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15 Hilarious First Reactions to the Invention of the Bikini 

"A bikini is a thoughtless act."

After hitting the market in 1946, the modern bikini became a beachwear staple for women around the globe. But despite its current popularity, the bikini wasn't always such a hit. In fact, when it was first created by designer Louis Réard—and was showed off by model and showgirl Micheline Bernardini—it faced some serious backlash.

Want to laugh at the pearl-clutching first reactions to the bikini? We've rounded up 15 of the most hilarious takes on this paradigm-shifting swimwear—from the prescient to the prudish. And for more summer fun, don't miss these 40 Facts That Will Make You So Excited for Summer.


pope pius xII, first bikini reactions

Réard had officially created something sinful, according to Pope Pius XII. Following the Vatican's decree about modesty, which required "full coverage for the bodice, chest, shoulders and back," many Catholic countries began to implement their own rules about wearing the scandalous bikini.

"It is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would wear such a thing."

old magazines on a table, first bikini reactions

"It is hardly necessary to waste words over the so-called bikini since it is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would wear such a thing." –The Modern Girl Magazine, 1957

The magazine decided that the swimsuit was so scandalous that it wasn't even worth discussing in print—except for issuing the aforementioned quote, that is. And for more fashion trends not universally loved, check out the 25 Tackiest Beauty Trends of All Time.

"The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb."

old bikini pictures, first bikini reaction

–Diana Vreeland, 1946

The famed French-born columnist for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue—claimed that the bikini was a game-changer for the world of fashion. And for more great fashion trends, check out these 30 Fashion Trends That Will Never Go Out of Style.

"A bikini is a thoughtless act."

Esther Williams in the 50's [Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures]

–Esther Williams, 1953

The famed swimmer and actress eagerly expressed her disdain for the bikini in 1953—although she'd later go on to wear one herself.

"It's at the razor's edge of decency."

vintage swimsuits, first bikini reactions

–Anne Cole, 1959

Cole, famed swimsuit designer (known for her one-piece suits), made her position on the bikini clear, calling it "nothing more than a G-string."

"[I] have little but scorn for France's famed bikinis."

woman wearing old bikini, first bikini reactions

–Fred Cole, 1950

The swimwear designer behind the Cole of California line was vocal about his complete lack of admiration for the iconic garment.

"[It's not a bikini] unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring."

Louis Reard (1897-1984). Museum: PRIVATE COLLECTION.

Louis Réard, 1950

Doubling down on the bikini's scandalous reputation, in advertisements in 1950, bikini inventor Réard declared that a swimsuit couldn't truly be called a bikini unless it could be slipped through a wedding band.

"[Bikinis] reveal everything about a girl except for her mother's maiden name."

woman hanging from a bar, wearing an old bikini swimsuit, first bikini reactions

–Louis Réard, 1950

The swimwear designer also made this statement about the suit and the women who wore them.

Cannes opened its beaches to bikini-wearers.


As a means of attracting tourists, Cannes, France, became a haven for bikini wearers in the 1950s. After a photo of Brigitte Bardot wearing a bikini at the Cannes Film Festival circulated around the world, bikini-wearers flocked to the resort town's shores.

Bikinis were banned from beauty pageants in 1951.

old beauty pageant black and white, pageant facts

Swedish beauty pageant contestant Kiki Hånkasson was crowned Miss World wearing an itty bitty white bikini in 1951, prompting a swift backlash. As a result, bikinis were temporarily banned from beauty pageants, with Miss World contestants opting for evening gowns instead the following year. And for more on pageants, check out these 27 Totally Crazy Facts About Beauty Pageants.

Bikinis were banned from Australian fashion parades, too.

australian parade, first bikini reactions

Bikinis were considered too eye-catching for public consumption in many places. Fashion parades in Sydney, Australia, for example, wouldn't allow certain bikini styles to be worn alongside more modestly-dressed attendees.

Actually, the bikini was banned in multiple countries.

bikini ban

Bans and regulations against the bikini started popping up in countries like Australia, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and even in parts of France and the United States. And for more bans, check out The Strangest Law in Every State.

Dictator Francisco Franco got involved in bikini legislation.

benidorm beach in spain, first bikini reactions

In an effort to promote tourism, Pedro Zaragoza, the mayor of Spanish city Benidorm, pleaded with dictator Francisco Franco to lift the bikini ban to attract tourists to the city's beaches. The ban was lifted in 1959, and Zaragoza proved that he had been right—tourism flourished. And for more tourist attractions, check out these 50 Destinations So Magical You Won't Believe They're in the U.S.

And the bikini endured a stateside ban onscreen.

hobbies for your 40s

The National Legion of Decency, an organization committed to keeping potentially racy material off the big screen, was eager to get bikinis out of movie theaters across the United States. It seems their crusade worked for some time: Hays production codes, which had been introduced in the 1930s, were being enforced to keep these scandalous swimsuits—and particularly images of women's navels—out of movie theaters.

A German woman was punished for wearing a bikini in public.

old jail cell, first bikini reactions

Some countries censored the bikini through punishments. In the 1960s, a German woman was sentenced to six days of cleaning an elder care facility after taking a walk across Munich's Viktualienmarkt square in her bikini. And if you think the bikini backlash was wild, wait until you see The 47 Weirdest Laws from Around the World.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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