The Vatican declared it sinful. It was even banned by the Hollywood’s Hays Code for a time. Fashion magazines said it was tasteless. When the first “itsy-bitsy, teenie-weenie” bikini first appeared 68 years ago, the two-piece swimsuit made waves across the world. “People were craving the simple pleasures of the sea and the sun,” French newspaper Le Figaro wrote about the daring new fashion trend. “For women, wearing a bikini signaled a kind of second liberation. There was really nothing sexual about this. It was instead a celebration of freedom and a return to the joys in life.” Hollywood stars like Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, and Marilyn Monroe turned American heads with their two-piece pinup photos, while celebrities like Sophia Loren and Anita Ekberg made the bikini a mainstay on European shores. Here are ten other cultural icons who helped popularize the bikini. In some cases, their flesh-baring swimsuits contributed to important discussions about race, sexuality, and gender.
Ursula Andress, Dr. No
It’s impossible to discuss the James Bond films without mentioning the gorgeous women who helped make the movies unforgettable. In the first chapter of cinema’s longest continually running film series, Dr. No, Swiss bombshell Ursula Andress stole the spotlight when she emerged from the ocean, bronzed and clad in a white bikini singing “Under the Mango Tree.” Her character, Honey Ryder, was depicted as an independent, fearless woman who made her living selling seashells in Miami. But it was Honey’s bikini that made film and fashion history. Sales of two-piece bathing suits skyrocketed after the film’s release (British Army belt and knife not included). Audiences were quite taken with Andress as Honey, as was 007 author Ian Fleming who visited the set to meet the actress in person. Legendary pinup photographer Bunny Yeager was hired to capture Andress in her famous bikini while shooting on location in Jamaica. Andress’ appearance set the standard for all Bond girls to follow: stunningly beautiful, sexually liberated, exotic, bold, a partner in crime, but also a damsel in distress. The bikini said it all.