Talking about bikinis, 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 about bikinis "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" inspired new bikinis brands and 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.
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 modern bikini was invented by engineer Louis Reard 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.
Reard's suit was a refinement of the work of Jacques Heim who, two months earlier, had introduced the "Atome" (named for its size) about bikinis
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 in string 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, speaking about bikini may jokingly refer to a two-piece outfit consisting of a monokini and a sun hat.
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. Recently bikinis have been getting smaller. This trend started with the top piece, but after shrinking the top so much that it barely covers the nipples, bikinis brands manufacturers have moved on to reducing the size of the bottom piece. One can see the trend toward reduction in the following styles: slingshot, mini, teardrop, minimini, micro, and, what could be called a double string bikini, the minimicro.
Sportswomen who play beach volleyball are required to wear two-pieces.
The obvious sex appeal of the apparel prompted numerous film and television productions
about bikinis as soon as public mores changed to accept it. They include the numerous surf movies of the early 1960s and the television series, Baywatch. Iconic portrayals of string bikini 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 addition, a variant of the bikinis brands 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). The character Red Sonja is a famous example. A re-enactment term for such usage, where sex appeal is more important than actual practicality is babes-at-arms (parody from "men-at-arms" for a fully armoured soldier).