Ah, the bikini. What a wonderful invention. It basically made wearing lingerie outside of the bedroom socially acceptable. Once January hits every year, stores start selling two-pieces, women start dieting, and men start their anticipation of a long, hot summer. Looking at clothing racks, it seems that bikinis are the only sort of swimsuit sold. It’s hard to imagine, but this wasn’t true 50 years ago. Even in the 1980s, bikinis only accounted for 20 percent of swimsuit sales. The rise of the bikini is a compelling story. Fueled by sensuality, greed and changing cultural norms, the bikini made its way from a one-hit wonder to a worldwide sensation. It challenged fashion design principles and moral principles. And the debate rages today, from body shaming on the Internet to the end of an era now that Victoria’s Secret announced it would no longer be delivering its mail order catalog, which was famous for kicking off summer with its swimsuit issue.
The bikini has undergone many changes and revisions, and still has more to go. With fashion evolving and tastes changing, the bikini has mirrored societal norms. Starting in the 1900s, swimsuits were functional. By mid-century, they were breaking barriers. And today, they are still waging war between the body-blessed and the body-shamers. In many ways, bikinis are at their apex right now, thanks to the more-is-more, instant-gratification, social media-loving society that is 2016. Read on to see how the bikini has evolved from its humble beginnings to being a global swimwear staple. You’ll never look at a two-piece the same way again!