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What Is a String Bikini?

A string bikini is a minimalist swimsuit with slender, string-like straps that offer a liberating fit and less coverage than traditional bikinis. It's a bold choice for beach-goers seeking to maximize their tan lines and embrace a daring fashion statement. Intrigued by its evolution and cultural impact? Discover how this iconic design has shaped swimwear trends through the decades.
Eleanor Newman
Eleanor Newman

A string bikini is a women’s swimming garment that is typically made of fabric swaths held together with strings or thin cords. In most cases two triangles cover the breasts and attach with strings at the neck and back, and a more elongated triangle covers the groin and buttocks, usually with ties at the hip. There are a number of different variations on this basic style. Some designs are quite revealing, while others, despite their minimalism, are much more conservative. The suits are usually available in a range of different fabrics and patterns, too. When they first debuted in the 1970s, many people were shocked by their revealing and “immodest” nature. In some places and within some cultures this sort of swimsuit is still considered inappropriate, but in much of the world it’s more or less standard. In fact, some designers have come up with swimsuits that are even more revealing and provocative.

Style Characteristics and Variations

The bikini was invented in the 1940s.
The bikini was invented in the 1940s.

String bikinis follow the basic format of a standard bikini, which is to say that they are in two separate pieces and leave the midriff wholly exposed. The distinction usually comes with respect to how those pieces are assembled and connected. In string variations, the top is typically comprised of two triangles of material that cover the breasts, and are connected across the chest with a string that ties in the back. Another string links the top two corners and ties around the neck.

Bottoms can come in a variety in styles, but typically, the more conservative options will feature a low-rise or fuller coverage bottom that ties at the hip. Thongs are another possibility. These use far less fabric, usually a triangle to cover the crotch, narrowing into a thong that leaves the buttocks almost entirely exposed.

Basic History of the Bikini

The bikini was invented in 1946 by Louis Reard, a French engineer and lingerie seller. Reard’s goal was to recreate a basic bra and underwear set for women to wear while bathing. Bikinis were controversial in the 1940s for their revealing nature, but on modern standards most early models were quite conservative. They showed more skin than other suits of the time certainly, but almost always featured high-waisted bottoms and “full coverage” tops. The string version is much skimpier.

Rumor has it that the string bikini was designed by a Brazilian model named Rose De Primallio, who apparently tried to sew her own bikini using only a tiny amount of fabric. Soon after, a group of models unveiled the string model for the first time at a New Orleans mall in 1974. Clergymen and conservatives in he region immediately denounced the skimpy new bikinis, but shoppers flocked to the mall. The garment’s popularity skyrocketed, and it has become a staple of women’s swimwear in the year’s since.

Controversy and Modesty Complaints

Despite being more or less commonplace in most settings, this sort of swimsuit may still be inappropriate in certain settings. A number of more conservative cultures, religious groups, and even communities also consider them inappropriate. Even so, they aren’t usually the most revealing option. In 1964, Austrian designer Rudi Gernreich invented a topless swimsuit, which he called the monokini. A monokini is swimsuit bottom attached to suspender-like straps, leaving the breasts bare. He later invented pubikinis, which reveal the pubic area for all to see. Most public beaches and pools don’t allow these suits unless nudity or partial nudity is permitted.

Micro bikinis, also known as "microkinis," are another alternative. These cover just enough to keep the wearer legal in most locations. Another barely-there bikini, called the sling bikini, is a V-shaped garment that extends from the groin to the shoulders, covering the nipples and exposing everything else. The V narrows to a thong in the back. Both of these are usually better for sunning than actually swimming, since the fabric is prone to slipping with movement.

Buying Tips

When buying a string bikini, it's important for people to choose a style that reveals only as much skin as the they are comfortable showing. The straps should be adjustable and should tie securely. The last thing most women want is for a wave to take their top off. Side ties look sexy, but can get caught and untie easily; double side straps usually provide more security. Most importantly, the swimsuit chosen should makes the wearer feel good about her body, whether that's a microkini or a one-piece suit.

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Discussion Comments



But humans aren't just animals, we have advanced societal rules which are being assailed by increasing disregard of morality, the very basis of our society. If people don't wear anything, that could contribute to the erosion of family bonds, increasing extramarital affairs and lack of care for children. Even if evolution is true and we are animals, this kind of behavior would foster a "devolution" on our part.



Other animals don't wear clothes, why should we? The more we recognize that we are just like the others in the kingdom animalia, the better.


Fifty years ago, people would wear full suits to go swimming in public. Sure, they usually skinny-dipped when in a private setting or bathing, but in public they wore much more. Today, the amount of clothing required for a "bathing suit" has come to resemble underwear. Soon we will follow Europe, wearing little to nothing at all when we go to the beach. I am worried about where this will take us.

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    • The bikini was invented in the 1940s.
      By: Natalya Glinskaya
      The bikini was invented in the 1940s.