Are you beach bod ready?
Elinor Jones, Print Science Editor, scrutinises the ‘perfect’ summer body by exploring the bikini’s past and present
A quick Google search and I’m into a blackhole that seems never-ending. ‘Bikini body ready’ brings up a host of four, six, perhaps even twelve-step guides to the ‘perfect’ summer body, whatever that means. Whether it’s tips on how to stick with a liquid diet of kale and banana smoothies, or the latest fitness trend that doesn’t build muscle but burns fat, we are constantly bombarded with the bizarre and scientifically-false ways to lose weight, tone up, and feel comfortable in a two-piece.
Most years I’ve managed to avoid the barrage of Instagram influencers or self-made fitness vloggers very well. Until this year. Feeling the dawn of another summer of beach trips at home, potential holidays with friends and festivals where we defy the fact that it’s a British summer and wear minimal clothing in the rain, I apprehensively purchased a new bikini. This was partially in the hope that from somewhere I’d have a resurgence of passion to eat healthily, go to the gym, and drink less alcohol. For the first time in years I’d bought a bikini that wasn’t high-waisted, that would show my (lack of) abs and I felt good.
We are constantly bombarded with the bizarre and scientifically-false ways to lose weight, tone up, and feel comfortable in a two-piece.
However, this was about 5 weeks ago. Since then we’ve had exams and the associated post-exams drinking and meals out with friends, and I fear that I will never be bikini body ready. But as I scroll through my news feed trying to ignore all the women whom I believe are more beautiful than me, I realise: what is this all for?
Who was the first person to decide that women have to look a certain way or suit a particular piece of clothing? Initially designed by Jacques Heim in 1946, the bikini, or ‘Atome’ (the smallest particle known to man), failed to attract attention, so much so that he redesigned the two-piece to be a skimpier, smaller surface area of fabric, covering a smaller proportion of buttock, pelvis and breast, in the hope that runway models would literally run with the idea. However, his designs were controversial in the mid-twentieth century, and many refuted the idea. Louis Réard’s design appeared simultaneously, fitting into a box the size of a Kinder egg, backing up the previous definition.
As most big changes in social attitudes do, the first exposure of the bikini came from a nude dancer whose status and physique attracted actors and film producers alike, and soon you were able to see women wearing risqué swimwear down your local picturehouse. For women, there was nothing sexual about this, merely a revolution in body confidence and style. Men, however, were less open to the idea, saying that any woman who wore such a scandalously small amount of clothing was not decent, seeing prohibition of bikini-wearing in many European countries and US states.
For women, there was nothing sexual about bikinis, merely a revolution in body confidence and style
Whilst the film industry was advised to follow the same restrictions, everyone is familiar with that bikini worn by Ursula Andress as the famous Bond Girl in Dr. No. From the 1960s, women felt freer to wear their swimsuit of choice, no matter how revealing it was; a sense of empowerment.
For the last fifty years or so, women have been sunbathing, swimming, surfing, you name it, in the highly adaptable two-piece. But why now are we regressing back to the post-War days, feeling like only supermodels can show their flat stomachs and perfectly formed breasts? All genders should be embracing the beauty of the human form, whether when wearing sweatpants or a thong, we are all different. Most importantly, we can’t all get abs in four days or live off celery for weeks, and that is okay.