Love/Lust & the Bikini

From going behind the scenes at the hottest runway shows to delving into the private lives of the most influential designers, Sundance Channel’s Full Frontal Fashion programs have become a must-see for those who appreciate a good story as much as they do style.

Love/Lust is the latest series to join the lineup. The show tracks the past, present and future of iconic items, from the little black dress to the sexy heel, exploring their social impact through photographs, videos, movies and in-depth interviews. A particularly riveting episode covers an item whose history is rife with controversy and intrigue, one of our favorites: the bikini.

(Left) The story begins in 1946, when French engineer Louis Réard unveils “the bikini” in reaction to WWII fabric rationing. Composed of four triangles of fabric, the skimpy garment lives up to the controversy of its namesake: Bikini Atoll, the site of nuclear weapons tests by the United States. (Middle) The bikini remains relatively under wraps until 1953 when 18-year old Brigitte Bardot causes a stir at Cannes in the scandalous two-piece. A star is born. (Right) The bikini finally makes a splash in America in the early 60s, when ex-Mousketeer Annette Funicello gives the bikini a wholesome makeover in movies like Beach Party and Beach Blanket Bingo.

The next evolution of the item arrives in a pair of fantasy movies – one prehistoric, one post-apocalyptic – that turns the bikini into an object of fetish for men around the world. (Left) First in 1966, Raquel Welch explodes onto the big screen in One Million Years B.C. in a primitive get-up of rawhide scraps, giving the bikini a wild, untamed sensuality. (Right) Perhaps bikini’s most iconic moment occurs in 1983, when Princess Leia sheds her white monastic gown in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi for something a bit more seductive: a metal bikini. Decades later, the gold bikini remains the ultimate sexual fantasy for many and pops up regularly every October as a popular Halloween costume.

The bikini finally starts to gain mainstream acceptance and legitimacy as an apparel item in 1964 with the launch of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. While the inaugural issue features Babette March in a prim two-piece, the magazine goes on to capture some of bikini’s sexiest moments. (Left) In 1997, 23-year old Tyra Banks appears on the cover in a skimpy polka dot bikini, setting the tone for a successful career as a lingerie and swimwear model. (Right) In honor of Black History Month and the 10th anniversary of becoming the first African American to land the coveted cover, Banks recreates the photo in her 33-year old body, showing the world that a mature, curvy figure is sexy.

Taking a cue from Tyra Banks, these screen sirens show us how to rock a great bikini at any age and with any body type. (Left) After taking a break from acting, 41-year old Demi Moore returns to the big screen in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, flaunting a shockingly toned beach bod. (Middle) At 36, Halle Berry continues the streak of bikini-clad Bond bombshells in 2002’s Die Another Day. (Right) At 63, actress Helen Mirren adds “sex symbol” to her long and impressive resumé after being photographed in a bikini while on holiday. From the Queen to cougar, Mirren’s voluptuous yet toned figure is enviable and admirable at any age.

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