AskDefine | Define bikini

Dictionary Definition

bikini n : a woman's abbreviated two-piece bathing suit [syn: two-piece]

User Contributed Dictionary



June 1946. Named after Bikini Atoll, where nuclear weapons were tested; it was reckoned that the bathing suit would cause as much excitement as an atom bomb.



bikini (plural bikinis)


bathing suit
  • Afrikaans: Bikini, Melk-en-koekie-doekie
  • Czech: bikiny p
  • Danish: bikini
  • Dutch: bikini
  • Finnish: bikini
  • French: bikini
  • German: Bikini
  • Hungarian: bikini
  • Italian: bikini
  • Korean: 비키니 (bikini)
  • Maltese: bikini
  • Norwegian: bikini
  • Polish: bikini
  • Spanish: biquini
  • Swedish: bikini

Extensive Definition

A bikini or two-piece is a type of women's swimsuit, characterized by two separate parts — one covering the breasts, the other the groin (and optionally the buttocks), leaving an uncovered area between the two garments. It is often worn in hot weather and while swimming. The shapes of both parts of a bikini closely resemble women's underwear, and the lower part of a bikini can therefore range from the more revealing thong or g-string to briefs and the more modest square-cut shorts.


Two-piece garments worn by women for athletic purposes have been observed on Greek urns and paintings, dated as early as 1400 BC. Ancient artwork from over 1700 years ago in Villa Romana del Casale have depicted women in garments resembling modern-day bikinis. Other bikini-style swimwear existed for many years before the first official bikini. Films of holidaymakers in Germany in the 1930s show women wearing two-piece bathing suits. They were to be seen again a year later in Gold Diggers of 1933. Two-piece swimsuits started appearing in the US when the U.S. Government ordered a 10 percent reduction in the fabric used in woman's swimwear in 1943 as part of wartime rationing. The July 9, 1945 issue of Life shows women in Paris wearing similar items.
According to the official version, the modern bikini was invented by French engineer Louis Réard and fashion designer Jacques Heim in Paris in 1946 and introduced on July 5 at a fashion show at Piscine Molitor in Paris. It was a string bikini with a g-string back. It was named after Bikini Atoll, the site of a nuclear weapon test called Operation Crossroads on July 1 in the Marshall Islands, on the reasoning that the burst of excitement it would cause would be like the nuclear device. Monokini, a bikini variant, derives its name, as a back formation, from bikini, interpreting the first syllable as the Latin prefix bi- "two" and substituting for it mono- "one", on the (perhaps intentionally) mistaken notion that the bi- element was the Greek prefix meaning "two". Réard's suit was a refinement of the work of Jacques Heim who, two months earlier, had introduced the "Atome" (named for its size) and advertised it as the world's "smallest bathing suit". Réard "split the 'atom'" even smaller, but could not find a model who would dare to wear his design. He ended up hiring Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris as his model.
Catholic countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy banned the bikini. Decency leagues pressured Hollywood to keep bikinis from being featured in Hollywood movies. One writer described it as a "two piece bathing suit which reveals everything about a girl except for her mother's maiden name." Movie star Esther Williams once said: "A bikini is a thoughtless act." Brigitte Bardot helped popularize the bikini in Europe in the 1950s, but the United States took longer to adopt it. Modern Girl magazine wrote in 1957, "It is hardly necessary to waste words over the so-called bikini since it is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing."
In 1951 bikinis were banned from the Miss World Contest following the crowning of Miss Sweden in a bikini and subsequent protests with a number of countries threatening to withdraw. In 1957, however, Brigitte Bardot's bikini in And God Created Woman created a market for the swimwear in the US, and in 1960, Brian Hyland's pop song "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" inspired a bikini-buying spree. By 1963, the movie Beach Party, starring Annette Funicello (emphatically not in a bikini, by mentor Walt Disney's personal request) and Frankie Avalon, led a wave of films that made the bikini a pop-culture symbol.
The sex appeal of the apparel prompted numerous film and television productions as much as public morals. They include the numerous surf movies of the early 1960s. Dr. Strangelove was among these first movies to feature a bikini in memorable scenes. The elaborately and lavishly assembled Busby Berkeley film spectacle, Footlight Parade of 1932 showcases stunning aquachoreography that profusely featured what could only be regarded as bikini swimwear.
In 1962, an icon was born as Bond Girl Ursula Andress emerged from the sea wearing a white bikini in Dr. No. Other iconic portrayals of bikinis in movies include Raquel Welch as the prehistoric cavegirl in the 1966 film One Million Years B.C., and Phoebe Cates in the 1982 teen film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. These three scenes were recently ranked 1, 86, and 84 respectively in Channel 4 (UK)'s 100 Greatest Sexy Moments in Film. The Dr. No bikini scene has been quoted as one of the most memorable scenes from the British spy film series. Virgin Media puts it in 9th position in its list of top ten movie bikini, and the top position in the list for top ten Bond girls. The Herald (Glasgow) put the scene as best ever bikini scene on the basis of a poll. It also helped shape the career of Ursula Andress, the look of the quintessential Bond movie. According to Andress, "This bikini made me into success." That white bikini has been described as a "defining moment in the sixties liberalization of screen eroticism".
Ultimately the bikini caught on, due to a host of films and songs featuring the garment in the early 1960s. In Malta, bikinis took time to be introduced. In the 1960s, the police fended off Bishop Michael Gonzi's request to ban bikini clad tourists following fear of compromising Malta as a tourist destination. Malta Labour Party girls felt safe putting on bikinis during beach parties but this was unacceptable by those supporting the Nationalist Party. The lower part of the bikini was further reduced in size in the 1970s to the Brazilian thong, where the back of the suit is so thin that it disappears into the buttocks. On beaches and certain parks in Europe, the top part of the bikini is sometimes not worn.
In 1996, when the Miss World contest was held in Bangalore, a dozen Indian groups opposed the event claiming that the contest degraded women by featuring them in bikinis. Social activist Subhashini Ali commented, "It's not an IQ test. Neither is it a charity show. It's a beauty contest in which these things have been added on as sops." The protests were so intense that the organizers were finally compelled to shift the venue of the "Swimsuit Round" to Seychelles. Afghan Miss Earth 2003 contestant Vida Samadzai was severely condemned by the Afghan Supreme Court, which said, "such a display of the female body goes against Islamic law and Afghan culture."


Throughout its history, the bikini has spawned many stylistic variations. Topless variations may still be considered bikinis, although technically no longer two-piece swimsuits. A regular bikini (i.e. not a variant) is defined as a two pieces of garments that cover the groin and buttocks at the lower end and the breasts in the upper end. Skimpier styles have narrow sides, including V-cut (in front), French cut (with high-cut sides) and low-cut string (with string sides). Other styles include a bandeau top - a rectangular strip of fabric covering the breasts, a top with cups similar to a push-up bra, and more modest bottom pieces such as briefs, shorts, or briefs with a small skirt attached.
Bikini underwear is a type of undergarment worn by both men and women that is similar in size and revealing nature to the bottom half of a bikini bathing suit, popular among women. For women a bikini can refer to virtually any tight, skimpy, or revealing undergarment that provides less coverage to the midsection than traditional underwear, panties or knickers. For men, a bikini is a type of undergarment that is smaller and more revealing than men's briefs. Sometimes the term bikini is used to describe the type of man's swimsuit also known as a speedo although men's bikini swimsuits do exist that are not brief like. Men's bikinis can have both high or low side panels and normally rest lower than the true waist or at the upper hips. Most men's bikinis lack a button or flap front. Many do not have a visible waistband like briefs.

String bikini

A string bikini refers to a bikini swimsuit that is scantier and more revealing than traditional bikinis. It gets its name from the string characteristics of its design. Rather than featuring a full single piece bottom, the string bikini consists of two triangular shaped pieces connected at the groin but not at the sides, where a thin "string" wraps around the waist connecting the two parts. String bikini tops are similar and are tied in place by the attached "string" pieces. String pieces can either be continuous or tied.
It is claimed that Brazilian fashion model Rose de Primo created the first string bikini when she had to sew one with insufficient fabric available to her for a photoshoot. The first formal presentation of string bikini was done by Glen Tororich, a public relations agent, and his wife Brandi Perret-DuJon, a fashion model, for the opening of Le Petite Centre, a shopping area in the French Quarter of the New Orleans, Louisiana in 1974. Inspired by a picture of a Rio De Janeiro fashion model in an issue of Women's Wear Daily, they had local fashion designer Lapin create a string bikini for the event. Models recruited by talent agent Peter Dasigner presented it by removing fur coats by Alberto Lemon on stage. The presentation was covered by local television stations and the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper, and was sent out via the wire news services of the Associated Press and United Press International.
String bikinis are one of the most popular variations of traditional bikinis. A string bikini or thong is also a type of undergarment worn by both men and women. It is similar to but more revealing than a bikini. Women's string bikini underwear normally resembles the bottom of the string bikini bathing suit. Men's string bikini underwear consists of a front and rear section joined at the crotch but not at the sides. The tops of each piece join with either an elastic waistband similar to that found on briefs or to a thin piece of material or "string," leaving the sides exposed except for the string or waistband.


Monokini, sometimes referred to as a unikini, is a woman's one piece beach garment equivalent to the lower half of a bikini. The term is used for different styles of one-piece swimsuits inspired by the bikini.
In 1964, Rudi Gernreich, an Austrian fashion designer, designed the original monokini in the US. Gernreich also invented its name, and the word monokini is first recorded in English that year. Gernreich's monokini looked like a one-piece swimsuit but cut off a bit below the breasts leaving them bare. It had only two small straps over the shoulders. It was not very successful. Many women who wanted to sunbathe topless simply wore the bottom part of a bikini. Manufacturers and retailers quickly adapted to selling tops and bottoms separately. Gernreich later created the lesser known pubikini.
In the 1960s, the monokini led the way into the sexual revolution by emphasizing a woman's personal freedom of dress, even when her attire was provocative and exposed more skin than had been the norm during the more conservative 1950s. Today, many monokinis are designed as the ultimate in sexy swimwear, using chains, strings, and strategic strips of fabric to join the upper and lower portions of the suit while still covering the basics of the female form. Today's styles are decidedly less racy than Gernreich's original design, but nonetheless are a revealing style of swimsuit.
The term monokini is also now used to indicate any topless swimsuit, particularly a bikini bottom worn without a bikini top. In recent years, the term has come into use for topless bathing by women: where the bikini has two parts, the monokini is the lower part. Where monokinis are in use, the word bikini may jokingly refer to a two-piece outfit consisting of a monokini and a sun hat.


A microkini is an extremely skimpy bikini. The designs for both women and men typically use only enough fabric to cover the genitalia. Any additional straps are merely to keep the garment attached to the wearer's body. Some variations of the microkini use adhesive or wire to hold the fabric in place over the genitals. These designs do not require any additional side straps to keep the garment in place. The most radical variations of the microkini are simply thin straps which cover little or none of the wearer's body. The term "microkini" was coined in 1995 in an online community dedicated to enthusiasts of the extreme designs. Microkinis fill a niche between nudism and conservative swimwear. In addition to keeping the wearer just within legal limits of decency, they have also evolved to become the ultimate in provocative sun wear.
The modern microkini's origins can be traced back to the early-1970's in Venice Beach, California, USA, where, after legislation was passed banning nudity there, beach regulars began making their own tiny bathing suits to comply with the new laws. The homemade suits were often little more than tiny, remnant pieces of fabric, crudely sewn together with thin twine or fishing line. Then around 1975, a local bikini shop picked up on the idea and began to make more practical styles using modern materials. Soon after, several adult film actresses began wearing the shop's suits in their films and the style began to catch on. Pubikini, an extreme form of microkini, is another bathing suit created by Rudi Gernreich. The pubikini is a small piece of fabric that hugs the hips and buttocks but leaves the pubic region exposed. The tankini is distinguished from the classic bikini by the difference in tops, the top of the tankini essentially being a tank top. The tankini top extends downward to somewhere between just above the navel and the top of the hips. The word is a neologism combining the tank of tank top with the end of the word bikini.
This type of swimwear is considered by some to provide modesty closer to a one piece suit with the convenience of a two piece suit, e.g. the entire suit need not be removed in order to use a lavatory. Tankinis come in a variety of styles, colors and shapes, some include features such as integrated push-up bras. A tankini for pregnant women also exists, which is divided in front exposing the navel. It is named the "peekaboo tankini".

Sling bikini

The sling bikini is also known as a "suspender bikini", "suspender thong", "slingshot bikini" or just "slingshot". The slingshot is a one-piece suit which provides as little, or even less, coverage (or as much exposure) as a bikini. Usually, a slingshot resembles a bikini bottom, but rather than the straps going around the hips or waist, the side straps extend upwards to cover the breasts and go over the shoulders, leaving the entire sides of the torso uncovered, but the nipples and pubic area covered. Behind the neck, the straps join and reach down the back to become a thong. This style of swimsuit was infamously worn by Sacha Baron Cohen's character Borat.

Sports bikini

Female athletes who play beach volleyball professionally usually wear two-pieces. These bikinis are designed with functionality rather than fashion in mind. In 2004 Olympic Games, inclusion of bikini-clad athletes raised eyebrows, while a controversy broke out around bikini-clad cheerleaders performing at a beach volleyball match. The costume stirred up a controversy at 2006 Asian Games at Doha, Qatar, and Iraqi team did not wear the conventional costume. In 2007 South Pacific Games, players were made to wear shorts and cropped sports tops instead of bikinis. In the same year, fans voted for contestants for WWE Diva contest after watching them playing beach volleyball in skimpy bikinis. The popularity of Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball, a video game for Xbox, was attributed to the skimpily clad women.

Bikini in popular culture

The bikini is, naturally, one of the most favorite subjects of popular culture. The many incarnations of the bikini is evident in contests, movies, magazines, music, literature, magazines and even video games. Bikini modeling is one of the most popular modeling genre, often creating controversies.
The Bikini Planet is a science fiction comedy written by David S. Garnett and released exclusively in the UK as a paperback. It is written as a sub-sequel to an earlier story written by Garnett in 1994, entitled Stargonauts, which features the some of the same settings and characters from the first story.
Bikini News is a series of satirical news videos featuring two comediennes performing in bikinis in a comedic style similar to The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live available in podcast and vodcast form, as well as in mov and wmv file formats. As of October 2007, over 90 episodes and 80 bloopers/sketches have been created. NCIS, an American police procedural television series revolving around a fictional team of special agents, had an episode on Bikini Wax (18th epidosde, 2nd season). Bikini Bottom is a city that appears in the Nickelodeon animated television series, SpongeBob SquarePants. Located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, it is where the series' main characters live, and where most of the episodes take place.
The Bikini Karate Babes is a digitized 2D fighting game developed by Creative Edge Studios. It features an all-female cast of 19 fighters, all clad in bikinis and played by real actresses.
The Swedish Bikini Team was a group of American female models who appeared in an advertising campaign for Old Milwaukee beer. These commercials ran for several months in 1991 in the United States, playing with American stereotype of blonde and big breastsed Scandinavian women. Feminist activists found the ads misogynistic. Though the campaign generated widespread interest, the advertisements were dropped after protests by the National Organization for Women and female employees of the Pabst Brewing Company.

Bikini contest

A bikini contest is a beauty contest where women compete against each other in bikinis. Bikini contests can take place in bars, nightclubs, strip clubs at beaches, and beauty pageants. Related companies regularly sponsor such contests to discover and attract new talents to promote their products. Bikini contests can also take place over the Internet by women submitting pictures of themselves in bikinis.
Contestants often wear sashes indicating where they are from in bikini contests, in similarity to the tradition in other beauty pageants. It is becoming more and more common for women to wear bikinis as part of the swimsuit competitions at major pageants. Participants in the Miss Teen USA pageant are now required to wear bikinis.


Beach Party films were an American 1960s genre of feature films which often starred Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. They were originally intended as a low-budget imitation of both the Elvis Presley musical and the Doris Day sex comedy, aimed at the teen market, but they ended up taking on a life of their own. The "classic" series was produced by American International Pictures, and imitated in turn by numerous other studios. Beach Party (1963), Muscle Beach Party (1963), Bikini Beach (1964), Pajama Party (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966) are titles that were made as part of the classic beach party genre. The final entry in the original series was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, released in 1966. The end credits for another AIP Avalon comedy, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) reveal that the original title planned for this film was The Girl in the Glass Bikini, and that Funicello and Avalon were slated to appear. However, Funicello and Avalon both passed, and the leads in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini were played by Tommy Kirk and Deborah Walley.
Avalon and Funicello starred in Paramount Pictures Back to the Beach in 1987, playing off their original roles and subsequent careers. The 1965 movie Ski Party (with Dwayne Hickman, Yvonne Craig, Lesley Gore and James Brown) is also notable for employing many of the same actors and schticks, only transplanted to a ski resort in the Sawtooth National Forest. The 1996 movie That Thing You Do! touches briefly on the phenomenon, with the Wonders making an appearance in a fictional beach party movie, Weekend at Party Pier. A 2001 episode of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch ("Beach Blanket Bizarro") also paid homage to the series, with Avalon appearing as himself.
Bikini Cavegirl, The Bikini Carwash Company, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, and It's a Bikini World are some of the many films that have plotlines revolving around the bikini.

Fictional bikinis

A variant of the bikini popular in fantasy literature is a bikini that is made up of metal to serve as (admittedly rather impractical) armor, sometimes referred to as a "chain mail bikini" or "brass bikini". The character Red Sonja is a famous example of such; the game Poxnora is another example, in which all the women wear bikini-like clothing. A term for such usage, where sex appeal is more important than actual practicality, is babes-at-arms (parodying "men-at-arms" for fully armoured soldiers). In science fiction, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi features the notable "Princess Leia's metal bikini". It is worn by the character Princess Leia when she is held captive by Jabba the Hutt at the film's beginning. This particular "bikini" has since been elevated to pop culture icon status, spawning various spoofs and parodies (notably the episode of Friends, "The One with the Princess Leia Fantasy") and even a dedicated fansite — Leia's Metal Bikini.


Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, a singles written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss, has become a part of the history of the bikini. Released on August 8, 1960, it was also the first singles sung by Brian Hyland to enter Billboard Hot 100. The song features in 1961 Billy Wilder film comedy One, Two, Three, as well as films like Sister Act 2 and Revenge of the Nerds II. It also features in commercials for Yoplait light yogurt, YWCA and TV Easy magazine.
Do The Bikini Dance, a single by Dee Dee Ramone, was released on the day Ramones were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002. In the Gang of Four song "I Found That Essence Rare", the Bikini is suggested to be "...dressed for the H-Bomb...". In 1997 the French-German Electronic band Stereo Total released an album named Monokini. Hungarian rock band Bikini, Riot Grrrl movement induced punk rock band Bikini Kill and Los Angeles, California based electro-pop duo Cherry Bikini had names inspired by the bikini.


The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is published annually by Sports Illustrated. It features fashion models wearing swimwear in exotic locales. Inclusion is considered a stick by which supermodels are measured. In addition, the issue is a media nexus that in 2005 carried $35 million in advertising. The issue that got the most letters was the 1978 issue. The best selling issue was the 25th Anniversary Issue with Kathy Ireland on the cover in 1989.
Urbe Bikini (UB) is a Venezuelan, Maxim-styled monthly created by Urbe's editor-in-chief & creative director, Gabriel Torrelles and publisher, Carlos Lizarralde, who sold the company to the country's largest publisher, Cadena Capriles. It is the largest circulation glossy in the country and a cultural and circulation phenomenon in itself for more than 10 years.


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