20 Bikinis That Changed Everything

All hail the power of the two-piece.

20 Bikinis That Changed Everything

All hail the power of the two-piece.

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July 4 may mark the anniversary of our nation, but July 5th marks, for some—or perhaps many—a far more significant anniversary: that of the two-piece bathing suit. Yes, Bikini Day, the official nomenclature for the “holiday,” is all but here. And to celebrate, we’ve rounded up all of the paradigm-shifting bikinis of history. From the then-scandalous two-pieces of the original Bond girls to the gold and glimmering ensemble Princess Leia rocked on Tatooine, you’ll find the 20 most important here. And for more ways to celebrate this monumental occasion, learn the 30 Fascinating Bikini Facts You Never Knew about.

Micheline Bernardini Bikinis

1
Micheline Bernardini in the world’s first bikini.

Nude dancer Micheline Bernardini was the first woman to wear a bikini in 1946 at the Piscine Molitor in Paris. The bikini was so small that Bernardini could fit it into a matchbox, like the one she is pictured holding. And for more lessons in fashion, check out these 23 Clothing Items That Changed Our Culture.

Brigitte Bardot The Girl in the Bikini Bikinis

2
Brigitte Bardot in Marina, the Girl in the Bikini

With its 1958 release, Marina, the Girl in the Bikini was one of the first films to show midriff—which had previously been prohibited by the Motion Picture Association of America. So, as you can imagine, the film starring Brigitte Bardot as a scantily clad teen set the industry ablaze with criticism, though eventually led to the acceptance of the bikini. After this starring role, Bardot quickly became an international sex symbol—all thanks to her bikini.

Marilyn Monroe Something's Gotta Give Bikinis

3
Marilyn Monroe in Something’s Got to Give

Marilyn Monroe’s last project, Something’s Got to Give, didn’t go very well for the actress, who eventually was fired for her on-set antics. While the movie never made it to the big screen, it did leave us with one of the most iconic photographs ever taken.

Ursula Andress Dr. No Bikinis

4
Ursula Andress in Dr. No

The original Bond girl, Ursula Andress, proved to the world that a woman could simultaneously look amazing in a bikini while kicking some serious butt. In what became one of the most iconic moments in all of cinema, Andress rose out of the Caribbean, wearing a white bikini and sporting a knife on her left hip. Since its release in the early 1960s, multiple films have tried to recreate this famous moment—even later Bond films.

Carrie Fisher Star Wars Bikinis

5
Carrie Fisher in Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi.

Carrie Fisher’s futuristic bikini didn’t leave much to the imagination in the Return of the Jedi. Though Fisher’s outfit became a cultural obsession after the movie was released in 1983, she spent most of her time in it feeling completely self-conscious of her figure. “When [director George Lucas] showed me the outfit, I thought he was kidding and it made me very nervous,” she says. Despite the discomfort, you’re guaranteed to see at least one reproduction of this dazzling bikini at a Comic-Con near you. And for more incredible bikini bodies, check out these 50 Amazing Over-40 Bodies.

The Notebook Bikinis

6
Rachel McAdams in The Notebook.

Let’s face it: if Rachel McAdams is a bird, then we’re all birds. A significant amount of our collective love for McAdams is all due to the adorable bikini pictured above, which, while certainly not the sexiest, inspired a new wave of vintage-inspired swimwear that’s still popular today.

Beyonce Sports Illustrated Cover Bikinis

7
Beyonce’s Sports Illustrated cover.

Though Queen B wasn’t the first African American woman to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated (that honor belongs to Tyra Banks), her 2007 cover inspired a brand new trend in swimwear. After Beyonce appeared on the cover wearing a mismatched swimsuit, nearly every retailer adopted this trend—and the days of searching the racks endlessly for a matching set of swimwear were long gone.

Ashley Graham Sports Illustrated Cover Bikinis

8
Ashley Graham posing as the first plus-size model on the cover of Sports Illustrated

When Ashley Graham appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2016, she became the first plus-size model to ever do so. Since appearing on the cover as a rookie, Graham has pushed the boundaries of the modeling world, eventually writing a book about her experience in the industry entitled A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like. 

Sue Lyon Lolita Bikinis

9
Sue Lyon in Lolita

Though Sue Lyon was only 14 during the filming of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, the scene pictured above, showing Lyon sensually leaning on a towel, clad in a barely-there swimsuit, received a large amount criticism upon its 1962 debut. Many argued that the film was far too indecent—though this bikini scene still reigns supreme as one of the most iconic sunbathing scenes in cinema history.

Sally Field Gidget Series Bikinis

10
Sally Field in the Gidget series.

As it turns out, Sally Field had quite the bikini body before owning the role of the empathetic and nurturing housewife, mother, and confidante. Before she was making us cry in public, Field starred as Gidget in the aptly-named Gidget television show in the mid-’60s. Set in California, the show prominently featured Field in colorful and expressive bikinis, like the one pictured above.

Phoebe Cates Fast Times at Ridgemont High Bikinis

11
Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

In a scene described as “the most memorable bikini-drop in cinema history” by Rolling Stone, upperclassman Linda Barrett and her red bikini become a full-blown high school legend. In of the most iconic moments of television, set to be repeated time and again, actress Phoebe Cates slowly exists the pool with water dripping down her body and over a red swimsuit, which ultimately becomes the color of the decade.

Salma Hayek From Dusk Til Dawn Bikinis

12
Salma Hayek Pinault in From Dusk Til Dawn.

Salma Hayek Pinault earned her title as the sexiest vampire ever with this slithering dance number in From Dusk Til Dawn. Though her bathing suit may be from removed from any beach, her killer body still shines just the same.

Halle Berry Die Another Day Bikinis

13
Halle Berry in Die Another Day.

While Halle Berry’s swimsuit scene may not be as iconic as a certain other former Bond girl, she still packs some heat—especially through Pierce Brosnan’s (relatively creepy) binoculars.

Kate Bosworth Blue Crush Bikinis

14
Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush.

Kate Bosworth is the original surf hero that we never knew we needed, giving an effortlessly cool performance in 2002’s Blue Crush. In an era of more is more, Bosworth’s character is completely fresh-faced and sporting only practical swimsuits, which still seem to accentuate her beach beauty. While we’re most likely not at all confident in our surfing abilities, Bosworth sure makes us want to catch a few waves.

Demi Moore Charlie's Angels Bikinis

15
Demi Moore in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

At the age of 41, Demi Moore did more than just a rock a bikini on the set of Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle—she entered into an entire dialogue concerning age and sexuality. In the eyes of nearly the entire world, Moore proved that no age limit exists when possessing the confidence to strut down the beach in a barely-there-bikini—well, and maybe a bit of lucky genetics.

Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider Bikinis

16
Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.

Angelina Jolie is kicking butt and taking names in this black bikini, equipped with any kind of weapon the heroine may require at the moment. Though, judging by the looks on these poor guys’ faces, she won’t need to wield any of her weaponry to get what she wants.

Jayne Mansfield in Leopard Print Bikinis

17
Jayne Mansfield in leopard print bikini.

Until her untimely death in 1967, the multitalented Jayne Mansfield found any and all occasion to wear a swimsuit—especially this seductive leopard print set. As one of the original Playboy Bunnies, Manfield wore a number of revealing suits, but this one stands out for its authenticity.

Image via Imgur

Jessica Alba Into the Blue Bikinis

18
Jessica Alba in Into the Blue

If you wouldn’t mind seeing Jessica Alba trek around in a bikini for an hour-and-a-half, then Into the Blue will prove to be an essential cinema experience. In this case, Alba’s bikini itself is nothing special—it’s the way her toned body appears in the suit that is.

Raquel Welch One Million Years B.C. Bikinis

19
Raquel Welch in One Million Years, B.C.

In this prehistoric drama, Raquel Welch battles off every threat of extinction in this iconic swimsuit, seemingly made from scraps of well-placed cloth, paving the way for many a similarly styled bikini in prehistoric-set fiction.

Jessica Simpson Dukes of Hazzard Bikinis

20
Jessica Simpson in Dukes of Hazzard

If Jessica Simpson in Dukes of Hazzard taught us anything, it’s that sporting a flimsy pink bikini will always make men bend to your every whim—and it turns out to be a pretty heartwarming, if not drool-inducing, message. And if you’re going under the knife in order to get your perfect beach body, these are the 20 Things You Need to Know Before Getting a Breast Augmentation.

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