Friday, January 26, 2007

The Bikini

The bikini (bēkē`nē), or "hip-hugger”, panty is a style of brief that reaches to the hips, leaving the waist and belly exposed. Sides can be anything from a string to a thicker side panel; back coverage can vary with fashion or style. While the original bikini was a string bikini, "traditional" bikinis provides full coverage—a full brief with reduced belly coverage—perhaps for comfort and security.

"The difference between a two-piece and the bikini is that the bikini exposes the navel, which is the zone of contention," Bensimon says. "That's why it became really provocative."

Patterns for the bikini are reported back to 1600 BC wall paintings (Bellis)and bikini models are depicted on ancient mosaics dating back over 2000 years. "The first recorded use of bathing apparel in Greece around 300 B.C.", asserts Liz Heart. However, the story of the modern bikini is itself classic fashion capitalism:

With the increased interest in athlecticism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, swim wear fashion changed beside all other fashions. In the 1930s young women wore two piece bathing suits. Sun worship and tanning, as well as youth pushing boundaries of taste, had women adjusting their beach wear to maximize exposure.

In 1946, while the United States was testing atomic bombs in the French Marshall Islands, on Bikini Atoll, Cannes couturier designer Jacques Heim created "Atome -- the world's smallest bathing suit"--proclaiming his innovation with skywriting on the world's largest billboard. Three weeks later, mechanical engineer Louis Reard (1897–1984)--who was running his mother's lingerie business at the time--countered with a second skywriter proclaiming "Bikini -- smaller than the smallest bathing suit in the world." Réard promoted his bathing suit by selling it in a matchbox and declared, “A bikini is not a bikini unless it can be pulled through a wedding ring.” Jacques Heim, swim wear innovator is pictured here.
However, it wasn't until the late 1950s, when actress Brigitte Bardot created a sensation by wearing a bikini in the 1958 film "And God Created Woman" that bikinis went mainstream. For her efforts Bardot became her emminence The Bikini Girl.

On 05 July 1996 the bikini celebrated its 50th anniversary. "In 2006, American women spent $8 billon on bikinis" reports

Amelia Bloomer and the Reform Dress Movement

Amelia Bloomer

Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894) was active in the reform period of American politics when women sought the vote, prohibition and freedom from constricting clothing. She also have been the first woman to publish a newspaper. However, her name lives on due to a controversial clothing style she advocated.

The Lily was published by Bloomer from 1849 until 1855. Articles on issues of importance to women appeared regularly. Among these issues were recipes, temperance, the right to vote and the Rational Dress Movement. In 1851 Bloomer began to publish articles concerning women's clothing. The success of Bloomer's paper translated to speaking engagements and having articles published in the New York Tribune.

Female fashion at the time consisted of tightly laced corsets, layers of petticoats and floor-length dresses. Bloomer began to advocate the wearing of clothes that had first been worn by Fanny Wright and the women living in the socialist commune, New Harmony in the 1820s. Bloomers were conceived by Libby Smith, cousin of noted feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who modeled them on the comfortable outfits worn by women recuperating in Swiss sanitariums.

Fashion reformers touted the bloomers as a way to "physically and spiritually free women of the cumbersome hoop." They argued that the costume was economical since it required less fabric than traditional frocks, was comfortable to wear, and was "conducive to health, by the avoidance of damp skirts hanging about the feet and ank[l]es since they would be clad in a boot." As a later historian wrote, "Hers was a spirited effort to free women from their voluminous and constricting haberdashery: heavy skirts raking the muck of the streets, multiple petticoats, bustles, miscellaneous padding, and lung crushing whalebone-all told, some fifteen pounds."

The new style contributed to the Rational, or Reform, Dress movement, but never gained a foothold in mainstream society. Advocates, realizing that negative publicity and ridicule were counterproductive, switched tactics. The Bloomer Uniform included loose bodices, ankle-length pantaloons and a dress cut to above the knee. The name stuck, and in the 1880s bicycle craze “bloomers” were sought after.

Camiknickers arrived in the 1920s as a combination chemise and panty. They had closures at the crotch for modesty and freedom. Often visually representing a slip with separate legs.