Seventy years ago, French designer Louis Reard unveiled a daring two-piece swimsuit deemed the “bikini,” inspired by the U.S. atomic test that took place off the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.
All these years later, women of all ages still make their way to the mall, the consignment shop, their favorite retail store, to purchase a new bikini to hit the beach, the pool or even their own backyard.
Whatever the age, size or shape, bikinis make many women feel pretty.
Often, on vacation, a world away from anyone women might know, a day on the beach in a bikini means a bit of freedom and a chance to feel the breeze and sun on their skin.
The slice of land beside the water somehow seems to be a “no judgment zone,” and women become more concerned with enjoying themselves than worrying about their body size.
Karen Brown, owner of several consignment shops in Luzerne, said the demand for bikinis varies by age. The shops only accept new bikinis for sale at their shops.
The “Rumor has It” shop, geared toward young women sells the most bikinis, she said.
“Plaids and Sequins,” geared toward teenaged girls, also offers a variety of bathing suits, including bikinis, in a wide assortment of colors.
Brown said styles surprisingly remain the same year after year, but have evolved a bit over time.
“Bathing suits now come in different fabrics,” she said. “There have been new fabrics that are slimming.”
Manager at “Rumor Has It,” Brittany Allan, said halter styles are especially popular this season.
“This year, women seem to be going with more sporty styles,” she said.
Each year often has a favorite color, with this year’s being yellow, according to Brown.
“People have loved everything in yellow this year,” she said. “In addition to bikinis, bathing suits, people are buying sun dresses, shorts and other summer casual wear.”
Women have always seemed to gravitate toward two piece bathing attire, with European women first wearing a two-piece bathing suite in the 1930s, but with only a bit of midriff showing.
In the United States, two-piece bathing suits were inspired in part by necessity, when during World War II, rationing of fabric dictated the removal of any unnecessary material on swim suit, according to history.com.
Still, early on, many people deemed two piece suits and the bikini as “scandalous” or “immoral,” which seemed to only make the younger set more determined to wear it.
When originally modelled, Reard had trouble finding someone willing to wear the suit, and had to hire an exotic dancer to do so, according to history.com.
Despite that reluctance, it is reported that he received more than 50,000 pieces of fan mail after it was first modelled in Paris, many coming from men. The bikini was and continues to be a hit.
Media also reflects the popularity of the bikini, with pop singer Brian Hyland releasing “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” in 1960 and subsequent “beach blanket movies” of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, making it clear that bikinis were not only acceptable, but celebrated.
This year, bikinis will again be seen at swimming spots across the area and across the world. Bikini clad women will make their way out to their backyards to get a few minutes of sun time and enjoy the heat.
As for Brown, she and her staff enjoy selling bathing suits to area residents, but said one thing is still missing.
“We need some hot weather,” said a smiling Brown. “We need summer to truly arrive.”
Reach Geri Gibbons at 570-991-6117 or on Twitter @TLGGibbons
Swimwear Industry Statistics Data
Global annual swimwear industry revenue - $13.25 billion
Annual US spending on women’s two-piece bathing suits - $8 billion
Average price for a woman’s bathing suit - $24.26
Average price for a men’s bathing suit - $15.62
Number of bathing suits owned by the average American woman - 4
According to statisticbrain.com