It was a Frenchman who invented the bikini, nearly 70 years ago, as an alternative to one-piece swimsuits that covered the torso. Bikinis transformed beachwear with a two-piece costume that was very similar in design to a bra and pants. Over the years, bikinis became smaller and more revealing, although recent years have seen many retro bikinis with more coverage available to buy online or in stores. A bikini exposes the skin of the waist, navel and usually the hips; a two-piece costume with a longer, tank top is called a tankini.
Bikinis in different shapes and cuts
The original bikini was first worn in 1946 and many modern bikinis copy the ‘retro’ style of classic early costumes from the 1940’s and 50’s. These often have a halter top and bottoms that finish high up the body, sometimes reaching to the navel, to give quite a lot of coverage. By the 1960s the bikini had evolved into a smaller shape with two triangular pieces of material covering the breasts and bikini bottoms with two triangles of material. These were held together with thin fastenings that were either elasticated or tied with knots or bows. The ‘string bikini’ is still a popular design and can also be made even skimpier with a G-string or thong-type bottom. For those who find this too revealing, skirted bikinis are another recent development, worn with a simple bra or bandeau style top.
Who can wear a bikini?
Any woman can wear a bikini; you don’t have to have a ‘perfect’ figure to look good in one. Admittedly, some very skimpy styles will look best on smaller figures, but a woman who is confident can wear whatever she wants and there is a whole range of bikinis that are cut to flatter larger shapes and to cover up ‘problem’ parts of the body. There is no age limit to wearing a bikini; as long as a woman feels comfortable in one, they can be worn at any age.
Choosing the right bikinis for your shape
While anyone can wear a bikini, some styles look better on certain shapes. If you are a large-busted lady, wearing a bandeau or boob tube type top will ‘squash’ the breasts and risk revealing slips; it will be far more flattering to choose a secure, halter neck style to emphasise your curves. Balcony shapes will add retro glamour as well as give support, which can also be provided with underwiring. If your hips are larger than your top, choosing a bright print or bold colour on the top while wearing low waisted bottoms in a dark shade will draw the eye up and away from the hips. If you have the opposite problem of wide shoulders and narrow hips, reverse the colour choice with patterned bottoms and a plain top, or choose bottoms with a ruffle or a decorative belt effect to balance out your shape. Boyish or athletic figures can really wear any shape of bikini, including tiny triangles with string ties or bandeau tops, but to add curves to the top or bottom wear horizontal stripes or frilled fabrics.
Materials used in bikinis
Bikinis that are going to worn solely for sunbathing or relaxing can be made from any type of material. As well as standard fabrics like cotton and nylon, bikinis have been made from fur, velvet and even crocheted wool. For those planning to swim in their bikinis, however, it is best to choose a durable polyester swimsuit material that includes a small percentage of Lycra or Spandex to hold it in place while moving through the water. Bikinis for competition swimming usually have an extra tight fit and include features such as cross-back bra tops and double shoulder straps to increase the security of the fit.
Bikinis in different colours
Bikinis come in a huge choice of colours and whatever your favourite shade, there is sure to be a bikini that includes it. Tanned skin will look wonderful in a plain white or bright yellow bikini, while paler skin will look good in rich greens or bright blues. Deep reds or earth browns will look great if you have blonde or light-brown hair with medium skin, while brunettes with medium skin look stunning in purple.