Piscine Molitor | Accidentally Wes Anderson

Piscine Molitor

Paris, France | C.1929

Photo Credit: Stefania Eleonora Guerra

In a city that is a leader in world fashion, it is no wonder that the modern-day bikini made its inaugural debut at a Parisian swimming pool. The Piscine Molitor however was not simply a swimming pool, but a hotel and pool complex that is renowned for having hosted fashion shows, theatrical performances, and training for figure skating legends.

During the 1920s, public swimming pools became popular in Paris, however not for the recreational reasons most would imagine. At the time many French homes did not have bathrooms, these pools often housed bathing facilities among recreational amenities to promote sanitation measures within the densely populated city.

Led by architect Lucien Pollet, Piscine Molotov was designed to resemble an ocean liner and was adorned in Art Deco stained glass. The complex originally housed two pools one open-air and a second covered. The pools were also used for sporting events and its inaugural first dips were by Olympic swimmers during the facility’s opening. The open-air pool was 50 meters long and registered as an Olympic-level facility. However, the most memorable inauguration would occur nearly twenty years later.

Automotive engineer turned clothing designer Louis Reard caused a media stir when he debuted his two-piece bikini design at Piscine Molitor in 1946. Although two-piece suits had been available since the 1930s, Reard’s bikini took a controversial twist by revealing the wearer’s navel for the first time. Despite the initial shock, the look stuck and is now a staple for women’s summer wardrobes.

Following Reards scintillating debut, the complex continued its operation as a recreational facility offering its pools as ice-skating rinks and for all-night pool parties. After falling into disuse, it was closed temporarily until it was restored and classified as a French historic monument by 1990. Today, the Piscine Molitor is part of a four-star luxury hotel and bikinis are a common pool-side attire.

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