Courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia blog (and Wikipedia) here's the story of how the bikini came to be:
Two Frenchmen are known as the inventors of the bikini, Jacques Heimand Louis Réard. In 1946, Louis Réard, an engineer, named his design "Bikini" after a Pacific Ocean atoll and Jacques Heim named his design "atome", the French word for atom, which he said was the world's smallest bathing suit. In response, Réard created a bathing suit with only 30 inches of fabric – it was so small, he couldn't find a model to wear it in public (eventually he hired a nude dancer who was photographed wearing one).Click here for more.
The bikini was considered too controversial and was banned in many European beaches, but during the 1950s many movie actresses, such asDiana Dors, Marilyn Monore and Jayne Mansfield were photographed wearing them and the bikini's popularity grew.