Fashion Flashback: Brigitte Bardot and the Modern Bikini

                  Images courtesy of,, and, respectively

If you are of a certain age, Brigitte Bardot and the modern bikini goes hand and hand. If you are not of a certain age and knowledge, you probably do not know that Bardot freed the modern bikini from being a symbol of carnal lust and societal degradation.Created in 1946 by designer Louis Reard and modeled by a dancer from the Casino de Paris—no runway model would wear it—the modern bikini was named after the Bikini Atoll, where the first public test of a nuclear bomb had taken place. The bikini was slow to gain acceptance because it exposed a woman’s midriff, and particularly after Pope XII banned the bikini in 1951 after Kiki Hakansson was crowned Miss World while wearing a modern bikini.

  Brigitte Bardot in Cannes image courtesy of

In 1952, young French film actress Brigitte Bardot wore a modern bikini in the film, “Manina, the Girl in a Bikini.” (Bardot was 17-years old at the time of the film’s release.) This was one of the first times a bikini was worn by an actress in a film. Bardot also wore a bikini at the 1953 Cannes International Film Festival, and also donned a bikini in the 1956 film “And God Created Woman.” Taking advantage of the bikini controversy, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Tina Louise, Betty Grable, Ava Gardner, and Esther Williams and other actresses wore modern bikinis in photographs and pin-ups.

                                          Images courtesy of

Brigitte Bardot alone helped make the modern bikini popular and acceptable in Europe. The US slowly caught on with the help of Ursula Andress and Raquel Welch wearing bikinis in 1960s films “Dr. No.” and “One Million Years B.C.,” respectively. Still, it was Bardot, with her unique beauty and brave spirit, which set the course for the bikinis ultimate popularity.—William S. Gooch

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