The bikini gets his questionable name

Atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll

1946 - Atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll


The bikini’s history begins in February 1946. Truman, back then president of the United States,had a series of nuclear bomb tests had at the lagoon of until then mostly unknown Bikini Atoll. Early in the morning of the 1st July 1946 the fourth nuclear bomb in history was launched over Bikini Atoll. It was the first public atomic bomb test since the end of WWII and since Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been disastrously bombed.

Back then, atomic bomb tests were seen positively as progressive and eventful. Public awareness of the late negative consequences came only in the 1970ties, when it remained clear the Bikini Atoll was irreversibly contaminated. The US had staged the test series as a significant event in international media in order to demonstrate their nuclear superiority. The name “Bikini” cold be read in numerous newspapers. Four days later however, it could be read in a totally different context.






Louis Réard presents his invention in the Parisian public bath Molitor in 1946

1951 - Presentation of Louis Réards bikinis at Molitor (Paris)


The 5th July 1946 French swim wear designer Louis Réard called out a miss election in the Parisian public bath Molitor. At this occasion he presented the until then smallest two-piece in the world. He named it Bikini which was an absolute bull’s eye, because the name Bikini was back then highly controversial and triggering, thanks to the US- atomic bomb tests. His invention indeed dropped like bomb and the scandalously short swim wear style was discussed internationally for the next days like a crossfire. His presentation of the piece meant a huge and unique success that lasts until today, for the Bikini. The word Bikini itself, which was established by Réard, has been used for all swim wear - two-pieces ever since, without being translated, which makes it one of most broadly known words worldwide.


The BikiniArtmuseum will not only uniquely stage the Réard-Bikini-presentation of 1946, but it has come so far into possession of over 3000 historic documents all of which represent the history of swim wear in an impressive way. They also portrait and trace the political and sociological backgrounds of the respective time.









© Lisa Otten (BikiniARTmuseum)