Louis Reard was born on this day in 1896 in Lille, France.
A French automobile engineer, Reard joined his mother's clothing business and on July 6, 1946 earned the eternal gratitude of all admirers of the female form when he premiered his most famous fashion design, a mighty piece of engineering: a tiny two-piece cotton swimsuit which he dubbed the "bikini" after the nuclear test site on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean where the U.S. had detonated an atomic bomb 4 days earlier. Strapped onto the irresistible body of an unknown Parisian nude dancer named Micheline Bernardini at a Paris fashion show (as no runway model would agree to wear it), the bikini was an immediate international sensation, hitting newspapers around the world. Bernardini received over 50,000 fan letters.
Although initially no one took the garment very seriously as practical fashion (Diana Vreeland, for one, quipped that it revealed "everything about a girl except her maiden name," and the oft swimsuited Esther Williams called the bikini "a thoughtless act"), by the 1960s the two-piece swimsuit was an old standard to be found on beaches and around swimming pools everywhere.
For his own part, Reard insisted that the only true bikini was one which could be pulled through a wedding ring. Reard died on September 17, 1984 in Lausanne, Switzerland.