The bikinis of Marilyn Monroe, Scarlett Johansson and countless other celebrities are getting a new home in a south-western German town calling itself “capital of swimwear.”
In Bad Rappenau, nestled between the cities of Frankfurt and Stuttgart, is the world’s first bikini museum, by its own account, set to open on Sunday, July 5 – no less than the international day of the bikini.
Rather than trying to pull in readers of the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, the so-called Bikini Art Museum is trying to focus on the cultural history of swimwear and how designs have changed from 1870 to the present.
Of around 1,200 exhibits spread over 1,500 square metres of exhibition space, the museum’s highlight is probably a collection of 12 of the original 16 two-piece models developed on July 5, 1946 by bikini inventor Louis Reard.
Preempting the shock it would cause, the French designer named his explosive new design after Bikini Atoll, the Marshall Islands site where atomic bomb testing had taken place the same year.
The museum’s curators say the story of the bikini is not just one of fashion trends and beach culture, but also of arrests, scandals and the gradual emancipation of women.
Beyond modern swimwear, the museum also traces bathing culture back to the towel-and-string approach in the Middle Ages and to the bathing carts of the 18th century.
In addition to a massive amount of swimwear, visitors can expect to see multimedia exhibits, works of art and historical ads for bikinis.
The Regensburg entrepreneur Alexander Ruscheinsky behind the museum has been researching the subject with his team of curators for more than five years.