When Baywatch-era swimsuits and tiny bikinis reigned supreme in the 1990s, relief for many women came in the form of a tankini, a sleeveless silhouette that provided more protection than most two-piece swimsuits but could still be modest, sporty, or sexy. . It was one of the few innovations at a time when women’s swimming styles catered to only a few body types and style preferences – and even received a nod on the cover of the 1990 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Beefcake was inspired by the 1920s swimwear designs for its gender-responsive clothing line. Credits: Ash Walker
And while the influencer-favorite loincloth bikini is still on trend, there have also been a few fuller-coverage options on the market that still evoke beachy sex appeal. Take, for example, Kim Kardashian’s latest endeavor Skims: a swimsuit line in multiple sizes with promotional images that are reminiscent of the bombshell of the 1980s. But styles still include cycling suits, mid-waisted cycling shorts, and long-sleeve one-piece swimsuits in addition to skin-baring cutout monokinis, triangle bikini tops, and bandeau tops.
Women looking for plus size suits no longer have to settle for skimpy deals – at Miami Swim Week in July, designers including Cupshe and Bfyne unveiled sizing collections, from cute and tropical to the pinnacle of poolside glamour.
At Miami Swim Week 2022, BFyne unveiled a glamorous poolside look. Credits: Fraser Harrison/Getty Images for Bfin
For Becky McCharen-Tran, founder of New York-based brand Chromat, whose dignified look has been at the forefront of inclusive swimwear, this shift is welcome.
“The culture has changed and swimwear is changing to fit this cultural moment,” she told CNN in a phone interview. “I think it’s exciting.”
New “pool rules”
Over the last decade, Chromat has led the way with experimental projects and campaigns that have involved various models of different nationalities, body types, abilities, gender and sexuality. The label’s innovative Pool Rules campaign made a splash in 2018 with its “Babe Guard,” a playful nod to the lifeguard trail modeled by breast cancer survivor Erica Hart, late disability rights activist Mama Cax, and body positivity. performed by Denise Bidault. “Our bodies are where we live,” Bidault wrote in a Teen Vogue article about the importance of the campaign to her, “and so we must show unconditional love for ourselves from within.”
Chromat x Tourmaline presented their Spring/Summer 2022 collection at New York Fashion Week last September. Credits: Sean Zanni/Getty Images for Chromat
McCharen-Tran said swimwear has become Chromat’s most popular line, largely due to their advertising campaigns. “Swimwear is a product that combines our ethos of celebrating all body types in this garment that can be so fraught and so vulnerable,” she said. “Our campaigns (were) so different from the main casting choices. I think people really felt a personal connection to the message we were sending.”
Collaborating with artist Tourmaline, Chromat’s latest collection includes designs for people “who don’t tuck in,” offering baggy swimwear designed for trans women and non-binary people. The vibrant collection features strappy and buckle styles, cut-out one-pieces, bottoms and shorts, bustier tops and zip-up tracksuits.
“Trans women can appear in public space in more than one way,” McCharen-Tran said of the collection. “We can go against that one expectation of gender or what femininity or woman means.”
Chromat has been at the forefront of inclusive advertising campaigns and swimwear design. Credits: Sean Zanni/Getty Images for Chromat
But for decades, swimwear and femininity have followed a narrow path dictated by Hollywood ideals.
According to Jacqueline Quinn, fashion consultant and adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design in New York City, the 1950s and 60s saw the emergence of many of the first iconic swimwear designs. The women who wore them on the silver screen came to define the beach body: Marilyn Monroe in a dazzling jumpsuit in the romantic comedy How to Marry a Millionaire, Deborah Kerr in a halter suit in the war novel From Here to Eternity, and Ursula Andress in a white bikini with a wide belt for the James Bond movie “Dr. No”.
Cupshe unveiled its first plus size collection at Miami Swim Week 2022. Credits: Jason Kerner/Getty Images for Cupshe
“Usually Hollywood was the springboard and then the magazines followed,” Quinn said in a phone interview. “There was almost a dictatorship of the trend – not a desire for individuality, but rather a copycat mentality.”
The decades that followed further solidified the archetype of the slender but curvaceous bikini bombshell, from Phoebe Cates’ slow motion by the pool in Fast Times at Ridgemont High to Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde filming Elle Woods’ video essay in a commercial. roller. jacuzzi.
Quinn pointed to the Miracle Suit—the forerunner of Spanx and Athleta’s shapewear swimwear that became popular in the 1990s—as one of the few brands to offer a wide range of sizes (although the promised “miracle” is to look 10 pounds smarter by today’s standards). standards are surprising).
From Summersalt’s data-driven approach to measuring 10,000 women for a better fit, to Victory Adaptive swimwear for kids with disabilities, Quinn is now excited about the innovations she sees coming to the industry, featuring velcro and holes for feeding tubes. .
Rebecca Saigi, swimwear and sportswear strategist at predictive company WGSN, agrees that the swimwear industry has become more expansive in terms of who they outfit and for what reasons.
“Brands are starting to recognize the fact that consumers are more likely to buy a product when they see someone they can identify associated with that product,” Saigi said via email. “Wider reach gives brands access to a much wider customer base.”
The latest Skims ad campaign featured Paris Jackson in a long-sleeve jumpsuit. Credits: Cobra (Mark Hunter)
But she also sees wellness, water sports and sportswear as having a growing market impact, accelerated in part by the effects of the pandemic. These sporty styles cater to the needs of beach lovers who are looking for more skin protection than cover.
“We are seeing brands starting to expand their presence in these categories with luxury vests, long-sleeved silhouettes and more functional, slightly more modest swimwear options,” she said, pointing to brands such as One One and Verdelimon.
McCharen-Tran suggested that Chromat might also want to explore cover options for modesty or sun protection, such as swim leggings, while still favoring styles for everyone. This includes being able to wear “tiny string” no matter the size, instead of making suits that try to “hide as much of your body as possible”.
“I think this represents a big change in how we feel about showing our bodies. We are no longer ashamed of it and we don’t need to hide it,” she said.
“We’re getting to being completely covered up if you want it, or being in a thong if you want it, and everything in between. It’s just different options for everyone to show up at the party.”
Top image: Bicycle suit and swim shorts from Skims.