We've rounded up the most iconic bikinis in pop culture history—and the gorgeous women who wore them
The First-Ever Bikini
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Designer Louis Reard, a Parisian automobile engineer turned fashion designer, introduced the inaugural bikini on July 5, 1946. The suit was merely a bra top with two inverted triangles connected by a string, fashioned from a mere 30 inches of fabric (which was quite risqué for the time). Early advertisements even claimed that the test of a genuine bikini was that it could be pulled through a wedding ring!
No model would dare to wear such a skimpy suit, until 19-year-old French showgirl Micheline Bernardini rose to the challenge. Shot at a popular swimming pool in Paris, the photo was a headline-making success and the model received more than 50,000 fan letters.
RELATED: The Top Bikini Models of All Time
Marilyn Monroe's Polka Dot Bikini
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Marilyn Monroe has posed in numerous bathing suits over the years, but her 1951 photo shoot just might be one of the most memorable. Though the polka dot two-piece was relatively modest compared to today's bikini, there's no mistaking her famous curves. The iconic photo preceded the catchy song "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," which made it to No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1960.
Brigitte Bardot, The Girl in the Bikini
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Thanks to her memorable performance (and memorable body!) in the film The Girl in the Bikini, French actress Brigitte Bardot earned the nickname "The Bikini Girl" shortly after its premiere in 1952. The blonde bombshell became a Hollywood sex symbol and went on to star in 47 films, as well as recording more than 50 songs.
Deborah Kerr, From Here to Eternity
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It's no surprise that the scene between swimsuit-clad Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster in the 1953 film From Here To Eternity is ranked as cinema's most romantic beach embrace. "I don't think anyone knew I could act until I put on a bathing suit," Kerr once said. The stunning star went on to be nominated for the Academy Award for best actress six times.
Ursula Andress, Dr. No
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As the world's first and most famous Bond Girl, Ursula Andress definitely rocked a swimsuit like no other. The white bikini she wore emerging from the sea in the 1962 film became an iconic moment in cinematic history. Not only did sales for the two-piece skyrocket after she played Honey Ryder, but in 2001 her infamous swimsuit sold at an auction for more than $60,000.
RELATED: The Best Swimsuit for Your Body Type
Playboy's June 1962 Cover
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Playboy first featured a bikini on its cover in 1962, which depicted the bottom half of a woman's body in a black swimsuit, captioned as "A Toast to Bikinis."
Photo credit: Archival Playboy Magazine material © 1962 by Playboy. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Annette Funicello, Beach Party
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Throughout the 1960s, there was nothing better than watching America's sweetheart Annette Funicello frolicking in the sand and living it up with Frankie Avalon in countless Beach Party movies. In the first flick of the series, the brunette beauty rocked a two-piece swimsuit, thus sparking a huge fashion trend. Credited for making the bikini seem wholesome, the cute-as-a-button teen star knew how to keep it clean and classy.
Raquel Welch, One Million Years B.C.
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She may have only had about three lines in the classic 1966 film, but actress Raquel Welch's super skimpy (and oh-so-sexy) fur bikini from the flick has since become one of the most iconic images in pop culture history. The brunette bombshell became a Hollywood sex symbol seemingly overnight, and Playboy even crowned her the "most desired woman" of the 1970s.
Interestingly enough, Welch said she thought the movie would be "swept under the carpet" and nobody would ever see it! "I even complained to the studio. I was like, 'Please, please don't make me do the dinosaur movie.' They were like, 'No, Raquel, you don't understand. It's a classic. It'll live on forever.' Turns out they were right."
Farrah Fawcett, 1976 Swimsuit Poster
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She may not be wearing a bikini in the shot, but nearly every teenage boy in America had Farrah Fawcett's infamous swimsuit poster on his bedroom wall in the 1970s. The pin-up photo was so red hot, it sold millions of copies and made Fawcett an icon.
"I think the reason it was such a success is that Farrah had such a fresh face. She was the girl next door. So if you were a teenager, you could bring this in the house and put it up in your room—as long as Mom didn't look too closely," said photographer Bruce McBroom.
Bo Derek, 10
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In the 1979 film, 10, Bo Derek sure did prove that a one-piece swimsuit could be just as hot as a bikini! The actress heated up the big screen in a nude swimsuit with cornrow braids, looking nothing short of a "perfect 10." Her unforgettable slow motion beach jog from the famous flick made her one of Hollywood's most iconic sex symbols. "10 was amazing. I had no career before 10 and then all of a sudden I was able to do pretty much whatever in the business," she's said.
Carrie Fisher, Return of the Jedi
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Carrie Fisher‘s return for Star Wars: Episode VII isn't quite a lock yet (even if she does like to joke that it is), but her appearance is 1983's Return of the Jedi will never be forgotten. Her metallic lingerie costume in the famous film was so hot, it even spawned a dedicated fansite—Leia's Metal Bikini—as well as various spoofs and parodies. While it may have looked quite spectacular, apparently it wasn't the most comfortable. Fischer once described the costume as "what supermodels will eventually wear in the seventh ring of hell!"
"It was like steel, not steel, but hard plastic, and if you stood behind me you could see straight to Florida," the actress has said.
Photo credit: © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved
Pamela Anderson, Baywatch
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The one-piece red swimsuit Pamela Anderson wore during her five-year stint from 1992 to 1997 on the megahit television series Baywatch was so skimpy, it may as well have been a bikini! With her trademark slow motion running beach shots, it's pretty obvious why she made the list.
1994 Olympic Uniforms
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When the bikini became the official uniform of women's Olympic beach volleyball back in 1994, it sparked huge controversy. Some officials considered it exploitative and unpractical in colder weather, while others said the uniforms' sex appeal brought extra attention to the sport and drew in more fans.
"The uniform draws them in. Once they see the athleticism of the sport, they're hooked on it," April Ross told the Huffington Post. Despite the popularity, new rules were announced in March 2012, saying female competitors would be permitted to wear shorts and sleeved tops out of respect for different cultural beliefs.
Elizabeth Hurley, Bedazzled
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Elizabeth Hurley pulled off the perfect temptress, looking devilishly hot in that sultry, sparkly red bikini from the 2000 remake Bedazzled. Her trim and taut bod was so memorable in the movie, she was finally able to make a name for herself outside of her high-profile relationship with hunky actor Hugh Grant. Perhaps the attention-sparking role even inspired the English model's own line of luxury swimwear, which she recently launched.
Halle Berry, Die Another Day
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Halle Berry gave former Bond Girl Honey Ryder a major run for her money in this similarly styled figure-flaunting belted bikini from the 2002 film, Die Another Day.
"When we recreated the white bikini for my role, I figured it would be talked about, but more as a homage to Ursula Andress and her Bond film. I never thought it would become such a huge part of my filmography—but, hey, worse pictures could follow me!" Berry has said.
RELATED: Our Fave Bond Girls: Then and Now
Demi Moore, Charlie's Angels
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Demi Moore's starring turn in the 2003 flick Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle redefined what it meant to be an actress totally kicking butt. The sexy star, who was 40 at the time, absolutely sizzled in a tiny black bikini as she strutted out of the surf. Her killer body was so hot, she upstaged her much younger co-stars in the scene-stealing role.
"Oh my God, it's insane—she has the most beautiful figure," said co-star Drew Barrymore. "And I heard she pigged out on Chinese food right before we shot."
Jessica Simpson, Dukes of Hazzard
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After months of dieting and weeks in the weight room re-sculpting her physique, Jessica Simpson finally got a booty fit to rock those infamously short Daisy Dukes. The blonde bombshell hired trainer Michael Alexander to get into serious shape for the sexy 2005 role, and the results were amazing—especially when she donned that skimpy pink bikini in the film. Exercising nearly two hours a day, six days a week, Simpson definitely heated up the big screen in a big way.
Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat
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Even if you didn't see the 2006 film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, you'll recognize that crazy lime green mankini that Sacha Baron Cohen sported on-screen. While little was left to the imagination, the movie was a huge success, debuting at number one on its opening weekend with a total gross of $26.4 million (despite only being shown on 837 screens). As one of the funniest men in movies, Cohen even won a Golden Globe for the hysterically memorable role.
Brooklyn Decker, Just Go With It
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Brooklyn Decker made her big screen debut with a major bang in 2011's Just Go With It. Few can forget the blonde beauty strutting out of the ocean, absolutely rocking that teeny yellow bikini. While her co-star Jennifer Aniston's bod was just as killer, the actress actually admitted to being awestruck by her while filming!
Kate Upton, SI Swimsuit Issue
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Kate Upton literally burst onto the Sports Illustrated scene when she posed for cover of the iconic swimsuit issue in 2012. The buxom blonde hired powerhouse trainer Justin Gelband months before the SI shoot to get her bodacious bod in tip-top shape. The dynamic duo worked out five days a week with a mix of circuit training exercises that changed daily.
"Since the first day I met her, she wanted to come in and change the industry by saying curves are sexy," Gelband has said. "She's such a great role model for all the young girls out there."