Bettie Page was completely unsatisfied with the ‘unflattering swimwear’ of her day. It was just 1950 and they would advertise awful things like swimsuits with built-in girdles. So Bettie Page turned her high intelligence into crafting a series of unforgettable bikinis. She invented the string bikini and numerous other bikini designs because she wanted to wear bikinis that she felt sexy in.
The results helped propel her to become a pin-up legend and a sex symbol. Unfortunately, inventing the design of the modern bikini is rarely credited to her but her placing thousands of bikini images out there where there were literally only a handful of bikinis and photos…had a striking influence on fashion and design. And keep in mind that Bettie’s designs were considered shockingly small in their day.
And the camera clubs LOVED this. But she was in New York and soon a shark swam up and bit her. She was asked to model for a swimwear manufacturer called Charmand’s who they asked her to bring every one of her bikinis to shoot her. She thought it odd that they wanted her to change costumes so much…especially since they were supposed to be making swimwear themselves. “They took my designs from the pictures they took and sold them. I should have sued them or something and made a million dollars” said Bettie later on in life. But her bikini designs had a massive cultural influenced. This happened in 1956 (she’d been designing her own bikinis since 1951 and they stole every design and innovation she’d developed over 5 years of work.) Keep in mind that this was the infancy of the bikini and bikinis did not hit mainstream cultural acceptance until 10 years later in the mid-1960s. And Bettie’s designs could be seen on every beach in America. Sadly, she Bettie is often given little or no credit for modern bikini design. But she certainly was a major influence in bikini design as her image in her own bikinis were everywhere.
In fact, Bettie created most of the outfits and costumes that ultimately made her famous.
As far as I know, the only recognition she received for her costume designs was winning costume contest for a design that featured mostly telephone dials. 🙂