The Bikini: Making Waves for Decades

When romping around the beach or laying out poolside, the sun beating down in waves of blistering heat, the least amount of clothing possible is necessary. Cue: the bikini. An inter-continental staple, the bikini has been around for longer than one might expect. 

Ancient Ties

The first appearance of bikini-esque wear takes us back to ancient Greece and Rome. Artifacts sourced from these eras, such as a mosaic at the Piazza Armerina in Sicily, display women gymnasts and athletes wearing bandeau-style tops and brief style bottoms. As it turns out, the ancient Greeks and Romans were far ahead of their time; no garment so revealing came into fashion between then and the mid-1900s. 

Building Up to the Bikini

In the Victorian era, swimming was a wildly elaborate concealment process. Women used a cart called a “bathing machine.” A woman would enter the cart to change into her full-coverage bathing clothes, have a horse pull her cart into the sea, and finally disembark, slipping unseen into the water. 

In the early 1900s, swimming legend Annette Kellerman found herself facing indecent exposure charges after donning a one-piece, tank suit at a beach in Boston. Soon after, a wool, knitted one-piece, complete with a cap and stockings, became classic beach garb for women.  

In the early 1940s, what we might now consider to be a high-waisted bikini became appropriate. Stars like Ava Gardner and Esther Williams popularized this trend. Few took issue with the swimwear; the concealment of all skin below the bellybutton satiated the masses.

Birth of the Modern Bikini

The summer of 1946 ushered in the first bikini and the world was scandalized. At a poolside fashion show, a designer named Jacques Heim debuted what he called the “atome,” a perhaps distasteful nod to the recently developed atomic bombs and a suggestion that the clothing garment might have a similar impact. Shortly after, on July 5th of 1946, rival designer Louis RĂ©ard debuted an even tinier piece. He named his design “le bikini,” named for the United States’ atomic testing site, Bikini Atoll. He too was suggesting equal monument to the bomb. 

The backlash to the introduction of the never-before-seen bikini, or rather, the never-before-seen parts of a woman’s body, was enormous. Americans firmly believed that the bikini would never make it to their shores. In countries like Spain, Portugal, and Italy, the swimsuit was immediately banned. The outfit was taboo. 

Bound for the States

Harper’s Bazaar became the first magazine to promote the bikini in the United States, despite iconic fashion editor Diana Vreeland’s comment that it revealed “everything about a girl except her mother’s maiden name.” However, for about a decade afterward, the bikini was on a slow climb to popularity. By 1960, it was an American staple. Singer Brian Hyland solidified the trend with his hit song, “Itsy Bitsy, Teenie Weenie, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”

Throughout the next few decades, the bikini only grew in fashion fame. James Bond female protagonist Ursula Andress wore a bikini for her role in 1962, designer Rudi Gernreich debuted his androgynous “monokini” in 1964, and the very first Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue came out in 1967.

Today, nearly every female celebrity, from Kylie Jenner to Heidi Klum to Simone Mariposa has rocked a bikini in public. New styles have cropped up, like the high-neck, the one-shoulder, the ruched bottoms, the thong, and the bandeau top. Even the 1940s high-waisted bikini look is having a moment in modern fashion. 

Despite a history of scandal and unstable footing, the bikini is not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, it’s about time for an update to the classic beach look. What up-and-coming swimwear style is destined to shake up the world next? 

The Blazer: A Tradition Born on a Boat

 The blazer is considered by many to be essential to looking sharp. A few adjectives tend to fit well in a discussion of the clothing item: preppy, classy, gentlemanly, smart. Few are aware, however, of the history of the blazer and how it came to merit such fine regard. 

What is it and How is it Worn?

Before moving forward, it’s important to fully understand this garment. The blazer can be either strictly formal or a bit more casual. The former is often four, six or eight buttoned and double-breasted, while the latter is two or three buttoned and single-breasted. 

Like all important pieces of fashion, there are rules for how to wear it. A one-button blazer must always remain button except when the wearer is seated. For two and three-button blazers, the bottom button should remain free. All buttons on a four-button blazer must remain fastened.

The pockets must be used appropriately, as well. The breast pocket is reserved solely for a pocket square. The waist pockets must not be filled to the brim, lest the blazer shape be ruined. Some blazers have a “ticket” pocket which was originally for use in storing train tickets. 

Nautical Origins

There are two stories detailing how this jacket came to be, one for each of the two types of blazer, single and double-breasted.

It was the sport of rowing at British universities Oxford and Cambridge during the late 1800s that spawned the single-breasted blazer. The men on the team would wear these jackets during warmups. They were the casual sweats of the time, meant to warm chilly sportsmen on early morning practice rides. Like warm-up gear for modern sports teams, each rowing team wore distinctly patterned and embellished blazers. According to this history, the word “blazer” came from the “blazing red” jackets worn by Cambridge’s Lady Margaret Boat Club, a description printed in 1952 article. 

The double-breasted blazer is said to have originated on a boat called the HMS Blazer, whose captain had short, double-breasted navy blazers fashioned for his sailors in preparation for a visit from Queen Victoria in 1837. She liked the garments and their shiny, brass buttons so much that she made them part of the official Royal Navy uniform. In this history, of course, the word “blazer” comes from the name of the ship. 

Coming Ashore

The single-breasted blazer began to infiltrate mainland life when other British university sports teams began to refer to their own uniform jackets as “blazers.” Soon, Ivy-League American universities like Princeton and Yale began to adopt this clothing article. Eventually, the blazer was no longer confined to be worn as a part of athletic uniforms as it fell into favor with the public. 

The double-breasted blazer left the Royal Navy as owners of yachts and other sailing vessels began to have their own blazers fashioned by tailors. Famous outfitters, like Gieves and Hawkes in London, began to field requests for blazers by customers who had no connection to sailing.

Through these diffusion methods, the blazer lost any nautical association and became a wardrobe necessity of the well-dressed across Europe and, soon after, the globe. 

The Modern Blazer 

Once worn only by elite men, the blazer has crossed gender lines and is now just as essential a part of a savvy woman’s closet. This is demonstrated by high-powered female politicians like Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, and Elizabeth Warren, who are all champions of the garment.

Blazers today are reaching new fashion heights. Some of the current trends include vibrant colors, unique textures and form-fitting styles and out-of-the-box structures. 

Whether double-breasted or single, eight-buttoned or two, the blazer is a clothing item that allows any wearer to effortlessly exude sophistication and polish. 

T-Shirts: From Ancient Underwear to Everyone’s Go-To

From free event giveaways to expensive designer styles, most people have owned dozens of t-shirts throughout their lives. This wardrobe staple is important for good reason–a t-shirt is one of the only articles of clothing that’s perfect for working out, sleeping, spending time with friends, and pretty much everything in between. But if you turn back the clock and look at the origins of today’s closet MVP, you might be surprised how much change the t-shirt has gone through to get to this point. 

Warrior Wardrobe Essential

In ancient times, the t-shirt was first worn by warriors. Serving as a protective barrier between fragile skin and unsanitary chain mail, medieval soldiers often wore t-shirts under their armor to stay safer and cleaner during battle. It wasn’t long until civilians caught on and started donning t-shirts themselves, for the same reasons of increased hygiene and safety. 

Although the t-shirt today is considered an acceptable outfit on its own, it wasn’t until very recently that it graduated from underwear to full-fledged garment. From the medieval villagers who first discovered them to the royalty who wore them underneath tight corsets to prevent chafing, t-shirts actually began as a luxury for people who could afford that extra barrier between skin and clothes. T-shirts were also originally intended to work the other way around and protect clothes from the harmful effects of friction and sweat, making them even more important for wealthy people whose clothes were incredibly valuable. 

Underrated Undershirt

Around the start of the 20th century, however, t-shirts started to come down from high society and actually get back closer to their military roots. In 1913, the Navy started requiring that all officers wear t-shirts under their uniforms to make them last longer and save money–just like the medieval warriors from a thousand years ago. This time, instead of becoming a luxury for the wealthy, undershirts began to catch on with everyday people. Companies like Fruit of the Loom noticed the trend and started producing a wide variety of shapes and styles, from crew cut to V neck, to appeal to the masses. 

Just when it started to seem like the t-shirt was doomed never to see the light of day, something crazy happened–celebrities started wearing t-shirts and nothing else, a super scandalous move at the time. 1950’s icons like Marlon Brando and James Dean consistently wore t-shirts both on- and off-screen in movies like Rebel without a Cause and A Streetcar Named Desire, sparking everyone else to rethink the possibilities of their favorite cotton undershirt. The trend even spread to more “sophisticated” celebrities like presidential candidate Thomas Dewey, who created the first-ever slogan t-shirt for his “Do it with Dewey” campaign. 

King of the Closet

Today, t-shirts have a wide variety of applications from marketing to youth sports to comedy TV shows. A far cry from their origin as military dress and taboo undergarments, t-shirts have become a modern American staple and have spread throughout the world. You can find people wearing t-shirts on pretty much any occasion, from doing yard work to attending church. 

Not only has the number of people wearing this garment increased, but so has the amount of people manufacturing the garment. Since no company has the sole rights to the t-shirt, virtually every clothing brand has their own variation on the classic, changing the color, fit, fabric, and adornments to fit their target customer.

Many t-shirts nowadays are actually blended fabrics made from combinations of cotton, polyester, rayon, linen, and countless other fabric types.  Because of this flexibility with fabric options, t-shirts run the gamut from form-fitting to loose and boxy. Recently, wearing men’s t-shirts has become a huge trend in women’s fashion, with fabrics like cotton and polyester allowing men’s shirts to highlight feminine curves.

Transcending gender, age, time, and occasion, the t-shirt has risen up the ranks of fashion for the past 1,000 years, morphing from an ancient battle precaution to a beloved item found in closets around the world today. So next time you throw on a t-shirt and run some errands, be sure to send up a little thank-you to Marlon Brando.