Diana Dors once wore a mink one for the Venice Film Festival, Ursula Andress walked out of the sea and into film history wearing her glorious white one in Dr No, while just last month Denise Van Outen launched her own "fun and flirty" range for Top Shop. The bikini is more popular now than ever, with Gucci's latest hipster number (far right), this summer's must-have, a snip (before it sold out) at pounds 350. It all started with a French designer called Louis Reard, but back in July 1946 he couldn't even persuade a proper catwalk model to pose for him, and had to settle for 19-year-old Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Cafe de Paris. The photograph of her (right) caused such a sensation that she quickly received more than 50,000 fan letters. Reard named his invention after Bikini Atoll in the Pacific where the first post-war atomic bomb test had just taken place, because, he said, there was very little left of the conventional swimsuit by the time he had finished with it. Ditto the Attol, which is still too contaminated by radiation for human habitation. The late Forties ban on the bikini in Italy, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and on Hampstead Heath has since been lifted.
Birth of the bikini