The Quick 10: Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weeny Trivia About Bikinis


1. The oldest documented bikinis—haute, bandeau-style little numbers—show up in a 1,700 year old Roman mosaic entitled Chamber of the Ten Maidens. A bevy of ancient, bikini-clad babes are depicted playing sports.

2. Earlier this year, Brooklyn-based designer Andrew Schneider invented the first solar powered bikini—the “iKini”—which produces enough electricity to power an iPod during a sunny day at the beach. Just remember to unplug it, the inventor says, before taking a dip.

4. French designer Jacques Heim’s first itsy-bitsy bathing suit hit the fashion scene in 1946. Tapping into the worldwide obsession with nuclear physics, he named his tiny invention the “atom.” A few months later, another French designer, Louis Reard, one-upped Heim, revealing an even tinier suit, which he dubbed the “bikini” after Bikini Atoll, the island in the Pacific where the U.S. had tested the atom bomb. The new swimsuit, it was said, was as small as an atom and just as powerful.

5. In 2009, Americans spent $4.3 billion—roughly 400 million more than the GDP of Barbados—on swimwear alone.

6. The 19th-century version of a bikini was made out of either heavy flannel or wool—fabrics that would not be transparent when wet—and covered the entire body from neck to toe. The suits were so heavy that women had to hold onto ropes strung from the beach to offshore buoys to keep from sinking.

7. The bikini rocketed to fame in 1960 with Brian Hyland’s hit single, “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” The famous 30 inches of fabric didn’t debut on the cover of Sports Illustrated until 1964.

8. At the 1964 International Beauty Pageant in Long Beach, California, Miss Austria stormed out of a photoshoot after being told she could not wear her homemade bikini. "Americans are rude," she said. "I'm tanned all over, so I wanted the suntan to show."

9. In 2009, a group of vegetarian ladies campaigned in international cities wearing bikinis made only of lettuce leaves. The “Lettuce Ladies” as they were called were sponsored by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and hoped to convince people to adopt a meatless diet.

© Sadat/Xinhua Press/Corbis

10. In 1993, the Olympic Committee decreed the bikini the official uniform for women’s beach volleyball, partly because of the functionality of the suit. Athletes complain that when wearing more conventional uniform—the one-piece, for instance—“sand goes down the top and collects in the bottom," Holly McPeak, a three-time Olympic vollyballer told ABC News. With the bikini’s built-in sand-release system, Reard, it seems, was ahead of his time.