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Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini…

Bikinis are concealed, flaunted, stretched or shortened, establishing a game between yesterday’s illicit and today’s chic and thereby denouncing the sense of disgrace that these simple pieces of clothing used to betray.

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The text below is the excerpt of the book Bikini Story, written by Patrik Alac, published by Parkstone International.

This book tells the story of the bikini – its birth in a Parisian swimming-pool in the course of a stiflingly hot July afternoon in 1946, the scandal that followed (which relegated the bikini for ten years to the pages of illustrated magazines for men), its astounding breakthrough onto the cinema screen, the interest that it suddenly aroused in the fashion houses, and finally its triumphant and eventually universal appearance on beaches the world over. For, from Brazil to the Mediterranean via the sandy stretches all along the Californian coast, the bikini has become an irreplaceable part of our aquatic recreational landscape.

It may be brightly coloured, multi-coloured, or a simple single colour; it may be made of expensive material, of cotton or Lycra; it may spread across the hips or leave them largely bare with just a thong or string at the back; or it may consist of no more than brief triangles, like leaves that have somehow gotten stuck on the skin. Alternatively, it may be designed strictly for effect and present a veritable barricade over the breasts. All of these forms are known and seen on a daily basis everywhere we go.

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18 May 1940: A model wears one of the summer’s new bikinis, a fringed towelling affair with a beaded sunhat.Original Publication: Picture Post Cover – 607,1940.Photo by IPC Magazines/Picture Post/Getty Images.
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Two ladies in swimming costumes in 1941; one has a one-piece costume on, the other a two-piece.From the French edition of the Nazi propaganda magazine Signal.

Comprising two pieces of fairly thin material, generally following a double-triangular design, it does not seem to hold much promise when seen dangling from a hanger. But on a woman, it undergoes an incredible transformation to behold! Those two pathetic bits of cloth you might have thought were only accidentally on the shop’s swimwear shelf suddenly change in form and dimension as if someone has breathed life into them. These patches of material on the skin are all at once points of interest, ornaments, even statements. The bikini reveals as much as it clothes, an image which fills many male observers with enthusiasm at the sight of such a transformation.

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Myriam in a bikini with a vine-leaf intended to suggest a fig-leaf, September 1949.
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Déclaration – Louis Réard’s new collection, May 26, 1955.

There is virtually no other item of clothing linked with so many ideas, images, and preconceived impressions. For the bikini belongs to the mythology of today that shapes our concept of reality. In much the same way as the speed of a motorcar bestows on its driver an intoxicating sense of power, and indeed just as a gold credit card has the power to avail its possessor of infinite possibilities, the bikini represents a blank screen open to a person’s imagination. When we acquire such things or begin to use them, some of the magic they have, the scope for imagination that we credit them with, rubs off on us and can change our lives forever.

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Roger Moore was James Bond in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), which also featured Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland and Maud Adams.

So when a woman wears a bikini, she is not simply dressed in any old bathing costume. On the contrary, she is wearing a magical thing, something that will transform her and turn her into someone else – like the magic wand in fairy tales. She becomes, you might say, an actress acting out her own life. For those new virtues bestowed on her by the bikini will take her into a world of new and hitherto unseen possibilities, nothing like the ordinary everyday world – a new world in which everything that should happen does happen, and happens as if destined to happen.

Marilyn Monroe on the beach.Inspired by the codes of old fashion, this recent bikini adds a touch of nostalgiccharm. Julie Henderson with model MN06 Oliva by diNeila, 2010.Photo: Richard Cordero.

But for a bather in a bikini to be able to reach that world of new possibilities, she must find herself enough space to enable the metamorphosis to take place. Only then does the full range of possibilities become fully available to her. This special kind of space is to be found in what has already been described as “aquatic recreational landscapes” – the sands and beaches along the coasts of the continents: a strip of “space” consisting of an almost infinite number of shorelines and banks, where the rules and regulations that normally govern our lives may be put aside, their authority ignored.

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Bikini MN13 Green Sequins by diNeila. One notices the accessory that goes accordingly with the swimsuit. The bikini is no longer just for swimming but now serves a purpose in social activity. Model: Julie Henderson. Photo: Richard Cordero, 2010.
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White bikini with golden accessories. Very expressive, this bikini comes with ahat and a small chain around the hips.

Indeed, we all know this aquatic recreational landscape very well. It forms an irreplaceable part of all our lives. Yet, even for a swimsuit as dazzlingly wonderful as the bikini, the process of reaching that landscape and then becoming established in it was neither short nor straightforward.

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The cover of the book Bikini Story

To get a better insight into the Bikini Story, continue this exciting adventure by clicking on Amazon USAmazon UK, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Google, Itune, Proquest, Scribd, Bookshout, KoboBarnes&NobleScribdOverdrive.

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