A bikini is a two-piece women's bathing suit that resembles a bra and panties in shape. Though Louis Réard and Jacques Heim designed the first bathing suit known by this name for a 1946 fashion show, the style predates their design. Films and photographs from earlier in the 20th century show women in two-piece swimsuits, and there are even ancient Roman mosaics featuring women exercising in costumes that closely resemble the modern-day suit.
There are many different styles of bikini. The one that officially debuted in 1946 was a string bikini, with triangles of fabric covering the breasts and genitals and strings making up the rest. Many also offer coverage of the buttocks, though the 1946 one did not. Other styles include a bandeau top — a rectangular strip of fabric covering the breasts — a top with cups similar to a push-up bra, and more modest bottom pieces such as briefs, shorts, or briefs with a small skirt attached. A more modern variant, the tankini, includes a tank top.
Réard and Heim named their new bathing suit after the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the site of a recent nuclear weapons test, in reference to the "explosive" effect the bathing suit would have. The design was so scandalous that only a nude dancer agreed to model it. However, it began to catch on in the coming decades, with the help of such bikini-clad movie stars as Brigitte Bardot in 1956's And God Created Woman and Ursula Andress as the first Bond girl in 1962's Dr. No. By the 1960s, it was one of the most popular styles in women's swimwear.
A newer type of women's swimwear inspired by the bikini is called the monokini. The term is a play on the original name, as mono- means "one" and bi- means "two," though the bikini is named after a place and its name does not really mean "two" of anything. A monokini may simply be the bottom part of a two-piece worn alone for topless sunbathing, or it may be a skimpy one-piece garment that resembles the bikini, leaving the midriff mostly bare. The first monokini was designed in 1964 by Rudi Gernreich and left the breasts bare, though it provided significant coverage of the bottom half of the torso.