History of the bikini;
The "Bikini girls" mosaic showing women exercising, first quarter of the 4th century AD. Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily
The groundwork for the modern bikini began to be laid in 1907, when Australian swimmer and performer Annette Kellerman was arrested on a Boston beach for wearing a form-fitting one-piece swimsuit, which became an accepted beach attire for women by 1910. In 1913, inspired by the introduction of women into Olympic swimming, designer Carl Jantzen made the first functional two-piece swimwear, a close-fitting one-piece with shorts on the bottom and short sleeves on top.
By the 1930s, necklines plunged at the back, sleeves disappeared and sides were cut away. Hollywood endorsed the new glamour with films such as Neptune's Daughter in which Esther Williams wore provocatively named costumes such as "Double Entendre" and "Honey Child".
With new materials like latex and nylon, by 1934 the swimsuit started hugging the body and had shoulder straps to lower for tanning.
Finally, the modern bikini was introduced by French engineer Louis Réard and fashion designer Jacques Heim in Paris in 1946.
Réard was a car engineer but by 1946 he was running his mother's lingerie boutique near Les Folies Bergères in Paris. Heim was working on a new kind of beach costume. It comprised two pieces, the bottom large enough to cover its wearer's navel. In May 1946, he advertised the bathing suit, known as the "Atome," as the world's "smallest bathing suit". Réard named his swimsuit the "bikini".
Brigitte Bardot is recognized for popularizing bikini swimwear in early films.
Bikinis gradually became briefer and lower with narrower sides in the 1970s, and by the late 70s/early 80s very low hipster bottoms with string sides and ties became the fashion. By the 1990s however, fashions changed and high-cut bottoms and bandeau tops were in vogue. Bikinis went brief again in the early 2000s as they followed the trend for everything hipster. Despite the high popularity of skimpy thongs and g-strings as underwear from 1998-2006, thong bikinis never made it into high street fashion. Low rise bikinis with string and tie-sides are currently fairly standard, reminiscent of late-70's designs but not so low cut.