Jenessa Williams navigates the abundant waters of the summer swimsuit market
Overseas holidays might still be out of the reach of many, but there is no denying that the summer swim season is well upon us. As pools reopen, heatwaves swelter and searches for ‘wild swimming’ continue to trend within Google Data, our appetite for spandex becomes something of an inevitability, a staple item in many wardrobes.
With such a huge market at play, swim and beachwear can make for an intimidating shopping experience. Separates or a one-piece? Cover-ups or cutouts? Practicality or prettiness? Getting the right style for you can take patience and research, but there is guaranteed to be a swim outfit out there that will make you feel perfectly ready to get in the water.
Whether you’re hoping to complete some serious lengths or merely want something stylish to lounge poolside, here are our favourite options to suit every budget, body type and aesthetic preference.
Left to Right, Top To Bottom; Boden Tropical Suit £60, Simply Be Longsleeve Suit £34, Marimekko for ADIDAS Suit £38, H&M Frill Suit £29.99, We Are Wear Top £23, ModiBodi Menstrual Bottoms £31.50, SefaMerve Body Suit £19.50, Zara Orange Bikini £34.98, New Look Maternity Suit £15.59, House of Sunny Sunset Suit £55, Marks & Spencer Floral Suit £19.50, Protest Sportswear Tropical Sleevesuit £59.99, Tomboyx Swim Vest £44, LaRedoute Gingham Suit £24, Monsoon Red Suit £27.30, Tide and Seek Pool Suit £65, Calzedonia Rainbow Top £20, Arket Green Floral Top £21, Weekday Top and Skirt £17, Hollister £12.25
Pandemic or no, our bodies often fluctuate in size and shape, and our most confident days might require a different cut to days where we’re feeling more reserved. At this price point, play with subversions on classic shapes – a high waist full knicker in a vibrant colour, a supportive cross back suit, or a square neck bikini top that can be mixed and matched with other items.
Ruffles, pleats and ruching can help to enhance areas you’re more comfortable with or draw the eye away from those you are not. For those with sensitive skin or modesty preferences, long sleeves or skirt layers are still flattering and fashion-forward, easily translating from beachside to water.
Whatever shape speaks to you, it’s important to have fun. Go for a bold print, or experiment with a colour that you might not otherwise integrate into your everyday wardrobe—you might be surprised at how much it suits you!
Menstruation doesn’t need to hold you back either; with companies like Modi Bodi, Wuka and Ruby Love now offering swimwear that integrates absorbent liners into their comfortable stretch designs, there’s no need to feel left out on the shore.
"Whatever shape speaks to you, it’s important to have fun"
Left To Right, Top To Bottom; Portrait Bikini £210, Ganni Tank Top Bikini £180, Ruby Love Stripe Period Swimsuit $89.99, Jets By Jessika Allen Geometric Swimsuit £135, Solid & Striped Lime Swimsuit £170, Hunza G Colour Block Bikini £145, Reina Olga Tiger Swimsuit £118, Patagonia Leaf Bikini $134, Maison Lejaby Tonal Swimsuit £122, Perfect Moment Dogtooth Body Suit £190, Seafolly Black Suit £95, Cossie + Co Blue Bikini £140, Rixo Black Patterned Swimsuit £145, Mattaeu Lace-Up Top £105, Casa Raki Pink and Red Suit £85, Form & Fold Burgundy Top £80, Agent Provacateur Strap Bottoms £125, Tory Burch £120 Top, Norma Kamali Swimskirt £93, Fisch £105 Top
A touch more budget allows for more options, striking the perfect balance between ‘trend’ and longevity. For 2021, high-neck ‘tank top’ style fits are well on-trend while also offering good support, but you can never go far wrong with an underwired balcony style, pairing perfectly with a swim skirt or sarong. Sporty cutouts and lace-ups will add a touch of something special, although beware of awkward tan lines sure to be diligent with those tan lines!
At this price point, there are plenty of ways to be kind to the ocean that you swim within. Hunza G, Form & Fold, and Rixo are just three brands that are making sustainability a key focus of their business, using recycled materials, waste reduction design and local-loop manufacturing process to keep both carbon footprints and landfill contribution low.
To play your part, look for garments that incorporate Econyl (a regenerated nylon instead of ‘virgin’), low-impact dyes or natural materials like Hemp and Yulex. Washing in a guppy bag can also be useful, catching any loose microplastics and prolonging the life of a delicate garment.
"At this price point, there are plenty of ways to be kind to the ocean that you swim within"
Left To Right, Top To Bottom; Maygel Coronel Pink Swimsuit £245, Zimmerman Swirl Swimsuit £295, La Double J Tiled Bikini £315, Cala De La Cruz Spot Swimsuit £245, Paco Rabanne Yellow Bikini £220, Mary Mare Coastal Bodysuit £430, Haight Gingham Suit £235, Dodo Bar Or Brown Suit £240, Paper London Stripe Bikini £195, Sara Christina Pink Suit £278, Tory Burch Ditsy Suit £245, Marysia Mott Yellow Suit £330, PatBo Floral Cut out Suit £350, Abysse Wetsuit £279, Etro Rococo Bikini £530, Marysia Scallop Top £140, Rick Owens Swim Skirt £245, Mara Hoffman Tie-dye Bikini £345, Jill Sander Swim shorts £250
Spending top budget means investing in styles that will last you far beyond a single summer. Get the best out of your purchase by looking for pieces that can easily layer for poolside lounging—a bikini that works as a statement top, or a sleek swimsuit that would tuck into cut off shorts. One-shoulder styles can be immensely flattering for the décolletage, while peepholes, ties or adjustable closures help to accommodate for fluctuating size or support needs.
When looking for a pattern that lasts, it’s entirely down to personal preference, but take a look at the rest of your summer wardrobe to work out which colours you’re most drawn to at this time of year.
Strong yellows, pinks and reds look fantastic against darker skin tones, while ditsy florals and rococo embellishments can help to bring warmth to lighter complexions. Of course, there are some patterns that simply never go out of style—polka dots, gingham checks or stripes will always be cool for the summer.
"Spending top budget means investing in styles that will last you far beyond a single summer"
Read more: Revisiting Karen Carpenter's final album
Read more: A history of the mullet
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter