Today is the anniversary of the 1946 debut of a garment that sent shock waves across the world of fashion: the garment is the bikini. Paris fashion designer Louis Reard took the name for his design from a remote Pacific Ocean Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where the United States military was conducting the first peacetime detonations of nuclear bombs. So explosive was Reard’s skimpy design that it didn’t really catch on as acceptable beachwear until the 1960s.
The 1960 hit song “Itsy-Bitsy-Teenie-Weenie-Yellow-Polka-Dot Bikini,” along with many beach movies that targeted the youth audience, made the two piece bathing suit ubiquitous (1).
Today’s Challenge: A Wardrobe of Words
The bikini is not the only article of clothing that originated from a proper noun. Toponyms are words that originate from the names of geographic places; Eponyms are words that originate from the names of people. Given the clues below, see if you can identify the clothing item (2).
1. Toponym: A soft, woolen fabric that is used to make shawls.
2. Toponym: A colored and coarse cotton cloth, popular for making overalls.
3. Toponym: A formal men’s dinner coat.
4. Toponym: A necktie.
5. Eponym: A short skirt with baggy trousers
6. Eponym/Toponym: A knitted wool jacket
7. Eponym: A raincoat.
8. Eponym: Trousers
Quote of the Day: On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock. –Thomas Jefferson
Answers: 1. Cashmere, from the Kashmir goats of Kashmir, Tibet. 2. Denim, once called serge de Nimes after the town of Nimes, France. 3. Tuxedo, from Tuxedo Park, New York an exclusive residential community founded in the 1880s. 4. Cravat, from the French word for cravats, meaning Croatians. 17th Century Croatian mercenaries wore these linen scarves. 5. Bloomers, named for Amelia Jenks Bloomer, a supporter of Susan B. Anthony, popularized these during the women’s movement in the 1850s. 6. Cardigan, named for British General Thomas Brudenell, seventh Earl of Cardigan. Brudenell popularized this warm wool jacket and also led the famous charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War. 7. Macintosh, named for Charles Macintosh whose factory in Glasgow, Scotland manufactured waterproof articles made of rubber. 8. Pants (shortened form of pantaloons), named for a stock character in Italian comedies named Pantalone who wore trousers with tight legs and a bloused effect around the hips.
1 – Metcalf, Allan. The World in So Many Words. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.
2 – Funk, Wilfred. Word Origins and Their Romantic Stories. New York: Gosset & Dunlap, 1950.