As prescribed by Paulina Constancia

DOTermination 1: Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny

This week DDoA brings you DOTermination, a special series featuring folks, trends and events that made or are making their mark in the history of dots…

PDR 34 final.qk

Polka Dot fashion – paper dolls by David Wolfe
Image via paperstudiopress

But before we get started, here’s a little information I gathered about POLKA DOT:

via wikipedia

The pattern shares its name with the dance form, making one suspect there is a connection linking the pattern to the dance. However, the name was likely settled upon merely because of the dance’s popularity at the time the pattern became fashionable, just as many other products and fashions of the era also adopted the polka name.

There were many other “polka” items, some of which include “polka-hats” and “polka-jackets.” Most disappeared with the fad of the actual polka dance. Only the polka dot fabric pattern remained popular, and the name has been left intact over the years.

*Polka comes from the Polish “pulka” meaning half-step in dance. Perhaps the delightful dance that takes one around in circles was its inspiration, but no matter, the dots have made an indelible smash on all kinds of fashion and ware (& more) via authorsden

Itsy bitsy teeny weeny – of course you know what follows after that phrase – yellow polka dot bikini!

Today we’ll look into the bikini: how it was named, how it was received by the public and how a song by Brian Hyland changed things for the controversial beach fashion from Europe…

BIKINI: a little history
Info via history.com

The events in Europe before the arrival of the bikini:
Fortified coastlines and Allied invasions curtailed beach life during the war, and swimsuit development, like everything else non-military, came to a standstill.

In 1946, Western Europeans joyously greeted the first war-free summer in years, and French designers came up with fashions to match the liberated mood of the people.

Who designed the daring two piece swimwear?

Two French designers, Jacques Heim and Louis Reard, developed competing prototypes of the daring 2 piece swimwear:

  • Heim’s design: called the “atom” and advertised it as “the world’s smallest bathing suit”
  • Reard’s design:  which was basically a bra top and two inverted triangles of cloth connected by string, was in fact significantly smaller. Made out of a scant 30 inches of fabric, Reard promoted his creation as “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit.” Reard called his creation the “bikini”, inspired by a news-making U.S. atomic test that took place off the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean earlier in the same week that his swimsuit design was unveiled.

Curious stories about the unveiling of the swimsuit:

  • Reard had trouble finding a professional model who would dare to wear the scandalously skimpy two-piece
  • He turned to Micheline Bernardini, an exotic dancer at the Casino de Paris, who was not shy to appear nearly nude in public.
  • As an allusion to the headlines that he knew his swimsuit would generate, he printed newspaper type across the suit that Bernardini modeled on July 5, 1946 at the Piscine Molitor.
  • The bikini was a hit, especially among men, and Bernardini received some 50,000 fan letters.

Micheline Bernardini modeling Réard’s bikini. It was so small it could fit into a small 2 by 2 inches (51 by 51 mm) box like the one she is holding. July 5, 1946
Image via wikipedia

Prohibitions and Eventual Acceptance of the Bikini

  • Before long, bold young women in bikinis were causing a sensation along the Mediterranean coast.
  • Spain and Italy passed measures prohibiting bikinis on public beaches; but later gave in to changing times when the swimsuit grew into a mainstay of European beaches in the 1950s.
  • In prudish America, the bikini was successfully resisted until the early 1960s, when a new emphasis on youthful liberation brought the swimsuit en masse to U.S. beaches. It was immortalized by the pop singer Brian Hyland, who sang “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” in 1960, by the teenage “beach blanket” movies of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, and by the California surfing culture celebrated by rock groups like the Beach Boys. Since then, the popularity of the bikini has only continued to grow.

Interesting collage of Brian Hyland’s album cover and the evolution of the yellow bikini
Image via Fashion Style


Beach Blanket Bingo
Image via thevideobeat


Brian Hyland singing Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini on a TV show


A REMAKE of Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini by Bombalurina


Are you curious about what happened to the Bikini Atoll?

Paradise lost – ‘for the good of mankind’
In 1946, the US government sent the 167 natives of Bikini Atoll into exile while it set about destroying their island with 23 nuclear tests. Local resident Jack Niedenthal tells what happened next.
Read more on The Guardian

  • Equivalent to 7,000 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb, the tests had major consequences on the geology and natural environment of Bikini Atoll and on the health of those who were exposed to radiation. Read more on UNESCO
  • Check out Nat Geo images of the “World’s Biggest Bomb”

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About the bikini fashion: I am a firm believer in the saying “leave a little bit to the imagination”. And also, when traveling around the world, it is important to respect local customs- including suggested beachwear.

About the Bikini Atoll bombings: if we share an awareness of our connectedness, this sort of insanity would never have happened (and can never be allowed to happen again). We share the same earth, the same waters…harming even one tiny island, affects all of us, believe it or not!


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This entry was posted on November 11, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .
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