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Rayon was used in the 1920s in the manufacture of tight-fitting swimsuits, By the 1930s, manufacturers had lowered necklines in the back, removed sleeves, and tightened the sides.With the development of new clothing materials, particularly latex and nylon, swimsuits gradually began hugging the body through the 1930s, with shoulder straps that could be lowered for tanning.While still considered risqué, the bikini gradually became a part of popular culture when film stars—Brigitte Bardot, Raquel Welch, Ursula Andress and others—began wearing them on public beaches and in film.The bikini design became common in most Western countries by the mid-1960s as beachwear, swimwear and underwear.In Europe, 17-year-old Brigitte Bardot wore scanty bikinis (by contemporary standards) in the French film Manina, la fille sans voiles ("Manina, the girl unveiled").The promotion for the film, released in France in March 1953, drew more attention to Bardot's bikinis than to the film itself.

In 1942, the United States War Production Board issued Regulation L-85, cutting the use of natural fibers in clothing Although briefer than the two-piece swimsuits of the 1930s, the bottom of Heim's new two-piece beach costume still covered the wearer's navel.

For women, wearing a bikini signaled a kind of second liberation. It was instead a celebration of freedom and a return to the joys in life." Fashion magazine Modern Girl Magazine in 1957 stated that "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".

In 1951, Eric Morley organized the Festival Bikini Contest, a beauty contest and swimwear advertising opportunity at that year's Festival of Britain.

He named the swimsuit after Bikini Atoll, where testing on the nuclear bomb was taking place.

Fashion designer Jacques Heim, also from Paris, re-released a similar design earlier that same year, the Atome.

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