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Bikini introduced 65 years ago today: Carl Cannon

Carl M. Cannon, the Washington editor of RealClearPolitics, sends out a memo each morning–topped by a historical note– touting the best offerings of www.realclearpolitics.com. Today, as we plunge into summertime, Cannon, a man for all seasons, remembers that 65 years ago, a French designer introduced the world to the bikini…..

Click below for Cannon’s look back…..(we now return to our regular political programming…)

Good morning. It’s Monday, July 5, 2011, and 65 years ago today, Louis Rard, a car engineer who had taken over his mother’s Paris clothing boutique, introduced a concept in women’s swimwear with far-reaching consequences. A rival French designer, Jacques Heim, had produced a bathing suit so skimpy he called it “the atom.” But that suit dutifully covered a part of the female anatomy so risqu that it was banned in Hollywood by the Hays Code. I’m talking about the belly button.

But on July 5, 1946 – though he had to retain a French stripper to model his suit — Louis Rard uncovered le nombril. Cheekily, he called it “the bikini” – after the Pacific island atoll where the United States had carried out its recent nuclear test. Rard and Heim figured that after the horrors of World War II, a public facing its first peaceful summer in years would embrace the libertine new fashion. But it was slow going.

Initially, the bikini didn’t even sell well in Rard’s own shop. Spain and Italy passed laws prohibiting it. In America, Vogue magazine proclaimed: “Our readers dislike the bikini, which has transformed certain coastlines into the backstage of music halls and which does not embellish women.”

This perception depended on the woman, however. After Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth were photographed in slightly less revealing versions of it, the style began to catch on. Brigette Bardot wore one in the 1956 film “And God Created Woman.” From then it was just a matter of time; the dam broke in 1960 when the pop hit “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” hit the airwaves in the U.S. In 1966, Raquel Welch made it official by wearing a bikini on the pages of Life magazine. Men appreciated the design from the moment Rard introduced it. In time, Western women embraced it as part of change in style that would help augur a more sweeping form of human liberation.

On our pages, this morning, Gideon Rachman writes in the Financial Times of how Europe and the United States will sink or swim together – kind of like the bikini – while Peter Beinart (Daily Beast) and Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal) address the lessons of the morality play known as the Dominique Strass-Kahn case.

I’d also point you to the following pieces by our own writers and contributors.

– Heather Wilhelm reviews “Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong With America,” a new book by Reason magazine editors Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch.

– RCP political writer Scott Conroy spent time with the Iowa volunteers pushing a Sarah Palin presidential candidacy.

– Over the weekend, we had Caitlin Huey-Burns’ piece on the wandering ambitions of Dennis Kucinich.

Carl M. Cannon, Washington Editor

RealClearPolitics