Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together

July 5th marks the 70th anniversary of the introduction of the modern bikini. Though mosaics and wall paintings reveal that women wore two-piece costumes in Roman times around 300 A.D., and as far back as 1600 B.C. in Minoa, it is Louis Reard who is considered the father of the modern bikini.

The French engineer introduced his “bikini” on July 5, 1946. He named it after the atomic test of the Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands because he expected it would generate a burst of excitement equal to the atomic test. Little did he know bikinis would play a starring role in many movies of the Boomer Generation. Many are part of the classic moments of film from the era. Here are just a few:

Brigitte Bardo: The Girl in the Bikini (1952); And God Created Woman (1956); et al
When the bikini was introduced in 1946, it did not receive a warm welcome in the fashion world, especially in the United States. Some say it was the image of Brigitte Bardo wearing bikinis in various movies through the 1950s and ’60s that changed a few minds. Although the actress took on many types of roles that showcased her acting range, she was the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model before there were SI swimsuit issues. Many boomer boys spied their first bikini as worn by Brigitte Bardo in movie magazines borrowed from their fathers’ collections.

Ursula Andress: Dr. No (1962)
When James Bond (Sean Connery) sees Ursula Andress rise from the ocean in a white bikini with a diving knife strapped to her hip, even he had to pause. The scene became so iconic that it has been repeated and parodied ever since, including Halle Berry’s reinterpretation of the scene, rising out of the ocean in an orange bikini in Die Another Day (2002).

Annette Funicello: Beach Party (1963); Bikini Beach (1964); How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965); et al
Beach movies hit the boomer scene from 1963 to 1968. Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, previously of Mouseketeer fame, were recruited to play a teenage version of the Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies … on the beach. Annette Funicello’s bikini was a two piece in name only. It was stipulated by contract with Walt Disney that she not be allowed to show her belly button, so some would say her swimwear in the movies was downright matronly. The fun thing for boomers, though, was there were no such stipulations on the other girls on the beach.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nx_NdCKznUM

Raquel Welch: One Million Years B.C. (1967)
Technically, beauty queen Raquel Welch isn’t wearing swimwear in this movie. Rather, it was a furry animal skin two-piece that became so iconic that the still publicity shot for the movie became a best-selling poster. Mister Boomer has to admit, he was among the boys who taped the poster to his wall. The role was originally offered to Ursula Andress, but by then her salary requirements were too much for the producers.

Jane Fonda: Barbarella (1968)
Directed by  Roger Vadim, Jane Fonda’s husband at the time, Barbarella was a campy movie trip to outer space fantasyland via hallucinogenic imagery, so naturally, bikinis would would have to play a part. Mister Boomer first heard about the movie when a neighbor returning from his stint in Vietnam talked about it. It was years later when Mister B first saw the film, but Brother Boomer saw it much sooner.

Shocking to many in its day, the bikini now is commonplace poolside and on beaches around the world. It has even been named the official athletic wear for women’s professional beach volleyball. Monsieur Reard used a grand total of 30 square inches of fabric for his original creation, while today’s versions run the gamut from modernly modest to barely there. Many movies featured memorable bikini-clad women throughout the boomer years. What is your favorite bikini movie moment, boomers?

Boomers Grew Up With Two-Tone Cars

Henry Ford’s Model T wasn’t the first car in America, but is considered the first affordable mass produced car. In his 1909 autobiography, Ford said he told his team that “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Despite the pronouncement, the first Model Ts built from 1908 to 1913 weren’t offered in black, but rather, grey, green, blue, and red, depending on the car’s style. It wasn’t until 1914 that Ford established the black-only Model T, which continued through 1927. Ford’s color choice had everything to do with cost and production. If all cars were painted black, there would only be the need for one paint and one area for painting along a production line.

Other auto manufacturers — and there were dozens — weren’t so limiting with their color choices. By the1920s, all car manufacturers were offering a multitude of colors. Cars like those produced by Duesenberg helped establish red or yellow as the colors of choice for sporty and fast cars, while green became a common color for touring cars, often associated with wealth. By the 1930s the roadways were filled with cars in a rainbow explosion of color. World War II helped change that.

At the advent of the U.S. involvement in the War all car factories shifted to the war effort to manufacture trucks, tanks and bomber planes. After the War, rather than pick up where they left off, cars became more basic once again, generally available in dark shades usually associated with earlier times as the companies ramped up their production capabilities. By the 1950s, the growing Boomer Generation enabled car makers to get back in the color game in a big way.

Soldiers home from the War got married and had children, creating the Baby Boom. This surge in marriages and population growth prompted an explosion in housing that established the suburbs, and, without the availability of urban mass transit, a strong auto market. By the mid-50s, auto makers were advertising affordable models as “second cars,” available in pastel colors meant to attract the women who found themselves home alone when their husbands drove off to work in their only family car.

Though two-toned cars had appeared throughout the history of the American automobile, most agree that the zenith of two-toned cars hit the showrooms between 1955-57. Virtually every manufacturer offered two-toned cars in a wide variety of shades and tints, among them Chrysler, Chevy, Ford, DeSoto, Plymouth, Cadillac, Dodge, Studebaker, Buick, Oldsmobile and many more. Unlike the two-toned cars of earlier decades, though, these new two-toned vehicles distributed colors all around the vehicle, rather than merely a hood, trunk or roof in a contrasting color. They were designed to illicit feelings of progress and the future, with sleek lines and plenty of gleaming chrome. It was the adding of chrome moldings that often served as the outline of shapes along the sides of the cars, creating color panels. Interiors and convertible tops could be coordinated to contrast with the body colors or match them, which was a relatively new approach to car design.

This 1955 DeSoto FireDome illustrates the transitional styling of early 1950s autos to the sleeker, flatter sides of mid-50s design. It also clearly shows an imaginative two-toned color breakdown, in shades not seen before that era.
This 1955 DeSoto FireDome illustrates the transitional styling of early 1950s autos to the sleeker, flatter sides of mid-50s design. It also clearly shows an imaginative two-toned color breakdown, in shades not seen before that era.

Chevrolet embraced the two-tone styling wholeheartedly to introduce its newly designed 1955 model. Gone were the bulbous fenders and rounded hoods of the post-war years in favor of flatter body panels, sculpted fenders and shaped bumpers and tail lights. Chevy had worked with DuPont and Ditzler to create a plethora of color choices, including metallic and metal flake varieties. By 1957 Chevy offered as many as 15 two-tone paint schemes, including the classic red and white still sought after in 1957 Chevys.

Though Mister Boomer was a wee lad in the mid-50s, he distinctly remembers the two-tone cars because his father and several uncles had one. Mister B’s dad traded in his bulbous 1950 Ford, with its chrome bullet in the middle of its grill, for a brand-new 1956 Chevy in white and green. Mister B and Brother Boomer also loved the car’s styling because a rear tail light — itself a streamlined red plastic bullet shape nestled in a chrome cradle — swung open to reveal the gas cap.

Mister Boomer’s uncles chose two-toned Chevys and Fords, ranging from a red and white 1955 Chevy Bel Air to a 1955 blue and white Ford Victoria; a classic 1957 Chevy in red and white to one of Mister B’s favorite car memories, a 1955 Chevy Bel Air in grey and pink. It’s hard to say why Mister B recalls these family cars so vividly, but chances are the two-toned paint schemes had a lot to do with them being etched into his long-term memories.

Manufacturers continued to offer two-toned cars throughout the fifties, but by 1959, the solid color car — punctuated by chrome — became the norm. Today many car manufacturers are once again dabbling in two-tone paint schemes. Most often, it takes the shape of a lighter roof color. Will this catch on to become a new trend or are two-toned cars best left as the memories of an era when the future looked bright and anything seemed possible?

Did your family have a two-toned car, boomers?