In the Beginning: The Garden of Eden
Before 3000BC: Primitive Costumes
3000BC-1700: The Classical Bath
1700-1900: Swimsuit Genesis
1900-1905: The Gibson Girl & The Maillot
1905-1910: Sleeveless and Barefoot
1910-1915: The One-Piece
1915-1920: Bloomers and Leg Art
1920-1925: Flappers & the Roaring Twenties
1925-1930: Vaudeville and Cinema Influences
1930-1935: The Birth of the Deux-Pieces
1935-1940: Maillot Advancements
1940-1945: Hollywood Widens the Bare Midriff
1945-1950: The Very First Bikini
1950-1955: Navel Maneuvers
1955-1960: Strapless and Cleavage
1960-1965: Lowering the Waistline
1965-1970: The First Topless Bikinis
1970-1975: Fastener Fascination
1975-1980: The String Bikini
1980-1985: The Rebound
1985-1990: Cover Up and Open Up
1990-1995: The Tanga Takehold
1995-2000: Topless Tanga
2000-2005: The Influence of the Ecdysiast
2005-2010: Bikini Globalization
The Time Machine Defined
The Chronology, or Time Machine, is the history of the bathing costume across time--it is the When of the Five Dubyas of Bikini Science. Not all scenes in Bikini Science are located in the Time Machine, but representative samples most certainly are.
Bathing Costumes Before 1900
Our study of the history of the bathing costume begins by discussing issues raised in the Garden of Eden, at the very moment when costume (the fig leaf) is invented. We review the bathing costume at public baths from Rome to the beginning of the 19th century.
Modern swimsuit genesis occurs during the industrial revolution--about 1880--shortly after swimming is rediscovered and reintroduced to Europe. This bathing suit costume is known as the swimdress.
Throughout the 1800s, the bathing costume revolves around the swimdress and the popularization of swimming and the beach resort.
The Early 20th Century
By the early 1900s the bathing dress sheds layers and mass and in 1906 the full-body skirtless unitard is introduced by an Australian swimmer Annie Kellerman. By the end of the decade Kellerman has bared her feet, arms, and legs and has become an advocate of the maillot, or one-piece swimsuit. Lead by pinups, by the late 1920s the maillot has become the standard swimsuit on the beach.
By the mid-1930s the midriff is bared, creating first the maillot cutout and then the deux-pièces, a bra or halter coupled with shorts or panties. This silhouette is popularized by Hollywood into the second world war.
The Bikini Emergence
Bikini Science is, obviously, a study of the bikini. As a species of swimwear, a bikini is similar to a deux-pièces, except that the navel is revealed. This is forbidden during the 1930s and most of the 1940s, but the uncovering of the navel marks a continuance of the revelation begun 100 years ago.
Bikini is a special, unique product of the nuclear age. The labeling of the species occurs when French swimsuit designer Louis Réard adopts the name of Bikini Atoll, the 1946 atom bomb test site, as the name of his newest extremely brief and low-cut creation. The name sticks because it is rich with associations: the image of women emerging tattered from the blast, the native costumes of the deported Polynesian islanders, the release of inhibitions that come knowing the possibility of nuclear destruction. Bikini--Atoll or swimsuit--reunites all men and women, modern and native, both in terms of costume and risk. And although swimsuits do get smaller--even topless and g-stringed--the shock of realization (knowing) comes with the bikini.
The smaller and more scandalous bikini is slow to be adopted by mainstream. Pinup models in men's magazines and on postcards lead the charge in the 1950s, with bad girls, like movie star Brigitte Bardot also contributing to the decadence.
The Post-Bikini Bikini
During the 1960s and 1970s, the bikini reaches its minimalist extreme. First, a lowering waistline and rising legline collide, sparking a half-decade of sideties, sidestraps and gathers until eventually the string reducto la minimum.
At some point the minimalist becomes paralyzed in its shrinkage. Micro triangle tops often only barely covered nipples, and the bottoms can be reduced no more, not even by shaving or waxing the top and sides of the pubic hair, or by exposing the cleft of the buttocks.
Designers grapple with the choices. New materials are introduced that are thinner, more elastic, more transparent, more see-through. In America the bikini rebounds and in the early 1980s the legline and waistline rise, increasingly baring the behind; in Brazil the butt is bared completely and in America the tanga silhouette also gains a foothold, frequently combined with new spandex bandeaus, form bras, tankinis and bustiers.
The rising legline catalyzes a rediscovery of the one-piece maillot, often with a very high legline, narrow front, deep armhole, and cheeky derriere.
In Europe the top is simply discarded, and the more brazen bikiniites wear only the most minimal g-strings.
The 21st Century Modern Primitive
We now know the bikini has endurance in spirit. It has survived its reductionist squeeze and is popularized by a new generation of pop stars, movie stars, and glitterati. The post-minimalist era of swimsuit is simultaneously minimalist, maximalist and, most important, changeable. Alternatives abound. The bikini is no longer a garment just getting smaller, but a highly liquid give-and-take design space with a constantly shifting edge, often wearer adjustable. Rolldowns which allow waist and leglines to be user-adjustable and for maillots to be rolled topless. The bikini is a costume not only for the beach, but also the gym, the nightclub, and sometimes, the street.
The topless g-string worn on the beach by a girlfriend, a wife, or a movie star reduces all difference between this modernist person, the aborigine,...and the edocycist.