This article is about the history of the bikini. It of necessity discusses modesty in dress, and clothes and our lustful desires.

Source: Reformed Perspective, 1996. 2 pages.

Bikini Turns 50

On July 6, 1946 the bikini made its first appearance on the fashion runways of Paris. This summer the brash bikini has turned a matronly fifty years old! This fashion item, which even “nice” girls feel no qualms to wear these days, caused a great stir in its early years on the Continent and in North America. (The Vancouver Sun, June 4, 1996).

Morally Devastated Audiences🔗

The story of the birth of the bikini is an interesting one. It might even make us smile, “How quaint people were back then.” The French designer named Louis Reard first revealed it to a morally devastated audience at a Paris fashion show. The skimpy swimwear caused such a stir that the regular models refused to wear it. Reard was forced to hire a stripper from a local strip-tease bar to show it off. Despite this rocky start, the scanty suit caught on in France over the next several years.

Uncle Sam (the U.S.) was not about to give the bikini his thumbs up. In fact, Americans were so aghast at the provocative apparel, that women crass enough to wear it were arrested for indecent exposure. Paris had gone too far this time! The bikini was too risqué, and could be considered proper attire only for “easy girls.” Even when it did catch on, the American version covered more skin, and of course, the belly button was not to be exposed.

Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie🔗

The more chaste suit became a hit during the Kennedy years. The bikini – named after the Bikini Atoll, the US's 1946 atomic bomb test site in the North Pacific Marshal Islands – was glorified in the song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini (most baby-boomers can still accurately sing a line or two from that song!). Its reputation was further enhanced in the dozens of puerile beach-blanket movies starring squeaky-clean stars like Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.

Of course, it was not long before the scantier ensemble also became acceptable in North America. Paris was not content: 1964 heralded topless swim wear for women; 1974 introduced the thong bikini. Those who travel regularly in Europe know that today, almost anything goes. Modesty is considered prudish and something from the dark ages. Skin is in!

Midriffs and Modesty🔗

Yes, we might smile about the story of the birth of the bikini. Imagine being worried about an exposed belly button! This part of the anatomy seems to have become simply another fashion accessory. In fact, current fashion dictates that navel grazing T-shirts are more common than tuck-in T's. A walk through the local mall will easily put the navel-count – if one is counting such things! – in the plus-twenty range. Bare-midriffed mannequins in micro-shorts grace display windows of the stores that sell to teens. At the local high school, students look like they're off to the beach rather than to a place of serious study. It seems that modest dress has become the exception rather than the rule.

Does it matter? In a word, “Yes.” We can go right back to Genesis on this one. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, they also realized they were naked and they were ashamed. They sewed coverings for themselves from fig leaves. (Genesis 3:7). Adam and Eve were quite resourceful. It cannot have been easy to fabricate suitable clothing from plant material, not even from sturdy fig leaves. The Lord had a better plan. “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothes them.” (Genesis 4:21). No doubt these sturdy garments were durable and covered Adam and Eve more fully than the fig leaves.

Paul, Peter and Proverbs🔗

Scripture does not give a prescription for appropriate dress. It does warn against inappropriate clothing. For one thing, men are not to dress as women. The apostle Paul also gives some basic advice. “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety … with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” (1 Timothy 2:9, 10). The apostle Peter echoes this sentiment:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment … it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.1 Peter 3:3-5

The book of Proverbs focuses much of its advice on young men. They are continually warned against immoral and unchaste behavior. They are not to be tempted by the “loose” woman who allures and entices him. “Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.” (Proverbs 7:25).

I am not suggesting that every girl who wears a bikini or short shorts and an even shorter T-shirt is an immoral person. However, it would be naive to think that the desire to be alluring is not part of the picture, if only subconsciously. Unthinkingly or perhaps sometimes with firm intent, the daughters of Eve can make it very difficult for the sons of Adam to think pure thoughts. Perhaps then the sons of Adam need to follow the advice of Solomon, for whom women eventually did prove to be the downfall:

Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you … Do not swerve to the right or the left…Proverbs 4:25, 27

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.