Swimsuit season is nearing, and scoping out options online or browsing in-store can cause information overload. There are hundreds of options: tops and bottoms that can be paired with other bottoms and tops, one-pieces, cut-outs, tankinis … all of that mixing and matching, selecting, and trying on without even considering if you want a hat, coverup, sandals, or beach bag.
A game plan is essential when heading into the shopping process, but it is also important to be flexible. Frustration stemming from not finding the perfect bathing suit is just as horrible as staring out over a field of brightly colored triangles and bandeaus wondering how on earth you’ll find something suitable.
Also worth taking into consideration is the when and where of your swimwear. When takes into account more than just the time of year but how many times during the year you’ll be splashing around in the water. If you live on the coast or in a warm climate, swimsuit season starts earlier and ends later. More money might need to be spent on a suit — or suits — that can last the entire time without pilling, stretching, or otherwise falling apart.
To an extent, where determines the style. Lounging by the pool, frolicking in the ocean, and jet skiing do not share the same requirements for fit and coverage. Yes, the teeny yellow polka dot bikini looks great as you float by on a raft, but you’ll be wishing you had something more substantial when you hit the waves. With that in mind, here are 25 options, each under $100, that take the fuss out finding a bathing suit.
To have a bathing suit that gives you a little extra oomph, find one like the Victoria’s Secret Unforgettable suit (far left). The halter tie and underwire on the suit provide support and the ruching is forgiving. The draping and gathering of the fabric masks any stomach problem areas, and the gold accent is minimal yet enough to draw the eyes up, particularly on the black suit, where the contrast is most noticeable. Merona’s green polka dot one-piece is in a retro style, and the halter assists anyone who is top-heavy by providing extra support. This time, subtle side ruching defines the waist, and the cut is flattering for a variety of body shapes.
The Ralph Lauren scoop neck (middle) will have you thinking Baywatch babe, but in a good way. It won’t provide as much support as the previous two but still scores strongly in this department, with a built-in bra and padding. If top support is not a concern or you want to avoid tan lines from straps, look for a strapless suit like the black Ralph Lauren. Ruffles add definition to the bust, adding to a small frame and drawing attention to the area. Printed nauti-ness is on the horizon in the patterned J. Crew Factory one-piece (far right). It will keep your top half moderately covered and has a decent level of support.
With the exception of the black Ralph Lauren (which is best for tanning or floating in the pool), all of these suits will make you a bathing beauty no matter what summer activity you’re engaging in.
Above: Merona Polka Dot One-Piece ($34.99), Victoria’s Secret Unforgettable One Piece ($88.50-$90.50), Ralph Lauren Blue Label Scoop-Neck One-Piece ($80), INC International Concepts Floral-Print Criss-Cross One-Piece Swimsuit ($69.98), Ralph Lauren Blue Label Boho Solids Bandeau One-Piece Swimsuit ($100), Factory Tank in Navy Floating Anchor ($49.50)
Less friendly to the waves and water sports are bikinis, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon the style. Look for swimwear options that don’t tie, have ample coverage, and aren’t so loose they’ll easily slip off. The suits by J. Crew Factory (top left), ASOS (top middle), and Victoria’s Secret (right) all accomplish this. All three suits have a sturdy top, making it less likely they’ll leave you behind in the water. If you pick one of the halter styles, be certain you can secure the tie.
The Mossimo and Topshop styles are less practical when it comes to surfing or water skiing but are still great bikini options. Crochet detailing on the Mossimo suit introduces texture, and with ties at the back and top, it can be adjusted to fit as snugly as needed. In general, tie-side bikini bottoms will have less coverage, and it might be easier to find a banded bikini bottom that fits. The peony floral top is a padded, eye-catching print, but it can be a bit much in full suit form. Either the top or bottom can easily be paired with a simple black piece instead. For years, this has been one of the bikini’s best features — adaptability.
If you have a neutral-colored bathing suit from previous seasons and buy a printed one this year, you can mix and match the styles, creating several different looks for the price of one suit. There has also been a rise in mixing patterns recently, and there is no need to exclude swimwear from the trend.
Above: J. Crew Factory Triangle Bikini Top in Cerulean Sea ($29.50) and Factory Bikini in Cerulean Sea ($29.50), Mossimo Women’s Crochet Mix and Match Collection 2 -Guava, ASOS Stripe Longline Bandeau Bikini Top ($29.63) and ASOS Stripe Deep Hipster Bikini Bottom ($18.52), Topshop Peony Floral Plunge Bikini Top ($32) and Peony Floral Tieside Bikini Bottom ($20), Victoria’s Secret Getaway Halter Top ($36.50-$48.50) and Cheeky Hipkini Bottom ($18.50-$22.50)
Tankinis are an alternative to one-pieces, even though at first glance, each style appears the same because tankinis can meet the top of your bathing suit bottoms — otherwise, they hit just above the start of your bottom half. You may find the tankini is a better option if you have a long torso or have issues finding a one-piece that properly fits. Another reason to opt for the tankini is that you can find a pair of bottoms that you like. So even though the silhouette can mimic the one-piece, it can be easier to find the right cut for your body shape with a tankini.
The Island Escape ruffled tankini (left) flatters by completely concealing the stomach. The tiers begin where the bust ends and flow down to meet the bikini bottoms. The Victoria’s Secret smocked top (middle right) does not create a new shape as effectively as the Island Escape, but it will flow away from the body. There is more material than a traditional bikini top, and the cut (when dry) does not cling to the body in the same manner a one-piece does. Mossimo’s tankini (top right) slightly flows out from the body as well, hitting at the hips. The smocked top by Victoria’s Secret and LOFT tankini will be better options for people with smaller chests who do not need as much support. Neither will add much to the area, which is where the padding in the Victoria’s Secret ruched halter is more helpful.
Above: Island Escape Tiered-Ruffle Tankini Top & Solid Brief Bottom ($29.98 and $24.98), Victoria’s Secret Ruched Halter Tankini ($48.50) and Foldover Bottoms ($28.50), Mossimo Women’s 2-Piece Tankini Swimsuit -Damask ($24.99 and $19.99), Victoria’s Secret Smocked Tankini Top ($38.50) and Hipkini Bottom ($18.50), LOFT Beach Striped Key Ring Tankini ($54.50) and LOFT Beach Striped Bikini Bottom ($44.50)
A high-waisted bikini bottom can be a basic or part of a set. The Anne Cole bottom can serve as a jumping-off point. If you try on a high-waisted bottom and love the control it takes over your shape — smoothing out your stomach and lower back — there are endless possibilities for pairing. It might be hard to match the black to another black, and the easiest route will probably be finding a print or bright color for the top. Since you won’t be trying to match perfectly, it does not matter what store or brand you choose.
Balconette tops pair well with high-waisted bottoms, especially if you want to evoke the glamorous feel of the 1950s. This is another style that can add to a small bust or subtly enhance a larger one. Occasionally these tops end up looking like bras, so search for a style like the H&M version (bottom left). Longline bikini tops have emerged as a style-setting piece over the past year, another way to add to the retro feel of your swimwear. A tiny triangle top won’t go as well with high-waisted bottoms, and if you’re searching for two pieces, look for bandeau, longline, or fuller halter styles — like the H&M padded top (second image, top row).
The other route is to find high-waisted sets, like the ASOS seersucker suit, or the blue-and-white striped suit from Target (top right). Often, the sets are in colors and patterns that match their retro vibe. This shouldn’t discourage people who are not polka dot or gingham wearers, because as the style has grown more popular, the “novelty” design aspect has worn off. Victoria’s Secret now has several high-waisted options in basic colors and prints like leopard (top left). At Topshop (bottom row, third image), Warhol-style flowers have even found their way into bikini bottoms, which can easily be matched up with a black or neutral top.
Above: Victoria’s Secret Lattice High-Waist Bottom ($38.50) and Lattice Push-Up Bandeau ($52.50), H&M Balconette Bikini Top ($17.95) and H&M Padded Bikini Top ($17.95), Anne Cole High-Waist Swim Bottom with Tummy Control ($50), Summer Rose High Waisted Bikini ($24), ASOS Seersucker Longline Bikini Top ($37.04), Women’s Plus-Size Bandeau Swim Top ($26.99) and Women’s Plus-Size High Waist Swim Shorts ($22.99), ASOS Seersucker High Waisted Bikini ($33.33)
Skirted bottoms and swim dresses
Skirted bottoms and swim dresses are two modest styles in swimwear, but as these options show, modest doesn’t mean matronly. Swim skirts like the ModCloth suit (top left) can be high-waisted and just as marvelously mod as their brief counterparts. They are also great for being active in the water because you won’t constantly be pulling at them from all sides. Swim skirts offer an alternative to dresses for women who have long torsos.
A fuller figure will find that swim dresses enhance the shape, showing off curves in a way that a regular two-piece or one-piece cannot. In addition to stomach slimming, the Upstream suit (top middle) elongates the line of the body because it comes down past the hips. Simple and elegant are not words usually bandied about when it comes to bathing suits, but the Lands’ End swim dress (top right) has elements of both. Pair it with a floppy hat and oversized sunglasses for a chic day at the beach. Alternatively, with a high ponytail and jacket coverup, the suit takes on an athletic look. No matter what your personal style is, if you’re conscious of your hips, this look won’t accentuate the area.
Gathering and ruffles on the bottom of the suits in the second row are another way to capture vintage vibes but without overdoing it. The ruffles will balance out a person who is heavier on top or has broader shoulders. Most swim dresses will also have underwire or bras built in. Like one-pieces, provided there are straps, they easily transition from peaceful by the pool to splashing in the water.
Above: ModCloth Bathing Beauty Two-Piece ($89.99), Upstream Tummy Slimmer & Hip Minimizer Floral Swimdress – Women’s Plus (69.30), Lands’ End Beach Living Halter Dresskini Top ($69), Jessica Simpson Rose Colored Glasses Underwire Bandeau Swimdress ($96), a.n.a Shirred Bandeau 1-Piece Swimdress ($56)