The modern bikini, invented by the French engineer Louis Réard in 1946 (who named it after Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, the site of an atom bomb test in July of 1946) has caused as much controversy over the years as it has been brutal to our self-esteem. The racy two-piece has been banned by the Pope, made famous by bombshells such as Raquel Welch, Brigitte Bardot and Ursula Andress and even been the cause of death threats (Vida Samadzai, only the second Miss Afghanistan in history to take part in a beauty contest, had to be given FBI protection after parading in a bikini at the 2003 edition of Miss Earth).
All in all, quite a commotion for four little triangles, I must say. Funny thing is, like most commotions, it wasn't women who were causing all the fuss. Until now, that is. A recently published survey orchestrated by online shopping boutique isme.com has just revealed that seven out of 10 women believe fellow females over the age of 39 should never wear a bikini.
But who are these sisterhood deserters? These traitors lurking behind such false impression? Surely we have worked too hard for all of this. Besides, aren't we only shooting ourselves in the foot? You see, often (believe it or not) we can get a little carried away in fashion, so much so that we deviate completely from the initial design objective, its purpose, what use it was intended for in the first place - in this case, aquatic locomotion. Not swanning, not preening, not parading, but swimming.
You see, we shouldn't give a toss what age we are when it comes to swimwear. It need not be groundbreaking. In fact, there is nothing more ridiculous than the poolside prize pony, all primped and preened for no apparent reason or purpose but for others to stare at.
So for those over 39, for once you are in luck: fashion has entered a 1950s phase of dignified elegance, with trailing kaftans, deep red lips and sweep of black liner, wide-brimmed hats, oversized black shades and all that sort. So if you can get over feeling a little hard done by, think about giving the one-piece a try, for they have in fact moved on a fair bit since the days of the Floridian retiree.
What's to hate? They cover our unbecoming bits, and this season, manage remarkably to sit on the sharp end of a trend - a feat that comes along ever so rarely in fashion. Think retro appeal: more fifties French Riviera, less Sports Illustrated.
That's not to say it's a miracle suit either, so if you are over a UK size 16, go for solid, supportive styles with a built-in bra, control panels, and stretch fabrics that will give added support. If you want to stray from a solid colour, dark-to-light shading has a lengthening effect (the dark should start at the bottom) If you are bottom heavy, a bandeau top will broaden the chest and balance your shape. Ruching is a good trick to play with; use it around the stomach area to hide a tum, or on the top half to accentuate curves. If you're a skinny mini, consider yourself lucky; just make sure you don't have too much swimsuit flapping around, if you know what I mean.
The bottom line is to look for a swimsuit that flatters your shape rather than one that looks nice on the rail, because the brutal truth is that we notice bodies, not swimsuits. So we are a bit plump or a bit too skinny, much too mumsy, too long, too short, too pale ... la-la-la. So what?
Life is short and nobody is perfect. The truth is, we are female and, after 40 - grossly unjust and gender biased as it is - we have to face a few things. Most twenty-something boys with their youthful tans are no longer going to wolf-whistle our way - but neither will they run screaming towards the horizon. So for heavens sake, try to relax.