String Bikini

AKA: triangle bikini

How to say it: string bih-kee-nee

Traditional Features: 

String Bikini

  • bikini top constructed from two triangles over the bust, joined by thin straps that are tied behind the neck and back
  • bikini bottom is a single piece covering the groin and buttocks and joined by ties at the sides

21st Century String Bikinis

The string bikini is a classic swimsuit, and while the style of the suit rarely changes much, the beauty of the look is in the simplicity and the details at the same time. In the 21st century the swimwear market is packed with string bikinis in every colour and print of the rainbow; embellishment, embroidery and bejewelling add further flair to the relatively simple look that will never be out of style.

Clover Canyon Forever 21

Clover Canyon, Forever 21

Jean Paul Gaultier Stella McCartney

Jean Paul Gaultier, Stella McCartney


…of the style: One of the most popular bikini styles, and technically the FIRST style of bikini, the string bikini was unveiled in 1946 by French (car) designer Louis Réard.

Réard’s bikini was shocking and scandalous, mainly because it showed the wearers navel, which had long been covered by socially acceptable swimsuits. Despite the publicity the string bikini received from its launch, it was not widely accepted as women stuck to their old, navel-covering two-piece suits. The style was banned along the French Atlantic coast, in Spain, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Australia, as well as several states in the USA; and the United States Motion Picture Production Code only allowed two-piece suits to appear in Hollywood films if the navel was covered.

Despite the initial lack of approval, the string bikini eventually won over women everywhere and was widely accepted by the 1960s, helped along by suntans being highly fashionable and the relaxing of social decency standards. In fact, in the 1960s and 70s the string bikini actually shrunk – waistbands dropped to the hips and the triangles of fabric on the bikini tops and bottoms got smaller and smaller, until women adopted the g-string bottom and simply discarded the top completely. In the 80s the waistbands rose again towards the belly button (but didn’t cover it), balanced by extremely high-cut legs which kept the body coverage to a minimum to allow for optimal tanning.

In the 21st century, the string bikini has evolved to a happy medium between providing appropriate coverage and showing off a lot of skin. Bottoms generally cover at least half of the buttocks and waistlines sit around the hips; tops have returned to covering all of the bust with thin straps holding them in place. While variations most definitely exist in the modern marketplace, this middle ground is the most common version of the string bikini currently available.

After a slow start, the string bikini has risen to the heights of a fashion classic, and as long as women like to lie in the sun and show off at the beach or poolside, the string bikini will have a place in the swimwear market.

…of the name: Louis Réard coined the name ‘bikini’ when he launched his two piece style in 1946. His named his swimsuit after the Bikini Atoll where the atomic bomb was being tested and “like the [atom] bomb, the bikini is small and devastating”. 

The addition of the word string is used as the parts of the bikini are held together by strings that pass around the body and tie.

Random Facts

  •  Réard could not find any fashion models to wear his scandalous bikini in 1946 and had hire a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris to wear his creation at the unveiling
  • Réard marketed his new bikini with the tag line “it’s not a real bikini unless it fits through a wedding ring”
  • the first bikini was made from a total of 30″ of fabric and had a newspaper print pattern on it

For more info on String Bikinis try Wikipedia, Lucky Mag, Bikini Science or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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