The Revolution of the Bikini with Sport Illustrated’s MJ Day

It has always seemed appropriate that the word, “bikini” was named after a group of atolls where, beginning in the 1940s, a series of atomic devices were tested. Perhaps that’s why certain individuals who’ve donned the celebrated and controversial garment over the years have been termed, “bombshells.”

The first documented image of a bikini as clothing actually presented itself in a 4th century Roman mosaic. Fast-forward a few dozen centuries, and the bikini as we know it (or, at least, a two-piece forbearer, which included a G-string bottom) set the post-war world on fire when, on July 4th, 1946, Louis Reard—an industrious French engineer—decided to dabble in fashion and change the course of the swimsuit history forever.

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From the moment the world had their first glimpse of Micheline Bernardini, the nude dancer from the Parisian cabaret Casino de Paris, wearing this new beachwear, our love/hate relationship with the bikini began.

In a few short years, thanks in part to Brigitte Bardot’s affinity for wearing the two-piece, the bikini was everywhere, from the Miss America pageant to the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. The bikini has become a barometer of sorts for each decade.

The mood of the masses is represented by a few scraps of fabric and by the body type that fleshes it out. From the suer feminine exaggerated sexuality of the ’50s to the outrageous and decadent styles of the ’80s and ’90s, we’ve landed in a current-day bikini culture where choice is the name of the game. Boobs, butt? What asset do you choose to play up? Are you sporty, sexy, chic?

The bikini has become a barometer of sorts for each decade.

The beauty of today’s bikini is that you can be someone different every day of the week. The one thing we can be sure of is that the bikini is here to stay—and for us to celebrate, loathe, and be inspired by to hit the gym.

Words + photos provided by MJ Day and Sports Illustrated Swim. Check out their 2016 collection to exactly see how far we’ve come.