This article examines a range of mid-twentieth-century American fashions, particularly women’s intimate wear, that went by the name of “bikini.” In doing so, it identifies the bikini as an overt but unremarkable incident of racial and colonial violence. Treating the nuclear Pacific as conspicuously incidental in mainstream atomic culture enables new insights on the visual interplay between white femininity and primitive sexuality—an interplay that, the author argues, was integral to establishing domestic virtue and modern living as atomic age touchstones of “peace.” To elaborate on this argument, this article tracks the bikini’s achievement of propriety within a broader fashion revolution spurred by the use of high-tech fibers in swim, sleep, and support garments. It shows how an atomic ideal of “nature” arose from an imperial desire for security in the face of extreme risk—both the global risk of nuclear war and the domestic risk of sexual promiscuity.

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