The bikini is typically a women’s two-piece swimsuit. One part of the attire covers the breasts and the other part covers the groin and part of or the entire buttocks, leaving an uncovered area between the two. Merriam-Webster describes the bikini as “a woman’s scanty two-piece bathing suit. It is often worn in hot weather, while swimming or sunbathing. The shapes of both parts of a bikini resemble women’s underwear, and the lower part can range from revealing thong or g-string to briefs.
Predecessors of the bikini date to antiquity, in Çatalhöyük and the Greco-Roman world. Art dating from the Diocletian period in Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily depicts women in garments resembling bikinis in mosaics on the floor. The images of ten women, dubbed the “Bikini Girls”, exercising in clothing that would pass as bikinis today are the most replicated mosaic among the 37 million colored tiles at the site. Archeological finds, particularly in Pompeii, show the Roman goddess Venus wearing a bikini.
Bikinis gradually became briefer and lower with narrower sides in the 1970s, and by the late 70s/early 80s very low hipster bottoms with string sides and ties became the fashion. By the 1990s however, fashions changed and high-cut bottoms and bandeau tops were in vogue. Bikinis went brief again in the early 2000s as they followed the trend for everything hipster. Despite the high popularity of skimpy thongs and g-strings as underwear from 1998-2006, thong bikinis never made it into high street fashion. Low rise bikinis with string and tie-sides are currently fairly standard, reminiscent of late-70’s designs but not so low cut.
The bikini has spawned many stylistic variations. A regular bikini is defined as a two pieces of garments that cover the groin and buttocks at the lower end and the breasts in the upper end. Some bikinis can offer a large amount of coverage, while other bikinis provide only the barest minimum. Topless variants may still be considered bikinis, although technically no longer two-piece swimsuits.