Photos of the world's first bikini have surfaced, and we can see why people were shocked.

The bikini may now be a common sight on most modern beaches, but rewind 70 years ago and it was a very different story.

The year was 1946 and Europeans were enjoying their first war-free summer in years. With a new found mood of liberation, French designers were attempting to create fashion and clothing to match.

It was from here the first modern bikini was born.

Image: Getty

Two-piece bathing suits had been around almost a decade earlier, typically made up of a halter top and high waisted shorts, revealing only a sliver of midriff.

However war time fabric rationing meant fashion houses were getting creative with the classic swimsuit by using less fabric - and showcasing more flesh in the process.

The swimsuit was shrinking.

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There were in fact two designs who went head to head with the first prototypes of what we now know as the bikini.

Jacques Heim called his 'the atom' and dubbed it "the world's smallest bathing suit". However the version created by Louis Réard, a French automobile engineer and clothes designer, was technically smaller, made up of a bra top and two upside down triangles tied together with string for bottoms.

Created out of just 30 inches of fabric, Réard naturally advertised his as "smaller than the world's smallest bathing suit".

Image: Getty

He is said to have named it 'the bikini' after Bikini Atoll, an atoll in the Marshall Islands where the atomic bomb was first tested. Bombshell, indeed.

Réard planned to unveil his daring new swimsuit at the Piscine Molitor, a popular Parisian swimming pool. However, he had a hard time finding a model who was willing to wear it, with many reluctant to appear so nearly nude in public.

The honour of wearing the world's first bikini ended up going to Micheline Bernardini, a 19 year-old nude dancer at the Casino de Paris, on July 5 1946.

In reference to the newspaper headlines he knew would come his way thanks to his 'scandalous' design, Réard's final design featured printed newspaper type.

Image: Getty

It certainly made headlines, but with mixed reception.

The women who immediately embraced it "caused a sensation along the Mediterranean coast". Spain and Italy introduced a ban on the bikini in public beaches, but later changed their minds by the 1950s when the two piece had become a common sight on European beaches.

Men in particular were fans, with Bernardini reportedly receiving some 50,000 fan letters.

It wasn't until the early 1960s that the United States embraced the modern design, where it achieved iconic status after pop singer Bryan Hyland sang about that "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini".

Mr Universe poses with the Miss Festival candidates during the Cannes Film Festival, 10th May 1960. IMage: Getty.

Réard had revolutionised swimwear. Interestingly, his label Réard Swimwear has just relaunched for the European summer, 71 years after his initial creation.

And if you ever despair about the itsy bitsy nature of modern bikinis? It wasn't so different in the early days, when Réard declared it wasn't a genuine bikini "unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring".

h/t: Marie Claire.

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