FYI: Who invented the bikini? 'It is hardly necessary to waste words over the so called bikini since it is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing.' - Modern Girl Magazine, 1957. The bikini is 60 years old and it has never looked so young and hip, or been as popular. But it was not always so. In 1946, Louis Reard, a French automobile engineer, shocked the fashion world when he unleashed a range of revealing two-piece swimsuits. 'My bikini is smaller than the smallest swimsuit,' he proudly declared. Even fashionable, daring Paris blushed. Reard was fully aware of the impact his creation was going to have; expecting an explosive reaction, he had chosen to name his garment after the Pacific Ocean atoll on which the United States had just carried out its first peacetime nuclear-bomb test. Reard dropped his bomb in July, having refined the work of compatriot Jacques Heim, a designer for a family-owned furrier who, two months earlier, had introduced the Atome (named for its size) and advertised it as the world's 'smallest bathing suit'. Splitting the Atome into even smaller components, however, presented Reard with a problem. His design was seen as being so indecent, he could find no self-respecting fashion model daring enough to suffer such a brief encounter. He ended up having to hire Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris, as his model. Shock waves began to emanate from Paris and in 1951, bikinis were banned from the Miss World contest. It took 15 years for the bikini to be accepted in the United States and it was another French export who led the way. In 1957, a navel-baring Brigitte Bardot appeared in And God Created Woman and suddenly the bikini was 'in'. Its acceptance was cemented in 1960, when Brian Hyland's pop song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini became a hit and inspired a second round of bikini mania. By 1963, the movie Beach Party, starring Annette Funicello (emphatically not in a bikini, at mentor Walt Disney's personal request) and Frankie Avalon, led a wave of films that made the bikini a pop-culture symbol. The 1970s saw the bikini shrink even smaller; the back of the lower part of the Brazilian thong becoming so thin it disappeared between the buttocks. Taking their cue from Bardot, a number of actresses have used the bikini as an instrument to launch their careers, including Bond girl Ursula Andress (her scene portraying Honey Ryder emerging seductively from the sea in Dr No was voted the sexiest-ever moment on film in a Channel 4 television poll in Britain), Bo Derek, Melanie Griffith, Elle Macpherson and every Baywatch babe who managed to win parts away from the beaches of Los Angeles County. Over the past half century, the bikini has gone from strength to strength and spawned such wonders as the tankini (a tank top and a bikini bottom), the bandini (think about it), the monokini (for topless bathing; how the world has changed!), the string (tiny triangular pieces of material and little else) and the halter. Developments have almost always adhered to a less-is-more philosophy. Reard once said, 'A bikini is not a bikini unless it can be pulled through a wedding ring.' If the bikini's evolution continues on its current trajectory, it'll soon be possible to pull one through the eye of a needle. Funnily enough, I can't remember the last time I saw an issue of Modern Girl Magazine on the newsstands.