Teeny Weeny Glass Bikini

By Louise Irvine

The chart-topping song about a yellow polka dot bikini is playing at WMODA as we prepare for the Glam-a-THON charity fund-raising event on September 10. Chelsea Rousso will be presenting a new collection of glass bikini tops, which promises to be even more sensational than the original bikini bathing suit unveiled in 1946.

The daring two-piece swimsuit was launched on July 5, 1946 by French designer Louis Réard at the Piscine Molitar pool in Paris. He named his explosive costume after the American atomic test that took place off the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean four days earlier. Réard claimed his scandalously skimpy creation was “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit.”

When no professional model would wear the bikini for its debut, Réard hired an exotic dancer from the Casino de Paris, who was not shy about appearing nearly nude in public. Showgirls had been wearing revealing two-piece costumes with bra tops since the early 1900s as can be seen on pin-up postcards of the era. Goldscheider’s Art Deco figurines also wear bikini tops, which have inspired Chelsea’s latest wearable glass collection.

Modest two-piece bathing suits started to be worn in the US during World War II when fabric rationing dispensed with superfluous material. Hollywood movie stars of the forties were often portrayed in pin-up publicity photos wearing halter tops and short shorts on the beach. However, censors ensured that the navel was vigilantly covered as bellybuttons were prohibited on-screen by the Hays motion picture production code.

In Europe, beach fashions came to a standstill during the war years and the launch of the bikini celebrated the liberated spirit of the first post-war summer. Although attractive women were known as “bombshells” in America, few would dare to wear the provocative French Bikini or its rival costume the Tiny Atome when it was first launched.

Even by 1960, Brian Hyland summed up the prevailing mood with his worldwide hit song about a shy girl who was afraid to come out of the water in her “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” By the mid-1960s, the bikini was found on all the beaches of the world.

Now, Chelsea Rousso is shattering preconceptions about fashion with her glass bikini tops. So far, the wearable glass has had more exposure at runway shows than on the beach and they may have more allure for evening attire, perhaps emulating the bejeweled harem style fashions of the roaring twenties.

A glamorous couture of the risqué developed in Paris nightclubs of the late 19th century such as the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergère. Cabaret styling crossed the Atlantic to the Ziegfeld Girls in New York in the early 1900s and then to Hollywood musicals.

While bikinis may have lost the power to shock on the beach, a glass bikini top by Chelsea is guaranteed to cause a sensation. Come see some of the designs currently on display in the Carnival & Cabaret exhibition at WMODA. Save the date of Friday, September 10, to see Chelsea's new collection being modeled at Glam-A-THON.

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Listen to the Teeny Weeny Bikini song