July is a month of birthdays:  Canada (July 1st), the United States (July 4th), and today, July 5th, the bikini turns 69 years old.

For most women, the selection of the “just perfect” bikini begins well before its time to hit the beach during vacation, and it may very well be the first to-do item on a vacation preparation list.  For many women, there is no greater vacation angst than finding the right swimsuit – bikini or otherwise.

Archaeologists date the existence of a scanty swimsuit back to 1600 BC., but the modern world was shocked with the debut of this new swimsuit in 1946. Designers Jacques Heim and Louis Reard are credited with changing the landscape of the beach forever. They were competitors. — Heim selling the world’s smallest swimsuit at a beach shop in Cannes, France, and Reard creating a swimsuit out of four small fabric triangles.

Both designs and designers were successful, but Reard’s name for his design – named for the atomic bomb testing site near Bikini Reef in the South Pacific – was what stuck.

By today’s societal standards, the original bikini was quite modest. With bottoms cut well above the navel, and tops covering the full bust, it’s only history that makes it seem at all relevant. The 1970’s saw the introduction of the smaller string bikini, and the 1980’s introduced the even smaller thong. Since then we’ve the bankini, halter bikini, monokini, tankini, and even the mankini. Fashion always changes.

From Everything Bikini, here are a few items of bikini trivia:

  • 1960 – The release of the popular song, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” rocketed the bikini swimsuit into a pop culture icon.
  • 1964  – The bikini first appears on the infamous Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
  • 1983  – Carrie Fisher, as Princess Leia in the third Star Wars movie, sported the now famous gold bikini.
  • 1993 – The Olympic Committee officially recognized beach volleyball as an Olympic sport, and the United States team adopts the bikini as its uniform. Other teams follow suit.
  • 2002 – The sexy belted bikini of Ursula Andress fame (from the James Bond movie Dr. No) is replicated for Halle Berry in a new James Bond movie, Die Another Day.

Today, I can’t imagine a beach that isn’t covered with bikini clad women and girls. It has become a de rigueur fashion statement, and a billion dollar fashion business.

Whether you’re a bikini wearer or not, let’s all celebrate this fashion birthday by heading to our favorite beach.