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Bikini Atoll Revolutionized the Swimsuit 70 Years Ago

The bikini is turning 70 and is still turning heads. The iconic two-piece bathing suit was the creation of French engineer Louis Reard.

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The bikini is turning 70 and still turning heads. 

The iconic two-piece bathing suit was the creation of a French engineer Louis Réard, who named it after the Bikini Atoll, where the atomic bomb testing took place. Sure enough, the skimpy outfit set off an explosion of moral outrage when it hit the shelves on July 5, 1946 in the French Riviera.

While the fashion-conscious French fell hard for the bikini, the Vatican declared the swimsuit sinful and it was banned in Spain, Italy and several other countries. When it arrived in the U.S. a year later, some states made it a crime to wear a bikini on the beach.But the bikini prevailed. And when Ursula Andress emerged from the surf in the 1962 James Bond movie “Dr. No” wearing a white bikini, there was no stopping the little bathing suit that could.

ABOVE: Bathing suit models listen to the radio on the beach, circa 1940's.


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For the election of the most beautiful bather, a candidate appears for the first time wearing a bikini in July 1946 at the Molitor swimming-pool in Paris.

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Ken Murray, stage and television comedian, uses a tiny precision camera to aid him in selecting young women for his soon-to-come television program, at a CBS studio in New York in January 1952.

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American actor Kirk Douglas and French actress Brigitte Bardot (center) at the beach during the Cannes Film Festival in April 1953.

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Myrna Cooper at Crandon Park Beach in Miami in January 1960.

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Ursula Andress in the James Bond film '"Dr.No" released in 1962.

Courtesy Everett Collection / Courtesy Everett Collection via Getty Images
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Dance group Legs & Co, a regular feature on BBC TV's 'Top Of The Pops' weekly pop music program, circa 1980.

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Women sunbath on Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, circa 1990.

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Women dressed in bikinis pose for a photographer on Sydney's Bondi Beach on September 26, 2007.

Tim Wimborne / REUTERS
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