The monokini, designed by Rudi Gernreich in 1964, consisting of only a brief, close-fitting bottom and two thin straps, was the first women's topless swimsuit. His revolutionary and controversial design included a bottom that "extended from the midriff to the upper thigh" and was "held up by shoestring laces that make a halter around the neck." Some credit Gernreich's design with initiating, or describe it as a symbol of, the sexual revolution.
Gernreich designed the monokini as a protest against a repressive society. He didn't initially intend to produce the monokini commercially, but was persuaded by Susanne Kirtland of Look to make it available to the public. When the first photograph of a frontal view of Peggy Moffitt wearing the design was published in Women's Wear Daily on June 3, 1964, it generated a great deal of controversy in the United States and other countries. Gernreich sold about 3000 suits, but only two were worn in public. The first was worn publicly on June 22, 1964 by Carol Doda in San Francisco at the Condor Nightclub, ushering in the era of topless nightclubs in the United States, and the second at a beach in Chicago in July 1964 by artist's model Toni Lee Shelley, who was arrested.
Some manufacturers and retailers refer to modern monokini swimsuit designs as a topless swimsuit, topless bikini, or unikini.
Gernreich may have chosen his use of the word monokini (mono meaning single) in the mistaken belief that bikini was a compound of bi- ("bi" meaning two) and -kini. But that is a faulty back-formation, decomposing the word as the Latin prefix bi-, and kini, denoting a two-piece swimsuit. But in fact the bikini swimsuit design was named by its inventor Louis Réard after the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, five days after Operation Crossroads, the first peace-time test of nuclear weapons, took place there. Réard hoped his design would have a similarly explosive effect.