In the summer of 1946, 1 year after the end of World War II, a small collection of islands known as the Bikini Atoll were the center of an impressive amount of media coverage. The US had collected a fleet of 68 captured and obsolete battleships, destroyers, air craft carriers, and transports left over from the war at this tiny Atoll in the mid Pacific to test the atomic bomb on naval targets. Among the tens of thousands of people awaiting in the boats surrounding the atoll for the bomb to be dropped were reporters sending news of the test back home.
At the same time, a swimsuit called the “atome” is in department stores, a name I am sure was meant to evoke associations with power and that which is of-the-moment. A French designer decides to entitle his own new number, touted at the smallest swimsuit, “the bikini” because it splits the atome, and is small but packs a lot of power.
So next time you think “bikini,” you can now think of 20 atomic tests, fish that emit x-rays, and the upending and annihilation of a 27,000 ton battleship.