13 août 2016
2 juill. 2015
In my first post, we saw that two-piece bikini-like garments were worn by women for athletic purposes in Ancient Greece, as far back as 1 400 BC. It seemed like a natural thing that, even in these times : design followed function. But it was not as simple as that. You know the adage : other times, other morals. What seems natural in some societies is often inadmissible or licentious in others, even in our world that we call the "global village". The way different peoples see things depends of who (political authorities, interest group, etc) has the power to rule the society.
In occidental countries, the Catholic Church had such a powerful influence up until the middle of the last century, that it could determine what was right and what was wrong. Kings, dictators, or even democratic leaders could not govern without the advices or the rules imposed by the religious authorities. In the fist two millenniums of our era, as a citizen or an inhabitant of a christian country, you were not allowed to do or say something that the priests and the Pope would condemn. They hold the truth and nobody could challenge them on almost any question even for matters, like those related to sciences, they did not have the competence to understand or judge. They would even threaten, imprison, torture or kill people who did'nt agree with them on some conflicting issues.
For examples, great discoverers like Copernicus and Galileo were forced by the Church to deny their brilliant theories about the earth, because these findings went against the dogmatic views or the superstitions of the christian religion. Galileo was found guilty of heresy even if he provided evidence for his heliocentric theory by using a telescope. Later, when Charles Darwin elaborated his theory of the evolution, it was impossible for the Catholic Church to accept that we "were all apes". It was in complete contradiction of the "official story" told in the Genesis (first book of the Old Testament).
Of course, we can not compare the invention of the "modern bikini" to the great discoveries made by Copernicus, Galileo or Darwin. But the creation of this new bathing suit in 1946 had a shocking impact too. And, for the religious authorities, it was a unacceptable scandal ! A monster of indecency ! In many countries, not long after his invention, the bikini was condemned and banned. His inventor, French engineer Louis Réard (1897-1984), knew that his new creation would be a "bomb" ! That's the reason why he named it after Bikini Atoll, in the Pacific, the site of an atomic bomb test on July 1, 1946. And, compared to the beachwears of the first 30 years of the century (picture above), the bikini was so small that it seems to "split the Atome", like Réard used to say. This innovation was to expose the navel. How shocking !
If Réard did "split the Atome", it was because one of his competitor, fashion designer Jacques Heim (1889-1967), had already created the "Atome" (picture above), which, he claimed, was, in 1932, the smallest bathing suit ever. Réard, who was running his mother's lingerie boutique near "Les Folies Bergères", in Paris, wanted to challenge this title. Like all the great inventors, he was a very good observer. He had noticed that women were rolling up their beachwear to get a better tan. By doing so, they were expressing a need. Réard found the solution. He sliced the top off the bottoms and advertised these new two-piece as "smaller than the smallest swimsuit".
But Réard's invention was so audacious and ahead of his time that he could not find a model to wear his first bikini. He ended up hiring Micheline Bernardini (picture above), a nude dancer from the "Casino de Paris". She was first seen, wearing the famous tiny two-piece, on July 5, at Piscine Molitor, a public pool in Paris. Her bikini was a string one, with a g-string back of 30 square inches (194 cm²) of cloth with newspaper type print.
And yes ! It was quite a hit (a bomb), especially among men. The beautiful Micheline Bernardini received 50 000 letters, and Réard's business soared ! We can see him (picture above, in 1946) adjusting his popular "polka dot strapless bikini" on another queen of beauty. But if the bikini was a success on the beaches of France, as early as in 1947, it would take time to be welcomed elsewhere... We will see that in the next posts...
19 oct. 2014
In 1964, long before he became the 43rd president of the United States (2001-2009), George W. Bush (photo below) was a cheerleader at Phillips Academy, a boarding school (then all-male) in Andover, Massachusetts. Ironically, we like to think that Bush was a cheerleader all his life. Once the owner of the Texas Rangers, a major league baseball team, he certainly cheered for his club. And even as a USA president, he must have been a kind of cheerleader in chief to lead his powerful country.
If, in the mid-sixties, the pom pom girls tradition was already well established, it was not the case when cheer leading began at the end of the 19th century, up until the second World War (1939-45). Women joined this kind of activities only in 1923, and no pompons were involved, since they were not invented then. Before that it was essentially an all-man discipline performed by students, first at Princeton, as early as 1877, and, after, at the University of Minnesota. The very first cheerleader was Johnny Campbell, who, in 1898 (November 2), directed a crowd in cheering «Rah, Rah, Rah ! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah ! Hoo-Rah ! Varsity ! Varsity ! Minn-e-so-Tah !». The key word here is "directed", because it means that Campbell planned his initiative, unlike the boys before him, who were more "yell leaders" than cheerleaders, from the stands where they operated... Yes, in these times, those who stimulated crowds were not on the players field, like today's cheerleaders.
Fighting on the battle fields, or engaged in war duties, in the first half the 1940s, American men were replaced by women to cheer for sports teams. Today, 97% of all modern cheerleading participants overall are female, except at the collegiate level, where girls and boys are equally represented. After the war, cheerleading progressed a lot by incorporing gymnastics, tumbling and megaphones. Cheerleading became very popular. Local and national competitions were organized in many places. In 1965, Fred Gastoff invented the vinyl pompon.
Of course, through the decades, cheerleaders uniforms have dramatically changed to reflect the changes in American culture and fashion trends. This evolution also followed the development of cheerleading itself. From the 1920s to the end of the war, as long as the female cheerleaders did not move a lot to perform, they wore long wool skirts and collared shirts that were not a lot different from the bathing suits of their times.
|Lafayette cheerleaders in 1922|
It could be argued that we have come full circle when we consider bathing suits and cheerleaders outfits. In our first article, last month, we mentioned that active women in ancient Greece wore a kind of bikini when they were practicing sports. For them, it was simply natural to do so because athletics activities required to move freely, without being restricted or bothered by too much clothes. Breast bands and briefs allowed them to move more easily. The same thing applied gradually, through the years, for female cheerleaders, when their routines became more and more complex and required uniforms more adapted to their gymnastic or dance moves.
We say that we have come full circle, because we also know that in the Middle Ages, the kind of breasts bands and briefs wore by Greek women 1 400 BC, continued to be used as undergarments. Now, all these historic features are present in the modern cheerleaders wardrobes ! On the sports fields or on the playing surfaces, their uniforms has become very light, very short, very...minimal ! More than that, in the photo shootings for their team calendar, the pom pom girls appear in bikinis and even in lingerie (photos above and below) !
|A Houston Rockets cheerleader being photographed for the team calendar in 2011|
Of course, tissues have changed. From cotton and leather, in the ancient Roman-Greek era, we have passed to more refined or high tech fabrics like lace, spandex, polyester, etc. And yes, without a doubt, cheerleaders wearing these short outfits are a lot more sexy than George W. Bush, even when he was a young at Phillips Academy !
25 août 2014
Though the bikini shocked when it appeared on French women wearing it on the beaches of their country, this sexy peace of cloth was nothing new under the sun... 3 400 years ago, Greec women worn bikini-like garments for athletic purposes. In his writings, poet Ovid suggested that women of his time had a long strip of cloth wrapped around the breasts and tucked in the ends.
This breastband, called mastodeton or an apodesmos, and the partly high cut briefs and partly loincloth, which went with it, were not so different from the ones seen on today's women when they are sun-bathing. Well, Rihanna's beautiful bikini (photo) may be more sophisticated but, it's the same basis ! After the Ancient Greece era, these breastbands continued to be used as an undergarment in the Middle Ages. Many historians think that they may have been also used to flatten big breasts and to padd small breasts to look bigger. An old trick still used today !
The most amazing proof of the existence of bikinis, well before our time, was found in Sicily by Gino Vinicio Gentile, in 1950-60. In Villa Romana del Casale, he discovered artwork dating back to 286-305 AD, showing "Bikini Girls" weight-lifting, discus throwing, playing with a ball, running and dancing. Similar mosaics have been discovered in the north of Italy. There has been no evidence that these bikinis were used for swimming or sun-bathing. In Ancient Rome, sex workers were also wearing costumes similar to the "Bikini Girls".
It's funny how history can repeat itself or come back to its beginnings ! Maybe bikinis were the first step in clothing history after birthday suits ! When we see these pictures of the "Bikini Girls" of the Villa Romana del Casale, we realize how modern the ancients were ! Think of it ! These beautiful women wearing sexy bikinis were Kate Upton's ancestors ! Read my article about her on my web site STARS ON BEACH (starsonbeach.blogspot.com).