Swimwear trends


Swimwear trends don't move in quite the same cycles as other fashion trends. That's because it's hard to reinvent the bikini or the monokini: in the need to balance functionality and sex appeal, designers are limited to what they can actually do. Despite this, one piece and bikini trends are certainly still influenced by other fashion trends. For example, bikinis in 2009 and 2010 were heavily inspired by some of the key fashion trends for those years: cutaway clothing, one-shouldered pieces, fetish fashion, high-end sportswear and rock-chic garments. These are largely styles of the past, however.
So what swimsuit trends can we expect for 2011 and into 2012? You'd be right if you guessed swimsuit styles influenced by other key fashion trends for the year. So when it comes to choosing a bikini for 2011 and 2012, these are the styles should you be looking out for.

2011 2012 bikini trends

Vintage-inspired swimwear

There's a scene in 1956's High Society where Grace Kelly kneels poolside and pushes a model boat, the True Love, across the still water. She's wearing a white halterneck swimsuit that ends in a small, ruffled skirt; her chin-length hair is neatly curled, her feet are bare. Never has a swimsuit looked so elegant.
Of course it's the bombshells, the pin-ups, of the same era we're more inclined to think of when it comes to 1950s swimsuits in particular - the Marilyn Monroes and the Jayne Mansfields. They're playful, curvaceous, steeped in sex appeal. And so the reason we refer to the former is to balance out the latter: vintage-style swimwear has a huge place in 2011 and onwards, but it doesn't have to be all strawberry cheesecake cliches. And the right piece can be whatever you want it to be, as bombshell as Monroe or as sophisticated as Kelly.
Nor does a vintage bikini or swimsuit have to be like a pin-up girl costume. In 2011 many designers are infusing vintage-inspired details into modern pieces - a high-waist here, a vintage print there - and the results can be perfect for the zeitgeist.
Some features to look out for:
  • one-pieces with cinched-in waists, sweetheart necklines and halters
  • high-waist bottoms
  • playful prints - gingham checks, hawaiian prints, nautical themes
  • shirred sides that accentuate the waist and hips
  • fuller-cupped tops
  • boy-legged bottoms

crochet / lace effect, high waisted bikini bottom from Nookie Beach spring 2011

vintage swimwear style two piece from Jets summer 2011

vintage swimwear style two piece from Anthropologie's 2011 swimwear collection

high waisted bikini with statement strapping from Lisa Blue summer 2011. These briefs sit as one of the best interpretations we've seen of the year's bikini trends to date

high waisted briefs bikini from Kooey spring 2011. Note that there's a real danger in buying into the vintage trend in block colours: even on the slimmest of models the wrong block colour isn't flattering

vintage swimwear style two piece from Jets summer 2011

high waisted bikini with halter neck strapping from Kooey spring 2011

A patterned bikini with vintage swimwear styling from Kooey spring 2011

vintage swimwear style two piece from Anthropologie's 2011 swimwear collection

Ruffled bikini / ruffled swimsuit

Perhaps it's the inspiration of vintage swimwear on 2011 and 2012, or it's just the need for women to find a distinct, feminine way for their swimsuits standout by the pool and at the beach, either way: ruffled bikinis and ruffled swimsuits are one of the swimwear trends for the coming season.
And the fact that ruffled swimwear is an on-trend style at the moment is just about where the rules for the trend end. Unlike vintage swimwear or even one-shouldered bikinis, ruffled swimwear has no distinct style 'rules'. Instead we've seen it styled and cut in a lot of different ways for spring / summer 2011 and 2012, often working alongside other one piece and bikini trends for the year.

ruffle bikini in black and off-white from Lisa Maree spring 2011

A young take on the ruffle bikini from Terri Donna spring 2011

A young take on the ruffle bikini from Terri Donna spring 2011

Ruffles are saved for trimming on this two piece singlet and briefs combination from White Sands summer 2011

Crochet bikinis

Influenced both by the return of 1970s fashion and the crochet clothing trend as an independent spring / summer 2011 trend, crochet bikiniscrochet swimsuits and open weave pieces that have the same effect, are not just on-trend this season, they're the must-have fashionable swimwear style.
And for good reason too: when worn right, crochet swimwear offers up that elusive cocktail of sex appeal and reality that every woman wants from her swimsuit. After all, the perfect crochet swimwear doesn't just show off the body and allude to more of it, its intricate wide stitch catches the eye, drawing the viewer in while distracting them from any flaws, imagined or otherwise, that you might wish to not have noticed.
The other benefit to a crochet swimwear piece is that it borders neatly on daywear. Pair a crochet monokini with denim cut-offs for a look that ticks all the festival fashion boxes; or with some crisp wide-leg pants or a midi-skirt for those resort afternoons.

A coral coloured crochet swimsuit from Roopa Pemmaraju's spring 2011 showing

One-shoulder bikinis / swimsuits

One-shoulder bikinis and swimsuits were all the rage back in 2009, but as 2010 progressed they, like the trend that inspired them, slowly lost popularity. And to be completely fair, that is a fact that hasn't really change for 2011 and 2012. The one shoulder bikini is not the swimwear trend, but it's still a great look, still a great point of differentiation, and there is still a particular way to wear it in 2011 / 2012.
For the next two years the one shoulder bikini is all about the 'statement shoulder'. Back in 2009 this style of bikini had two key features:
  1. a thin, single shouldered strap
  2. the colour of the strap was the same as the bikini / swimwear
In 2011 / 2012 the opposite is now true for on-trend, one shouldered swimwear. For the next two years the fashionable one shouldered bikinis and one shouldered one pieces have:
  1. a thick, single shouldered strap
  2. a colour contrast between the strap and the rest of the bikini

Statement strapping

The term string bikini has particular connotations, connotations that carry with them a particular level of sexiness. And 'sexy' is an oft desired quality of any bikini. While string bikinis aren't out of fashion in 2011 / 2012, neither are they on-trend. You can still borrow from them, however, should you wish to choose a bikini for the season that features the very on-trend 'statement strap'.
We call this particular bikini trend strapping and not stringing because it's been created in both string thin and wider cuts.

The style of swimming
Statement strapping on the shoulders of this one piece from Lisa Blue spring 2011.

Statement strapping on the briefs of this print bikini from Lisa Blue spring 2011

Statement strapping on both the shoulders and briefs of this bikini set from Lisa Blue spring 2011

Simple strapping on the halter neck of this bikini from Vero Moda swimwear

Digital print swimwear

Digital prints are everywhere in spring / summer 2011. Personally, I'm yet to decide how I feel about that fact: is it a natural progression of the technology fashion designers now have a their disposal, or are they just being lazy, relying on technology instead of age-old craft and techniques? Whichever it is (and it might be neither) swimwear that features a bold print is equally as popular in 2011 and 2012. And that should come as no surprise, printed swimsuits have always been popular. For this season, however, the style takes its queues from the sports-as-fashion street wear trend and sees the print applied to swimwear that is more functional then fashionable.

An ethnically inspired print monokini from Lisa Blue spring 2011

A girly take on the print one piece with lace panelling from Terri Donna spring 2011

The style of swimming

On-trend swimwear for your figure type

The reality is that when it comes to swimwear, not every cut is going to flatter every figure. But between all of the trending 2011/2012 styles there's certainly something for everyone. It will certainly always come down to what you're most comfortable with, but if you're after a starting point here are some shape-based suggestions:

Fuller figure

Embrace the vintage trend and use it to accentuate rather than try and hide your curves. Try halternecks or cupped styles, and anything that brings in the waist to play to an hourglass shape.

Belly control bathing suit

Pear shape / small bust

Use ruffles to your advantage by adding volume at the top half. Ruffles around the bust can make it seem visually larger. You can also use vintage cupped styles with padding to create curves.

Small bust bathing suit

Top heavy

Use ruffles to your advantage by conversely adding them to the bottom to balance your hips with your bust. Avoid unstructured crochets or string bikinis if they don't offer any support; instead stick to structured styles and halternecks.

Big Bust bathing suit

Short legs

To lengthen the body pair a printed bikini top with a block-coloured bottom, drawing the attention upwards. Avoid boy-legs and go for high cut thighs instead so as to not shorten the legs further.

Athletic figures

If you're not big on the curves make the most of styles like statement strapping, backless styles and crochet that instead show off a toned physique.

1 Comment

  1. Love the navy and white bikini for 'short legs'. Where can I find/buy it?