Navigating The Vast & Complex Maze of Women's Swimsuits

Jesse Broadt:  Contributor

It always seems as if summer takes forever to arrive, but all at once you inevitably find yourself shaking your head in dismay over your old swimsuits that you thought were so grand last year. If you are like most beach lovers, you also realize that one new suit just isn’t enough. You need one for serious tanning, one for a volleyball game or a poolside barbeque and let’s face it, one to make everyone else envious as you strut your stuff up and down the beach.

Obviously, however, you want to show off much more than skin, and for this reason you should choose a bathing suit that is “all you,” from its color, to its style and cut. Whether you are a surfer, swimmer, traditional sun worshiper, model, or a modest dresser who just wants to be comfortable in the sand, the perfect suits await you. Below are some timeless swimwear options that are guaranteed to please:

Strappy Monokinis–Be Risqué in an Innocent Kinda Way

When monokinis emerged years ago, they were instantly recognized as a timeless swimsuit style that everyone would eventually try at least once. If you are one of many who have fallen in love with monokinis, rest assured you will never want for options in this category. If you are unfamiliar with this style, it is simply a suit that looks like a bikini from behind, but appears to be a one piece from the front—ok, well, a skimpy one piece. The front is typically where the two sections of material are attached, usually by lacing or fasteners, such as corset-type strings.

Suits of this kind look good regardless of the colors or patterns you choose, and monokinis with extra straps or string bikini bottoms can be fun and risqué in an itsy-bitsy sorta way. This is because they create the illusion that there is much less material than is actually the case. Surprisingly sturdy, monokinis are a great alternative to the traditional bikini set and every bit as sexy.

Beach Bunny and Body Glove Swimwear are monokini trend leaders.

From One Cold Shoulder to Another

Although not a new concept, one shoulder swimsuits are constantly being reworked and redesigned to make them eternally stylish. One shoulder, two piece suits may feature a single strap on one side, or a tie on one side and a mini sleeve on the other. Technically still in the category of a string bikini, these styles are fun, cute and original. For Love & Lemons often showcases suits featuring this design.

Enjoy Diversity at its Best With Front Tied Bikinis and Swimsuits

Front tied bikinis are generally string bikinis, but may be a part of monokini or tankini as well.  A great example of a front tied bikini is a strappy, lace-top style swimsuit. This cut makes an appearance on runways every few years and is frequently offered by designers such as Blue Life and Maaji.

If lace is your thing, try a ruffle top that laces and ties in the front. This clever design is guaranteed to have people asking you where you bought your suit. Another interesting option is the one piece lace-top that features a front tie and a cut out. This style works well with everything from loud prints to tranquil neutrals. Luli Fama offers some great “think outside the box” options in this category.

Can’t Miss With Crochet

You should also consider having a blast in the iconic, beach bunny favorite this summer. Of course, we are talking about the quintessential crocheted swimsuit. If you find this style appealing, you will be pleased to know that virtually every designer offers some great options in this category. From a traditional two piece to the more recent crocheted tankini, your possibilities with suits of this kind are endless. Also, there is no need to worry that you will end up showing more than you bargained for, as most crocheted suits have ingenious linings that offer coverage where you need it the most without detracting from the sexy look for which these suits are famous.

Outshine Your Competition With a Tassel Swimsuit

Once merely a one-season trend that popped back up on runways from time to time, tasseled beachwear has now cemented itself into the world of swimsuit fashions and is likely to endure forever. The size and type of tassels may vary from one season to the next and from one runway to another, but the style is eternally fun and creative.

Agua Bendita offers great tassel-embellished suits in various colors and cuts. Some styles in this category are more practical than others, but whether you are a casual sun bather or a serious fashionista, the perfect option can be found. Consider a breathtaking one piece with feathery, multi-tiered tassels or a bikini with cleverly placed embellishments that will have people wondering what they are made of and how they stay put.

Take the Plunge with this Iconic Neckline

Bikinis are cute, but if you are looking for a suit that will be just as fashionable in five years as it is today, opt for a one piece with a timeless, plunging neckline. Try a neckline framed in loose ruffles, a suit with a traditional “no-frills” design or a belted ensemble with a high cut bottom. 

Don’t be afraid to go simple with this long time favorite, as a plunging neckline bathing suit in solid black or white creates a sophisticated, alluring look with zero effort. On the other hand, if you are a fan of bold colors, rest assured this enduring style lends itself well to any shade you prefer.

Terrific Tankinis for the Best of Both Worlds

If you always wanted to be daring enough to wear a bikini, but you know it’s just not going to happen, a tankini is the perfect alternative. A tankini, as its name implies, is a type of swimsuit that combines a bikini bottom with a tank top, and it is a match made in heaven. Although as many styles as you can imagine are available, the top portion of such a suit is typically cut in the style of a tank top or halter and covers your midriff almost to the bikini line.

You can mix and match any colors and styles you choose, as it is difficult to go wrong with this look. A versatile and attractive option, it is no wonder tankinis are here to stay. Offered by literally every designer worldwide, they are a failsafe choice if you are looking for something that is modern and sexy, but not too bare for comfort.

Super-Sexy One Pieces

Simple and traditional one pieces are sometimes overlooked as not being ultra-sexy, but just think “Baywatch” to realize these alluring suits definitely deserve a place in your new summer wardrobe. There are no embellishments and very few chances for a wardrobe malfunction. For this reason, these simple swimsuits can be your one way ticket to a sophisticated, flirtatious style that will easily take you from the beach, to a barbecue, to a poolside bar.

Choose from a plunging neckline, traditional keyhole design, or halter-necked style. Lolli Swim, Gottex and Hot As Hell offer some of the most racy and seductive one pieces you can find. Let your imagination run wild with this treasured favorite the next time you’re shopping for swimwear.

Activewear Swimsuits That Bring Out Your Best

Maybe you are far more interested in surfing, swimming and enjoying a beachside tug-of-war than you are in strutting your stuff. Fortunately, you can enjoy all types of summer activities and still look fantastic with great options such as sporty style bralettes and hot pants-style bottoms.

Suits that are cut this way are designed to stay in place, yet you do not have to sacrifice one inch of sexy. Front zip-up one piece suits are also a great choice, as they let you “button up” for a volleyball game or a serious swim, but you can inch the zipper down a bit when you’re ready to lie on the sand. Seafolly and Body Glove Swimwear offer great choices in this category for your super-active summer.

Shimmer and Shine Like the Sun

Anything reflective on a bathing suit typically ends up a shimmering success or a glaring nightmare. However, due to inventive fabric manufacturing techniques, you can have just a hint of shine without blinding nearby beachcombers. Consider a black, two piece suit embellished with skillfully placed gold and silver lightning bolts. For all-out sparkle, you may also decide on a one piece suit in an incandescent, glittery pastel.

Fortunately, scintillating bathing suits can be found in essentially any style, from string bikinis to classic one piece designs and everything in between. If sparkling under the sun is your thing, a flashy metallic suit is a must-have piece for your beach wardrobe.

Unleash Your Inner Dare With a High-Cut Swimsuit

High cut swimsuits are always correct for certain body types and if this is you, then why not make a vogue statement with this classic favorite on your next vacation or trip to the beach? Although primarily at their peak in the ‘90s, high cut styles have a way of storming back into the limelight on a regular basis. Lolli Swim offers one pieces and two pieces in this design, and Luli Fama and Beach Bunny consistently show off at least one or two suits in this category from one year’s runway to the next. Consider a high cut swimsuit in a bright color such as red or cobalt blue to keep all eyes looking in your direction this season.

Summer Fun With Comical Prints and Patterns

Sarcastic, funny, clever prints always steal the show. That’s because it is unlikely that anyone else at the pool or the beach will be wearing a suit with the exact same logo as yours. Fun sayings and those that showcase a play on words have long since left the t-shirt only arena and are now found on bathing suits, cover-ups, and virtually any type of beachwear.

If you are an expectant mother, consider a classic red one piece that says “Ba(b)y Watch.”  You may also decide to have fun with suits featuring comical slogans such as “off duty mermaid” or a bikini that reads “wake me when I’m tan.” If you like satire, consider a funny graphic that refers to you as a “haute mess.” The choices are virtually limitless in this category, so shop till you drop and make your friends laugh this summer with your fun and entertaining slogan swimsuits.

Opposites Attract With These Great Bikini Choices

You may be pleased to discover that essentially any bathing suit can be skillfully mismatched as long as the design meets your personal style requirements. Thought to be a passing fad, mismatched bikinis emerged at the turn-of-the-century and never truly went away. If this eclectic choice appeals to you, try pairing a polka dot bikini bottom with an off the shoulder top or combine a ruffled, V-neck strap top with a striped bottom. You can also mix and match shades to create color combinations you find appealing. Beach Queen, SS Queen and Pink Queen  are always cornering the market with their numerous options in this category.

Two Pieces to Get Waisted In

The high waisted, two piece suit is a staple for any beach bunny, and these suits are hailed by many sun worshipers as a vintage godsend. This high fashion option is perfect if you are looking for a modern, sophisticated suit that works well with any color or print. High waisted, two piece bathing suits can also be found with a broad range of embellishments, such as tassels, rhinestones, crocheted tops, and ruffles.

Nearly every swimsuit runway features suits of this type on a yearly basis, and Upopby and Dearlove usually provide multiple options in this category. If your goal is a sexy, yet practical suit that shows off your figure to its best advantage, add a high-waisted suit to your beach arsenal this summer.

Belts and Suspenders are for Girls, Too

Harnesses, belts and suspenders are certainly not a necessity with regard to swimwear. Nevertheless, fashion is rarely about functionality. Extras such as suspenders and belts are a throwback to the 80s, but they have maintained a consistent presence, whether large or small, on runways every few years.

Triangle bikinis and high waisted halter suits are just a few examples of how these built-in additions lend style and flair to an otherwise so-so bathing suit. It is also easy to create a “bad girl chic” persona with suits that feature accessories of this kind. The Blue Life and Sun & Sea Missy rework this trendy look every so often to ensure there is always something available in this category. Ultimately, styles like this are a great choice if you think outside the box and enjoy marching to your own beat.

Play Your Ten-String Bikini This Year

If you are searching for string bikinis but are tired of the same old styles, consider playing a ten-string tune this summer with a multi-string bikini. Suits in this category are cut in the same way as traditional bikini sets except that they have multiple strings for a whimsical, romantic look. Ujena and Quinsen are leaders in this style swimwear.

Multi-string bikinis can easily be found in myriad designs, such as lace-up tops, halter style tops, and bottoms that create the illusion of a string bikini, but which feature multiple strings that are actually all one piece. However, no one could guess from even a few feet away that the strings are not entirely functional. Whether your style is flirty and romantic or sophisticated and slightly risqué, a multi-string bikini set is perfect.

The Striped Suit is Back–Or Maybe it Never Left

Swimwear virtually always includes patterns as well as solid colors, and stripes are one pattern that is here to stay. Perhaps the fact that stripes are regarded as a slimming print is what keeps them in high demand among beach lovers who want to accentuate the positive and conceal “problem” areas. Striped suits also work well with belts, suspenders, harnesses and other accessories, making this print a versatile choice for anyone.

One piece and two piece options can be found in striped prints from various designers. For some interesting and unusual striped patterns that bring haute couture to mind, consider shopping Tommy Bahama or Cupshe for a sensational striped suit.

The Quintessential Thong

This classic oh-so-sexy choice is a must for anyone who has the body to pull it off. Sisqo’s Thong Song remains relevant, as does this eternally popular swimwear option. If you are daring, adventurous and not afraid to show ‘em what you got, you will find no shortage of thongs from any designer, including, gRYlgl and Brigitewear.

Let’s face it; thongs are little more than a way to show off your spectacular derrière, so enjoy making your competition turn green with envy this year in a super sexy thong. Of course, if you plan to transition from the beach or pool to a shop or café, don’t forget to bring a cover-up so you don’t cause a fender bender when crossing the street.

Velvet Summer Fun

Some fashion concepts seem odd at first, and velvet swimwear almost immediately finds itself in this category in the minds of most beach bunnies, even those who regard themselves as fashionistas. Nevertheless, before you cross velvet off your list as an impractical fabric for a swimsuit, you should consider its advantages as well.

Although due to water, salt and sun, such bathing suits may not last as long as their traditional counterparts. However, each year designers come up with better developed ways to manufacture this material so that it can stand up to the aforementioned elements with more rigor than the year before. If you are looking for a dazzling and devastatingly gorgeous suit that very few, if any, other ladies will be sporting at your beach, a velvet swimsuit is the optimum choice. These suits are available in every style and cut possible, so let your imagination run wild and wow ‘em with velvet all summer long.

A Word About Color

You may suddenly find that you have dedicated so much of your time to choosing a swimsuit style that selecting a color has been shuffled to the back burner. Keep in mind, however, that honing in on the best shade for your hair and skin tone it is also an important factor when shopping for new suits. This is particularly true if you are a serious sun worshiper, since your hair may end up a bit lighter and your skin tone a bit darker before summer’s end.

Not surprisingly, you probably have more than one suit in mind for the season. Therefore, a great strategy is to choose a color that you know has worked well for you in the past, but also toss in something new that you’ve been dying to try. If you always stick with black or white, for instance, try a suit in a bold color to mix things up a bit. If solid colors are your mainstay choice, see how you look in a loud pattern or an animal print. Once you get started, you may find that selecting colors and prints is the funnest part of your shopping experience.

Soften Up With Beautiful Pastels

Pastels are a great choice for the beach, the pool, a barbeque, or your next luxury vacation. This is because they stand out magnificently against the sea of darker colors and all the failsafe black one pieces that pepper beaches and pools in abundance year after year. Consider baby pink, sky blue or even pale yellow or peach to shake things up a little this season. A pastel print on a darker base of the same color is another fun design you may wish to consider.

Pastels are also an especially good option for those with dark hair. For example, if you are a brunette who wastes no time tanning, picture yourself in a mint green, barely there bikini or a classic one-piece in a beautiful shade of lilac. Pastel shades are second only to white for highlighting a deep tan. You may have to experiment a bit to find the perfect pastel, but the result will be well worth the effort–and the attention–it brings.

Stand Out in Bold Colors

If you prefer striking colors such as bright red, lemon yellow, Kelly green, or orange, rest assured you will turn heads wherever you go, regardless of the style suit you choose. If you have red hair, consider a bold blue or green swimsuit. If your locks are blond, strike a pose in cherry red to get them all talking. Ultimately, bold colors always pop, whether you prefer a classic one piece, an embellished monokini, or anything in between. You may even want to try the itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikini this year, if you dare.

Neon is also an option, especially if you want to stand out when indulging in water sports or beach volleyball. Multi-colored suits are an outstanding choice as well, particularly if your accessories are black or white. This striking combination is guaranteed to garner you some attention as you stroll the shore or relax by the pool.

Don’t forget Your Wild Side

Never be afraid to experiment with loud patterns and unusual designs. Animal prints are a superb choice in this category and your options are virtually limitless. No matter what designers say from one year to the next, animal prints are always a smash. This is true whether you are going on vacation, visiting your local beach, enjoying a week at a resort, or sunbathing at home. Animal prints are just plain fun to wear.

If you are a fan of black and white, dazzle the beach crowd with a bold, zebra print one piece.  A tankini featuring a fierce tiger pattern or a bikini in the ever-popular leopard print are spectacular choices as well. There is no limit to the amount of fun you can have with a sexy and sensational animal pattern bathing suit.

Escaping the Sinister World of Tan Lines

You may have narrowed down your choices when shopping for swimsuits, but beware of selecting more than one suit with the same type of cut and straps. This is because dreadful tan lines are typically the result of wearing one bathing suit too frequently.

Remember, you will probably find yourself in at least one strapless gown or backless cocktail dress this summer, and you don’t want to look like your skin is an advertisement for an interesting wallpaper pattern. Another situation to beware of: if you are going to be someone’s bridesmaid this summer, the last thing you want is an elegant, low back dress ruined by your odd, zigzag tan lines. Similarly, you may look good in that intricately cut monokini on the beach, but when you put on your Daisy Dukes for a neighborhood picnic you may suddenly discover a map of the Galapagos Islands on your stomach.

The best way to avoid those weird looking tan lines and ghastly patterns in odd places is to rotate different styles of swimsuits so that you tan as evenly as possible. This is not as difficult as it may at first seem. It is simply a matter of switching suits at least every two days when you plan to be continuously in the sun. If you enjoy the beach, but are someone who slathers on a 60 SPF sunscreen, just make sure you put it on evenly so you don’t burn through those tiny holes in your patterned monokini or crocheted cover-up.

Now you realize that having more than one suit is not only a luxury, but a necessity. That should alleviate any dormant spending guilt: you are only doing it in order to look good as your friend’s bridesmaid, not just because you want more than one bathing suit.

You’re Not Shopping, You’re Investing

You might as well face it, looking great at the beach, a resort, or at a friend’s pool party is the biggest confidence-builder in existence. Most people can look good in their “Sunday best,” but how many can be the belle of the ball at a beachside barbecue?

Having the perfect suit for any given moment is the golden rule for every fashionista. Consider three staples: a classic one piece that is right for every occasion, a monokini or tankini to out-pretty your competition at a pool party, and something daring, such as a suit featuring a wild animal print or a tiny bikini in a bold color or crazy pattern. When you have several suits as diverse as you are from which to choose, you will never be underprepared for any sun worshiping event or outdoor extravaganza. Consider it an investment in yourself, because you deserve it.

Cover-Ups: A Crucial Summer Wardrobe Staple

Whether you are planning to visit the beach, take a vacation at a luxury resort, or sip a tasty cocktail at a beachside bar, it is essential to have the perfect cover-up. Choosing one of these must-have accessories is just as important as selecting your swimsuits. This is because it may be the first thing everyone sees when you arrive at the beach or a pool party.

Because cover-ups can be found in as many different styles and designs as bathing suits themselves, you should take just as much time looking over your cover-up options as you did when selecting your swimsuits.

Crocheted cover-ups are always a fool proof choice, as they are both timeless and flattering. Versatile enough to be beachy or bohemian, this type of cover-up works well with any style swimsuit.

For an ultra-sexy look, consider lingerie style cover-ups that are not quite nighties, but create a similarly sensuous illusion. If you want to make sure you choose a cover-up that is not too risqué, select a lingerie style garment that is opaque rather than sheer, as this gives you the best of both worlds.

The always popular kimono cover-up is a breezy, lightweight option that shows off your great taste in swimsuits, while offering just enough coverage for the tiki bar or beachside café.

Never overlook the simple belted cover-up, as this is a great item to have in your arsenal. Belted styles are a particularly good choice if you enjoy looking polished and sophisticated. This is because they cinch everything in just the right place for a fitted and refined appearance.

If you are searching for a wrap that provides full–as opposed to sheer–coverage, invest in a maxi-style cover-up for an instant Greek goddess look that will turn heads every time. Shirt dress cover-ups are also a sensational choice in this category, and they are renowned for blending well with virtually any swimsuit style. They are also perfect for essentially any body type, so whether you lose a few or gain a few, you’ll still have the perfect cover-up.

Of course, we cannot forget about the original, decades-old but not forgotten, terrycloth cover-up. No longer does this classic option look like a mini bathrobe. Rather, fun styles in materials rivaling that of your most plush bath towels are now available in a broad range of colors, patterns and lengths. If you want something attractive, but comfort is a big goal as well, opt for a practical, downy soft terrycloth wrap that will never go out of style.

Matching Swimsuits and Cover-Ups

Although designers change their minds as often as the seasons change, it is still entirely up to you whether you go for full look coordination or an eclectic ensemble. There is nothing set in stone regarding matching your swimsuits and cover-ups if you would rather mix and match based on your mood. On the other hand, if you prefer a just stepped off the runway look, you can achieve that as well. Fortunately, there is a vast array of stunning combinations from which to choose, which are limited only by your imagination.

For a classic look, consider a white, shirt dress style cover-up over a timeless black one piece swimsuit. If you are most at home in a bikini and sexy is the name of your game, consider combining your itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny with a lingerie style cover-up. If you want to go from brunch, to the beach, to poolside cocktails, combine any suit with a belted, maxi style cover-up to create the perfect look for all three.

Matching the color of your swimsuit to your cover-up is another strategy that makes things easy, as you can buy your bathing suits and cover-ups at the same time to ensure a coordinated look all summer long. Opt for white or black cover-ups if you never want to worry about being mismatched. If you plan to spend a significant amount of time at a beach bar or poolside café, consider a fancy cover-up with embellishments such as tassels or fringes, as these styles can almost double as beach dresses.

Nontraditional Cover-Ups

Whether a cover-up is primarily a stylish or practical piece of attire will always be a debatable subject. However, one thing that almost all shoppers and designers would agree on is that there is no law that says a person must choose a classic style or design when acquiring this essential piece of beachwear.

If you like to be original, you may wish to consider a non-traditional cover-up, such as a dramatic kimono style adorned with embellishments like lace, rhinestones or intricate cut-out patterns.

You may also decide to take a leap of faith and try a funky, plastic cover-up that protects you from wind and water, but does not actually cover anything. Beware that this option is quite hot–in more ways than one–which probably does not surprise you. However, rather than a full-blown plastic wrap, you can also opt for a cover-up made from traditional material into which plastic panels are cut.

Although they have been around for long time, ultra cropped hoodie-style cover-ups rule the roost in the non-traditional category. They are simply a must-have if you are going for that baddie girl look. This style is essentially the same sleeveless hoodie you wore over your tank top in the fall, only reworked to function as a swimwear accessory.

Never overlook beach pants or dismiss them as “too covered up for the beach.” On the contrary, pants of this kind are flattering, sexy and practical all at the same time. Each year, they flutter down the runways in a variety of sheers, patterns and prints, and are an ideal addition to the beachwear section of your closet.

More is Better

In many instances, less is more in the world of fashion. Nevertheless, more is better in the world of cover-ups. If you plan to invest in several bathing suits, as all savvy shoppers do, make sure you also acquire several cover-ups to ensure you always have one on hand to complement whichever swimsuit you slip into, regardless of the occasion.

Fortunately, swimwear can be found to match virtually any personality, lifestyle and budget. So get out there and get a headstart on your competition and fulfill your destiny as the swimsuit fashionista you were meant to be.

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