While browsing through a lingerie online store in India or maybe seeing a bikini-clad model on Instagram, does it ever come to your mind as who normalized bikini culture? Women wore it from times immortal under their attires, but who made it a style statement?
In the west!
A model, Micheline Bernardini spotted a bikini on stage for the first time ever for the world to see on 5th July, 1946 for designer Louis Reard. The designer chooses the name ‘bikini’ after Bikini Atoll in Marshall Islands which was a site used for testing atom bombs. Reard intentionally called the two pieces, bikini referring to the ramifications it will cast on the world both socially and culturally like the atom bombs. And no one can argue how correct he was as bikini stirred controversies such as opposing Victorian norms, objectifying females and creating an obsession for slimmer bodies in women.
In the year 1966, Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore brought in the bikini culture to India, wearing one for a Filmfare magazine cover. This photo created a national controversy and was seen as a threat to the Indian culture, moral values and image of an Indian woman. Sharmila Tagore received a lot of hate and backlash for the same but that did not stop her from spotting another bikini, this time for her film- An Evening in Paris, in 1967. Bikini still remained infamous and not many Bollywood leading ladies were ready to dawn it on the big screens fearing backlash and negative publicity.
In the era of 70s and 80s, where maximum of the heroines were content with their damsel in distress roles, Zeenat Aman- the first Indian to win the Miss Asia Pacific title, spotted bikini multiple times for her movies and owned the silver screen every time she wore it!
Not too late, Dimple Kapadia in the year 1973 wore an orange bikini for her film Bobby and Parveen Babi dawned one for her film Yeh Nazdeekiya in the year 1982. It was not that Indian audience happily accepted a bikini-clad lady on the silver screen, but slowly were getting used to it.
In the 90s, two Indian beauties, Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai were winning hearts globally with their charismatic beauties, infectious smiles and sizzling bodies. In the final rounds of the famed Miss Universe and the Miss World pageants, both Sushmita and Aishwarya rocked the bikini rounds and showed it to the world that Indian women can roar out in a bikini like no one else can! It comes as no surprise when both of them won the pageants, respectively.
With more and more actresses rocking bikinis in movies and film covers, the bikini culture normalized in India. From a taboo to a chisel to flaunt well-structured bodies, bikini was dawned by a good number of actresses in the coming years. It also normalized lingerie discussions and soon hot night dress for ladies was not a topic to shy away from anymore.
Many big names of Bollywood - Deepika Padukone, Bipasha Basu, Kareena Kapour, Priyanka Chopra, Alia Bhatt to name a few dazzled in a bikini every now and then either in a movie, on a magazine cover or an Instagram post from their vacations and inspired other women as well to dawn a bikini without any hesitation.