At the time, the “scant 30 inches” of fabric was quite the scandalous swimwear choice.
Introduced by noted French fashion designer Louis Reard, the modern “bikini” was unveiled on July 5, 1946 at a
Reard reportedly called his two-piece swimsuit the bikini after being inspired by the news-making US atomic tests conducted on Bikini Atoll earlier the same week.
While many European women and some Americans had been wearing more modest two-piece suits as early as the 1930s, they almost all showed only a sliver of skin and always covered up the belly button.
According to the History Channel article, Reard had trouble finding a professional model who would deign to wear the scandalously skimpy two-piece. So he turned to Micheline Bernardini, an exotic dancer at the Casino de Paris, who had no qualms about appearing nearly nude in public.
Following her debut of the suit, Bernardini allegedly received more than 50,000 pieces of fan mail.