在20世纪四、五十年代，美国曾在太平洋上的比基尼岛进行多次原子弹试爆。不久，一位法国巴黎的泳装设计师戴扎伊纳·路易·雷亚尔（Louis Reard），推出了一套新式泳装，所用的布料极少，仅覆盖身体少部分的面积，穿上后几乎是全裸的姿态，首位穿上比基尼并供记者拍照的模特儿名叫米歇琳娜·贝尔纳迪尼（Micheline Bernardini），在当时的服装界是一项爆炸性的创新，此类型的泳装因此而得名。
A bikini or two-piece is a type of women's bathing suit, characterized by two separate parts—one covering the breasts, the other the groin (and optionally the buttocks), leaving an uncovered area between the two garments. The shapes of both parts of a bikini closely resemble women's underwear, and the lower part of a bikini can therefore range from the more revealing thong or g-string to briefs and the more modest square-cut shorts.
Two-piece garments worn by women for athletic purposes have been observed on Greek urns and paintings, dated as early as 1400 BC.
According to the official version, the modern bikini was invented by French engineer Louis Reard and fashion designer Jacques Heim in Paris in 1946 (introduced on July 5), and named after Bikini Atoll, the site of nuclear weapon tests in the Marshall Islands, on the reasoning that the burst of excitement it would cause would be like the atomic bomb. However it should be noted that women in Paris were wearing bikinis one year before the bikini was "invented." This fact is documented with pictures in the July 16, 1945 issue of Life Magazine.
Of course the magazine article did not attach the name "bikini" to the swimsuit. At that time the public had not yet been informed of the atom bomb project, and few people had ever heard of Bikini Atoll. The article instead spoke of the "French Bathing Suits." But although the name had not yet been adopted, the swimsuits that the Parisian women were wearing are clearly recognizable as bikinis in style and coverage.
In a special irony, the date of publication of the magazine, July 16, 1945, was the very same day that the first atomic bomb was detonated in the desert outside Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Reard's suit was a refinement of the work of Jacques Heim who, two months earlier, had introduced the "Atome" (named for its size) and advertised it as the world's "smallest bathing suit". Reard split the "atome" even smaller, but could not find a model who would dare to wear his design. He ended up hiring Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris, as his model.
Bikinis in modern culture
It took fifteen years for the bikini to be accepted in the United States. In 1951 bikinis were banned from the Miss World Contest. In 1957, however, Brigitte Bardot's bikini in And God Created Woman created a market for the swimwear in the US, and in 1960, Brian Hyland's pop song "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" inspired a bikini-buying spree. Finally the bikini caught on, and by 1963, the movie Beach Party, starring Annette Funicello (emphatically not in a bikini, by mentor Walt Disney's personal request) and Frankie Avalon, led a wave of films that made the bikini a pop-culture symbol.
In Malta bikinis took time to be introduced. In the 1960's the police fended off Bishop Michael Gonzi's request to ban bikini clad tourists following fear of compromising Malta as a tourist destination. Malta Labour Party girls felt protected to put on bikinis during beach parties but this was unacceptable by those supporting the Nationalist Party.
People who are familiar with the history of Bikini Atoll—particularly opponents of nuclear proliferation—may find the etymology and use of the word "bikini" for a garment as inappropriate, as its tongue-in-cheek "explosive" reputation effectively reduces the significance of a serious historic humanitarian crisis—one that still influences the politics of the Marshall Islands—to a mere popular culture sex symbol in the minds of most people. The term two-piece is considered a neutral alternative.
The string bikini is one of the first and most classic renovations of the traditional bikini. It generally consists of the barest minimal fabric coverage for the top and bottoms. For some women, the string bikini may actually be the most flattering bikini style. The string bikini style looks best on women with small busts or boy shapes. Because women with small breasts do not need a large amount of bra-style support, a traditional triangle top can serve to add more shape and curve to the breasts. In addition, triangle tops with built-in under wires can work similarly to a push-up bra to maximize the breasts.
The bikini is a sex symbol that often makes the woman wearing it significantly more attractive in the eyes of men. Girls often wear a bikini to impress men or to fit in with the other women in bikinis. Many magazines market themselves by placing a woman in a bikini on the cover. Men often just buy the magazine for the picture of the woman and women may buy it to learn how to look like the woman on the cover. Because of the influence of the media, women try to lose weight before the summer so they can have the ideal "bikini body." These weight loss goals are often unrealistic and unhealthy in their means and result. The image of the bikini in the media sometimes brings about eating disorders in people striving to have the "perfect" body. Though in reality, most women do not achieve their weight loss goals, but still wear bikinis anyway. That’s why there are different styles of bikinis, in different sizes and in different colors to suit every woman's body type
Evolution of the bikini
In recent years, the term monokini has come into use for topless bathing by women: where the bikini has two parts, the monokini is the lower part. Where monokinis are in use, the word bikini may jokingly refer to a two-piece outfit consisting of a monokini and a sun hat. The term was coined by Rudi Gernreich.
The tankini is a swimsuit combining a tank top and a bikini bottom. A string bikini is a more revealing alternative style where both top and bottom are reduced to triangles of cloth connected by strings.
The lower part of the bikini was further reduced in size in the 1970s to the Brazilian thong, where the back of the suit is so thin that it disappears into the buttocks.
Female athletes who play beach volleyball professionally are required to wear two-pieces.
Women tanning often wear bikinis.The obvious sex appeal of the apparel prompted numerous film and television productions as soon as public morals changed to accept it. They include the numerous surf movies of the early 1960s and the television series, Baywatch. Iconic portrayals of bikinis in movies include Ursula Andress as Bond girl Honey Ryder in Dr. No (1962), Raquel Welch as the prehistoric cavegirl in the 1966 film One Million Years B.C., and Phoebe Cates in the 1982 teen film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. These scenes were recently ranked 1, 86, and 84 in Channel 4 (UK)'s 100 Greatest Sexy Moments (in film).
In addition, a variant of the bikini popular in fantasy literature is a bikini that is made up of metal to serve as (admittedly rather impractical) armor, sometimes referred to as a "chainmail bikini" or "brass bikini"; the character Red Sonja is a famous example. A term for such usage, where sex appeal is more important than actual practicality, is babes-at-arms (parodying "men-at-arms" for fully armoured soldiers).