Portugal . In 1949 the bikini was allowed by the French police prefecture on the Mediterranean, but at the same time banned on the French Atlantic coast. The bikini was also banned in the USA, for example in Hollywood films that were subject to the Hays Code and in beauty pageants .

As a French creation, it was brought out simultaneously on the one hand by Jacques Heim (1932) and on the other hand by Bart Louis in 1946 and was originally called "Atom", but could not establish itself. Speculations and interpretations that the “Atom” bikini could not prevail because of the name, since the name in the shadow of Hiroshima turned out to be unsuitable and in the meantime had lost its “innocence”, are factually inappropriate. In the atomic euphoria of the 1950s, the atomic bomb was still considered a panacea for a wide variety of civilizational and military problems and was not to be associated with “moral indignation”. In addition, Jacques Heim designed his “Atom” bikini back in 1932.

According to fashion dictates in the 1950s, a wasp waist , rounded hips and full bosom were characteristic of the ideal image of women. The swimsuits were given a figure-sculpting interior that tied the waist and lifted the chest. Two-piece suits are not suitable for achieving this ideal of beauty. The bikini went out of style. Nevertheless, there are well-known recordings from 1953 with Marilyn Monroe in a bikini. Brigitte Bardot , who was still relatively unknown at the time, also wore a pink checked bikini at the sixth Cannes International Film Festival in 1953 . In the following year, US Vogue advertised : "Covered: the swimsuit of 1954 ... the swimsuit as a dress - put on, not taken off - long-sleeved, high-necked, tailored or cut like a dress". In 1959 the women's magazine Constanze wrote : "Bikinis are back in high demand". 1960 one-piece suits dominated . They were complemented by beach capes that women wore over them. The bikini then almost completely disappeared from women's magazines and was only mentioned sporadically. "1960's swimwear preferred bikinis, suits with small sleeves and short styles."


In 1960 Brian Hyland dedicated the hit Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini , which became world famous and u. a. by Dalida entitled petit bikini Itsi bitsi gecovert was.

In 1962, the magazine tried friend to make a comeback bikini: "For two years it has been declared dead bikini, with success that he appears more frequently and seductive this year." Ursula Andress made the bikini popular again because she hunted down in the first James Bond flick 007 Dr. No (1962) appeared in a bikini; Her Dr. No bikini was sold to a collector at auction for about $ 60,000 in 2001 and became the most expensive piece of swimwear to date. The new cinema genre of beach films also “advertised” the bikini. It was often used as a dramaturgical accessory: " Good girls wore a bathing suit and the less good girls performed in bikini". In 1963, the bikini euphoria died out again. It was supplanted by bathing suits that simulated two-part design. Their tops were colored or patterned differently than their bottoms, and a belt also reinforced the optical illusion of two-part design. In 1964, Rudi Gernreich triggered a new scandal with the monokini and thus secured the now unstoppable future of the bikini. In 1965, bikini bikini wear was tolerated on at least some beaches. Nevertheless, women who wore the bikini could be punished by the judiciary. The 17-year-old photo model Ilonka had to clean the floors of hospitals and old people's homes on three weekends because she had posed in a bikini at the Munich Viktualienmarkt .

In the mid-1960s, economic growth became clearly noticeable. With him, a new era of youth revolution began, with which a commercial youth market also emerged. At the same time, a “sex wave” was released. “ Sex sells ” was an advertising slogan. “With a shot of sex, sales could not only be increased in newspapers, magazines, books and films. From car tires to dandruff shampoo, for the first time advertising relied completely unrestrainedly on the new miracle weapon ”. In 1966, the fashion designer Paco Rabanne presented a beach dress collection, the models of which were made of plastic. The clothes should look sexy and aloof. The miniskirt and bikini were intended to commemorate both the revolutionary youth of the 1960s and the demonstrations with which women demonstrated their emancipation .


In 1997, Steve Reich replied to the question of why he stylized the bikini in his opera Three tales as a main result of human progress addiction: “When I was a child, the Bikini Atoll was destroyed. The next earth-shattering news was that of the invention of the swimsuit called bikini. I had the idea: first there was bikini, nothing was left of it. Before there were swimsuits, now they consisted of practically nothing. "

There are different trends in fashion in the present. On the one hand, there are so-called microkinis - particularly tightly cut bikinis - especially in the USA and Latin America . On the other hand, some Islamic women use swimwear that covers their entire body, so-called burkinis (from “ burqa ” and “bikini”).

With the BikiniARTmuseum in Bad Rappenau near Heilbronn, the supposedly first bikini museum in the world is being created. The development of swimwear from 1880 to the present is presented on 2,000 square meters of exhibition space .

The word "bikini" has in compound words such as bikini, bikini waxing or bikini figure entrance into the German language found.


Woman in Tankini (2006)

There are sports bikinis that are suitable for sporty swimming.

With a Mixkini, pants and tops are purchased separately. Usually several pants and top variants are offered. The upper and lower part can be selected in different sizes.

Bikini tops

Bikini tops are usually provided with a fastener either on the back and in the neck or in the front. Sports bikini tops are usually pulled over the head like a T-shirt . There are tops with hangers or push-up inserts. There are also different cuts:

Bikini bottoms

The trousers are to be tied either “in one piece” or at the side.


Similar to a bikini, a tankini is swimwear for women. It consists of two parts: pants and top. The pants are no different from bikini pants. The top is always sleeveless, but in contrast to the bikini it still covers part of the stomach like a tank top , hence the name.


A microkini is a triangle bikini that only covers the genitals and nipples. It was created in response to Nudismusverbote with the aim of nudism continue to be close, but without violating the rules. A short-lived fashion stunt of the 1960s was the trikini, a three-piece suit. Since each breast was individually covered by a pastie piece without ribbons, the attachment was difficult.

The Mankini is a marginal phenomenon, swimming trunks with shoulder straps or suspenders that run over the nipples. He became known through the film Borat (2006). A Mankini ban helped the seaside resort of Newquay to improve its image.

In the PR China there are regional facekinis to protect against sun and jellyfish.

Bikini in beach volleyball

The volleyball world association FIVB ( Fédération Internationale de Volleyball ) changed the dress code in 2012 .

Until then there was a regulation that women had to wear bikini in beach volleyball .

Now the FIVB also allows pants up to three centimeters above the knee. Leggings are also allowed at 15 degrees or less . In addition, the athletes can wear half-sleeved tops. Like all parts, these must be tight-fitting.


Web links

Wiktionary: Bikini  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: two-parter  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Bikini  album with pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Tankinis  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : Mankini  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. BERGER 2004, p. 19.
  2. BERGER 2004, p. 34.
  3. BERGER 2004, p. 35.
  4. BERGER 2004, p. 39.
  5. "A few days ago a lot of photos of Eva Braun reached the public via the picture media. They show them in bikini and on the gymnastics bar, doing yoga exercises and rowing, fully or only partially clothed, sophisticated, everything very blond and young, slim and slim, overall a rather usual prettiness, with joy in showing and being seen. “- Eva Braun: The invisible one .
  6. ^ Film: Eva Braun and her family relax on a shore in Germany .
  7. Der Stern, Volume 2, No. 27; German publisher, Berlin 1939
  8. BERGER 2004, p. 13.
  9. BERGER 2004, p. 51.
  10. ^ Vogue, New York, May 1954, cited above. in Berger 2004, p. 83.
  11. Constanze, June 10, 1950, cited above. in Berger 2004, p. 101.
  12. BERGER 2004, p. 111.
  13. Constanze, June 7, 1960, cited above. in BERGER 2004, p. 111.
  14. ^ Girlfriend, May 1962, quoted in at BERGER 2004, p. ?? .
  15. BBC news, February 15, 2001 (accessed November 21, 2010).
  16. BERGER 2004, p. 116.
  17. Girlfriend, May 14, 1963, quoted in in BERGER 2004, p. 113.
  18. Düsseldorfer Nachrichten, March 27, 1965, quoted in in BERGER 2004, p. 152.
  19. BERGER 2004, p. 159.
  20. Philipp Kienzl: Why the bikini is probably the most scandalous piece of clothing in history. In:, July 5, 2019, accessed on January 3, 2020 .
  21. ^ Anne Goebel: Eternal Summer. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. Süddeutsche Zeitung, December 6, 2019, accessed on January 3, 2020 .
  22. The bikini gets a museum. Süddeutsche Zeitung, December 6, 2019, accessed on January 3, 2020 .
  23. ↑ By the beard of the false prophet. In: May 21, 2012, accessed October 24, 2014 .
  24. Mankini-ban helps Newquay shed reputation as haven for stag parties. In: September 28, 2012, accessed October 24, 2014 .
  25. Behold the facekini at, accessed August 6, 2015.
  26. Face Bikinis Are Real And Terrifying at, accessed August 6, 2015.
  27. Bikini is no longer an obligation for Goller / Ludwig and Co. ( Memento from August 7, 2012 in the Internet Archive )