I remember my mother telling me that the swimwear costume word known as”bikini” stemmed from the Bikini Islands, an atoll belonging to the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean (which was also the backdrop for a set of nuclear test explosions over a 12 year period from 1946-1958). At the time, the term bikini was used to describe a ‘new’ modern two-piece bathing suit/costume which was incredibly revealing and first came to populace in the 1960s.
However, looking at this ca. 400-300 B.C. mosaic from the Villa del Casale, located approx. 3 km outside the town of Piazza Armerina, in Sicily, it makes me wonder whether the Bikini is that new and modern after all.
- Villa del Casale was abandoned after a landslide in the 12th Century AD.
- The first professional excavations of the site were made by Paolo Orsi in 1929, followed by the work of Giuseppe Cultrera in 1935-39.
- The last major excavations were conducted by Gino Vinicio Gentili, during 1950-60, after which a cover was built over the mosaics.
- It was Gentili who excavated the mosaic on the floor of the room dubbed the “Chamber of the Ten Maidens” (Sala delle Dieci Ragazze) aka “the bikini girls.”
- They have since been referred to as “Coronation of the Winner” which sounds a little bit like the cheesy bathing suit round of the “Miss Universe” or “Miss World” competition.
So, this makes me wonder, if the modern bikini was popularized by French engineer Louis Réard and separately by Parisian fashion designer, Jacques Heim in 1946, who or where did they get their influence from?