A bikini is usually a women’s abbreviated two-piece swimsuit with a bra top for the chest and underwear cut below the navel. The basic design is simple: two triangles of fabric on top cover the woman’s breasts and two triangles of fabric on the bottom cover the groin in front and the buttocks in back. The size of a bikini bottom can range from full pelvic coverage to a revealing thong or G-string design.
The name for the bikini design was coined in 1946 by Parisian engineer Louis Réard, the designer of the bikini. He named the swimsuit after Bikini Atoll, where testing on the nuclear bomb was taking place. Fashion designer Jacques Heim, also from Paris, re-released a similar design earlier that same year, the Atome. Due to its controversial and revealing design, the bikini was slow to be adopted. In many countries it was banned from beaches and public places. While still considered risqué, the bikini gradually became a part of popular culture when film stars—Brigitte Bardot, Raquel Welch, Ursula Andress and others—began wearing them on public beaches and in film.
The bikini design became common in most Western countries by the mid-1960s as beachwear, swimwear and underwear. By the late 20th century it had become common as sportswear in sports such as beach volleyball and bodybuilding. Variations of the term are used to describe stylistic variations for promotional purposes and industry classifications, including monokini, microkini, tankini, trikini, pubikini, and skirtini. A man’s brief swimsuit may also be referred to as a bikini. Similarly, a variety of men’s and women’s underwear types are described as bikini underwear.
The bikini has gradually grown to gain wide acceptance in Western society. By the early 2000s, bikinis had become a US$811 million business annually, and boosted spin-off services such as bikini waxing and sun tanning.
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