The bikini industry has become a multi-billion dollar business annually but few of us stop to think where the term bikini even came from.
BIKINIS EXPLODED ONTO THE FASHION SCENE
Referring to the chain of islands called Bikini Atoll, the name bikini was coined by Frenchman Louis Rèard who introduced a risqué two-piece swimsuit he hoped would make an explosion in the fashion world.
Although two-piece swimsuits had been available since the 1930’s, Rèard’s “smallest bathing suit in the world” would expose women’s navel for the first time in recent history. Despite being extremely controversial and later banned by some countries-- the bikini was a hit. Réard sold swimsuits in his Paris store for forty-years while the rest of the world went ga-ga over his creation ever since.
Micheline Bernardini wearing the first bikini designed by Louis Rèard in 1946 (Photo: Getty)
THE REAL BIKINI EXPLOSION
Nestled in the Marshall Islands of the great Pacific ocean, a chain of islands known as Bikini Atoll sits uninhabited with a broken past.
Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear explosive tests at the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Bikini Atoll was the site of twenty-three tests during the twelve year period, including the devastating detonation of Castle Bravo, the first deliverable high-yield thermonuclear device ever tested by the United States (hydrogen bomb) on March 1, 1954.
These tests resulted in severe radioactive contamination of numerous islands. Inhabitants of Bikini Atoll were evacuated to distant islands before the tests. However, alleged under-predictions of the yield of Castle Bravo coupled with an unexpected easterly wind, resulted in substantial radioactive fallout on nearby islands where no evacuation had been implemented. The inhabitants of these islands suffered greatly from health complications, resulting in death and illness for adults and children, both born and unborn. Many of these effects are still being felt by the descendants of the exposed populations. A team of researchers from Columbia University in New York has found that all of the Marshall Islands involved in nuclear tests by the U.S. are now habitable, except for Bikini Atoll which still has substantial radioactivity.