Photo: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
The bikini has reigned as the sexiest bathing suit for several years now, but this summer, one-piece swimsuits are giving bikinis a run for their beach-bunny money. You've always heard that "less is more," but when it comes to swimwear, this season's flattering new cuts and flirty retro styles throw that notion to the wind. Aside from saving you those extra crunches at the gym, one-pieces are a great way to highlight your best features, downplay some others and look utterly chic on your first beach day this year.
The one-piece suit induces a feeling that you're covered up but still exposed.
- Kathleen Mudd, buyer at Canyon Beachwear
Vintage-inspired dresses have swamped the runways recently, and it's only natural that those trends would spill over to swimsuit styles. Mayra Jimenez, a co-founder of the swimwear website TheOrchidBoutique.com, cites the pinup models of yesteryear -- and their celebrity followers of today -- as the influence for this year's one-piece suits.
"Katy Perry has been in many photo shoots lately wearing pinup-style one-pieces with underwire," she said, calling it a "Betty Boop" look. And since the bathing beauties of the '30s, '40s and '50s had more curves than many of the stick-straight starlets of today, the vintage cuts can be much more flattering on a variety of body types. From underwire tops and sweetheart necklines to boning and ruching in the waist, these vintage cuts are more forgiving than those shapeless, shudder-worthy "Baywatch" one-pieces of the '90s.
And think of all the fun accessories you can match with a vintage-style bathing suit: oversize sunglasses, a big straw hat and even some dramatic red lipstick if you're feeling extra bold.
Although you may be exposing a tad less skin than you would in a bikini, you can definitely look alluring in a one-piece, thanks to the power of a sexy silhouette.
"One-piece suits can contour and create smooth lines along the torso," explained Lisa Letarte Cabrinha, the designer behind the Letarte swimwear line. "Women want to be sexy, chic and active, and an elegantly cut one-piece swimsuit can allow women to be all three."
Guido Campello, vice president of sales, branding and innovation at Cosabella, agrees. "Always leave more to the imagination," he said. "Less skin can be sexier when the skin showing is accentuated in all the right places." And with the variety of cuts on the market -- deep plunges, one-shoulders, halters and low backs, to name a few -- you can pick and choose which parts of your figure to showcase -- and which to tuck away.
A well-made one-piece can be stunning, said Kathleen Mudd, the buyer for Los Angeles-based Canyon Beachwear, particularly if it shows off a sumptuous fabric. "There's a shine and glimmer in nice bathing suit fabrics, and a one-piece will showcase that and emphasize the sensuality of it," she said.
And while more fabric means less skin, a one-piece can strike a perfect balance of sex appeal and mystery -- something a string bikini cannot do. "The one-piece suit induces a feeling that you're covered up, but still exposed," Mudd said.
The Magical Monokini
The one-piece swimsuit darling this season is the monokini. With cutouts on each side of the torso and a design that leaves your back exposed, the monokini looks like a bikini from behind, but in front, it's a fashion-forward, sexy one-piece..
Jimenez says that the monokini, sometimes called the cutout, is hands-down the No. 1 pick of the one-pieces it sells. "People adore the fact that it's a one-piece but also feels like a two-piece. It's a unique style that women have gravitated toward."
Another upside of the monokini: You can have your tummy as under- or overexposed as you see fit.
A Suit For Every Shape
Unlike a teeny tiny string bikini, the one-piece can flatter virtually every body type -- it's just a matter of choosing the right style. If you have a curvy or top-heavy figure, look for one with underwire for support. Campelli suggests a high-cut leg, which can balance out a curvy figure. Mudd advises careful consideration of fabric. "With swimwear, it's you and your body and that's it," she said. "Buy the best that you can afford, because it really is going to make you look better."
If you have a less-curvy figure, Mudd recommends the monokini because it's cut in at the stomach, creating a more defined waistline. Jimenez recommends that women who want to enhance the bust area try suits with underwire, which can accentuate your chest and create a curvier silhouette. Letarte advises trying on some bandeaus, saying they look fantastic on smaller chests.
For women with pear-shaped figures, Campelli recommends a halter with a sexy V-shaped neckline to draw the eye to your upper body. Mudd agrees that you should accentuate the bust and advises looking into pieces that are solid on the bottom and floral or patterned on the top to keep the attention above your waist.
Finally, if you have an angular or athletic body, Mudd advises going for a suit that's a bit softer and more feminine. Floral prints and beaded tops are popular this year, so you'll have an array of touches to choose from.