From the original one piece to the sport -chic, embellished, metallic or girly two piece, the bikini culture has come a long way. Let us trace the itsy-bitsy bikini’s journey, decode the latest trends and be bikini ready.
The first bikinis or the swimsuits as some might call it were made of wool. Yes, wool and swimsuits were an interesting combination back then. Wool had a unique charm during beach outings. In the mid-19th century, the idea of spreading leisure time at the beach made its way in the society and people started looking for bathing suits designed for leisurely swims. In 1870s North America, swimsuits involved corsets, bathing shoes and hose.
Things changed in 1907 as sleeveless one-piece swimsuits became extremely popular after police arrested Australian swimmer Anette Kellermann. She was arrested as she wore one-piece at Revere Beach north of Boston. The love for form-fitting styles made its way into the society around 1930s with the development of new and stretchier synthetic fabrics. In the film Fashions of 1934, women modelled two-piece outfits which were nearly identical to modern day styles. The World War II brought with it huge shortage of fabric and thus to meet the rationing regulations swimsuits were designed with bare midriff. The first bikini was designed by Louis Reard in 1946 and was first displayed by a dancer. He called it bikini after the place for atomic bomb testing named Bikini Atoll. Since the first bikini was designed, models and actors donned the ensemble at various occasions both on-screen and off-screen.
During the 1960s, the introduction of nylon and lycra made swimsuits tighter than ever. In those days, Brigitte Bardot became the bikini icon after wearing it in the film Manina, The Girl in the Bikini. Bikini by now had become the part of both fashion and entertainment industry as lyrics of hit songs involved the bikini. Brian Hyland released his hit song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini back then. Ursula Andress emerged from the sea in a bikini in the film Dr No. This white bikini was sold for $61.5k in 2001. It saw a twist when Pam Grier wore it as a nurse-turned-drug-dealer-killer in Coffy. The change in avatar did not end here. Carrie Fisher stole the show in a metal swimsuit with complementing shackles. Tables turned in 1977 when the participants were allowed to wear bikini for the first time in 1997 during the Miss America Pageant’s 77 year history. In 2001, Britney Spears dressed in an embellished bikini with a yellow python in 2001 for her VMA’s look. The Bond Girl Halle Berry also wore an amazing bikini in 2002. Model Ashley Graham graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in a strappy purple suit in 2016.
Bikini Babes of Bollywood
In the 60s, Bollywood took inspiration from Marilyn Monroe’s bikinis. The first actress to sport a bikini was Sharmila Tagore. She wore leopard print bikini for a magazine shoot. She also wore a blue one-piece swimsuit in the movie, An Evening in Paris. Though the trend of wearing bikini started with Tanuja when she wore a backless swimsuit with an overskirt. It resembled today’s party slip dress and marked the beginning of swimwear in Indian cinema.
Bollywood bikini entered the era of adornments and experimentation in the 70s. The bikinis were styles with cut-outs, ruffles and embellishments. This time Bollywood actress surprised the audience with a beautiful slip dress-esque swimsuit with side cut-outs accessorised with a hat for a perfect beach look. Talking about bikini is incomplete without the mention of Dimple Kapadia in the flick, Bobby. The elegant two-piece bikini became a favourite of many when the Bollywood diva wore it. From swim wear to posing costume, the transition of bikini has been interesting in Bollywood. In the 80s, top actresses donned the swimsuits and posed with makeup and jewellery. Sarongs were popularised by Parveen Babi in the movie Yeh Nazdeekiyan. The sports style bikini had also become popular by then. Madhuri Dixit wore a sports styled bikini in the film Tezaab. She completed the look with minimal make-up. Taking inspiration from American series Baywatch, Bollywood actresses Kajol and Shilpa Shetty Kundra were seen in printed monokinis in the film Baazigar. Monokinis were also worn by Juhi Chawla and Urmila Matondkar in the 90s.
The experiments with bikinis have been endless on the silver screen. Bollywood divas have been seen in a variety of bikinis from metallics to prints. The two string bikini, embellished with stones, had become very popular in the 90s and was sported by many actresses from Tanisha Mukherji to Minissha Lamba and Bipasha Basu. The bikinis of 2000s were done with necklaces, cuffs, bracelets and all the accessories possible. This style lost the essence of a swimwear completely. Amrita Arora ambled in dash in heels with a bikini. It was also the time of size-zero and bikini had to be sported with no fat on the body. While Kareena Kapoor popularised size-zero, many actresses adorned these bikinis for movies, photo shoots and what not.
Words: KRITIKA DHAWAN