The first bikini had been worn at a Paris fashion show in 1946, but in the 1950s the bikini was still seen as something of a taboo. However, in 1962, Bond Girl Ursula Andress emerged from the sea wearing a white bikini in Dr. No. and everything changed. Andress’ bikini arrived at a key moment in the history of women’s fashion, coming at the “birth of the sexual revolution”: the 1960s.
Andress designed the bikini along with Dr. No‘s costume designer Tessa Prendergast, whom she first met while living in Rome. Andress reported that when she arrived in Jamaica for filming, no costumes were ready. She worked with director Terence Young and the costume designer to create something that fit her 5’6″, 36–24–36 frame. The white belted bikini was made from ivory cotton and was the only one made and worn by her.
Channel 4 declared it the top bikini moment in film history, Virgin Media puts it ninth in its top ten, and ranks Andress top in its list of Bond girls. The Herald (Glasgow) put the scene as best ever on the basis of a poll. It also helped shape the career of Ursula Andress, and the look of the quintessential Bond movie. Andress said that she owed her career to that white bikini, remarking, “This bikini made me into a success. As a result of starring in Dr. No as the first Bond girl, I was given the freedom to take my pick of future roles and to become financially independent.” In 2001, the Dr. No bikini worn by Andress in the film sold at auction for US$61,500.
That white bikini has been described as a “defining moment in the sixties liberalization of screen eroticism”. Because of the shocking effect from how revealing it was at the time, she got referred to by the joke nickname “Ursula Undress”. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, “So iconic was the look that it was repeated 40 years later by Halle Berry in the Bond movie Die Another Day.” The white bikini is regarded as perhaps the most important in the history of the bikini and sales of the two-piece bikini rocketed after the appearance of Andress in Dr. No.
In a survey of 1000 women to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the bikini, Ursula Andress in her white bikini was voted “The Ultimate Bikini Goddess”.