Style / Bathing beautifully
A great suit has to be ready to move
Tori Praver, Kendall + Kylie, Beach Riot, and Ellejay suits (images from Revolve)
Photos supplied by vendors except where noted
Ribbed. Belted. Tropicana. Seersucker. Ruffled. Deep V front. Deep dip back. Velour. Really, velour.
My favorite bathing suit is called an “Ugly.” It’s made by Dolfin, a Speedo competitor. I remember grabbing it out of a bin and buying it because it was cheap. Uglies are designed for the abuse of chlorine and sun. You can afford to almost literally burn through two or three every season while you swim laps, keeping the expensive swim-team suit in perfect condition for competition.
From J Crew a flattering twist and a print that pops maybe even better than my Ugly
Except the Ugly never seemed to wear out, and, to this day, it makes me forget about my flaws. The colors pop in a happy summer way that makes me feel like I am eight years old and building sand castles, or eighteen years old and ready to body surf. Now the challenge is in finding a way to keep my Ugly around forever. Of course, I could simply take the time to find another suit that makes me feel as happy. And I should. This is an amazing year for options.
Bathing suits. “The trouble with bathing suit shopping,” I said to my teenager, “is that I think I am going to look like the girl in the ad.”
“Tell me about it,” my teenager said.
OK, so if we all suffer from that illusion, an illusion that leads to disappointment, let us move on. Let’s keep the focus on two things: cut and color. No, three things: cut and color and being happy. These three things get us to what we think we are buying in a bathing suit anyway: freedom. If I put on a bathing suit and I want to hide, or if I put on a bathing suit and I don’t want to move, guess what? Wrong suit. The right suit is one that makes me think, “Where are my sunglasses? Will I need a bucket for shells? Is my phone charged? Shall we rent sunbeds or take the big blanket? Which wine—a full bottle or a cute little six pack?” These are the important questions in life.
Shape flattering and a sophisticated and or obsessive attention to detail, from Eres Paris
It is not all about athletic wear, though. If it is drama that makes you happy, there is plenty to be found. The Midsommer Swim has a quiet, off the shoulder, long-sleeved one-piece that makes a statement in an “I never swim, but I could if I wanted to” way. Plus, it doubles as a body suit, which makes stepping from pool to dining room a bit quicker. If you like to make waves, consider ruffles, from a thin strip, as along the edge of a Missguided tie front bikini top, on into the beauty queen volume you can experience if you dare to pre-order the luxe Johanna Ortiz La Perla’s belted one piece. The sash is removable, by the way, revealing one of the most sophisticated draped bodices I have ever seen in a suit. Tres elegante. Tres La Perla.
Black Frill Tie Front Bikini Top from Missguided, and Norma Kamali Jose top off the shoulder
Norma Kamali’s tropical prints and elasticized gatherings practically move on their very own, without any help from whoever is lucky enough to wear them, while there is a bold simplicity in the latest Kendall + Kylie designs. Their Classic Bikini makes me feel brave enough to buy—and actually wear it. The intricate detail in Eres Paris swimwear would allow me to sit by the pool and study more than the number of freckles on my arm, as if someone found a way to blend Italian leatherwork and French eye rolls. Perfect. Meanwhile, the subtle twists, the gentle knotting, and the creative color choices that can be found at Anthropologie and J. Crew are flattering and reenergizing in an American can-do way.
Make your scene coming or going with the graceful ties of the Lisa Marie Fernandez floral and the Johanna Ortiz Kalimba with removable sash, images from Moda Operandi
Leandra off the shoulder mailot from Lisa Marie Fernandez to Flor crochet tri from Kiini, images from Moda Operandi; Jamison 'cool girl' off shoulder long sleeve in jaquard from Midsommar Swim
If I were to choose one bathing suit fairy tale, however, one inspiration, one collection to inspire me, to dare me, it would be the Australian label Zimmerman. The Lovelorn Ladder Tri is a piece of art, and not surprisingly sold out. The Lumino Daisy bodice and Dot-Off bottom is fun. The Kali belted high waist bikini is vibrant—what I would buy for myself if I had a different color schematic. The Helm bandeau bikini may have one too many bows, but I am a sucker for lighthouse chic. None of these bathing suits could be confused for a Speedo, certainly, but it is not surprising to me that the lookbook styles I enjoyed the most came from a country full of water enthusiasts.
I keep a photo of my mother on my vanity. She is sitting on a beach towel in a strong sun. She wears a bandeau bathing suit top and waist-high bottoms, and she holds a pair of sunglasses in her hands. Her hands are in her lap. The sun-bleached door of a boathouse is in the background. In front of her is an open magazine and an open bottle of beer. My mother is not hiding. She is smiling. She is styled as if she just wrapped a 2018 beach scene photo shoot. She also looks absolutely ready to move. I have to ask her if she still has that bathing suit.