When it comes to swimwear trends, options abound for every lifestyle, from sunbathing to surfing or playing beach volleyball.
By Ashley Breeding
When choosing swimwear, most beachgoers—from surfers to sun-worshippers—agree that fit is key.
“You have to feel good in it,” says Andréa Bernholtz, who for years struggled to find a suit that complemented her curvy figure. As co-founder of denim brand Rock & Republic, Bernholtz knew the fashion industry, but “had no intentions of starting a swim line.”
“Then I was in Mexico with a group of girlfriends who were all complaining their suits didn’t fit—seams that were unflattering, parts that cut into their body, a size roomy enough for a busty top but too big for the bottom,” she says. “They said to me, ‘Why don’t you make swimwear?’
“I couldn’t get the idea out of my head,” says Bernholtz, who went on to create the Swiminsta brand with a variety of options to meet women’s needs.
As she points out, women want swimsuits that fit—in different styles for different times, whether they’re being active in the water, tanning on the beach or even playing in the pool with little kids. Read on for our guide to swimwear that suits your lifestyle.
Working on a tan, relaxing in the sand or partying by the pool? A suit that stays put is less a priority than one with chicer style. At The Shop. Laguna Beach, owner Jessica Watson says the 1980s are making a comeback with the high thigh a la Jane Fonda.
“This cut is super flattering if you have a straighter, more boyish figure, and [it] really elongates legs,” she says, noting that it can also add volume to an already curvy figure. But hey, who doesn’t want more curves? L*Space, Billabong and Laguna Beach-based Vitamin A are brands big on this silhouette, as well as another retro return: The “cheeky” V-shaped bottom, also showing more skin and creating the illusion of length.
“This generally caters to a younger girl, but we have more mature options in different prints and fits,” Watson says,” noting that mid-rise and high-rise versions “right below the belly button” are in highest demand.
With one-pieces—as popular with young moms and women over 40 as the higher rise—“sparkle and cut-outs at the chest and above the navel” come into play, she says. Neutrals like black and tan (think Bo Derek) are also hot, as are wild prints and old hardware made new again. “Vitamin A brought back that brass ring from 20 years ago,” Watson says.
Across all styles, expect to see embellishments like eyelet, ruffles and pops of neon colors
These styles are available at The Shop. Laguna Beach and online at theshoplaguna.com.
Bernholtz, a part-time Laguna Beach resident, researched the market then connected with a swim shop owner in Los Angeles, where she found out from customers what they were (and weren’t) looking for in a swimsuit. The culmination was the Swiminsta label, whose collections take into account features that make a woman look great and deliver confidence.
“Often we put something on, and we don’t know why it fits or looks better, but it just does,” she says, noting details like wires (hide them), seams (stitch them so they flatter), ruching (a key trick to rounding out the tush), and materials (quality fabrics that won’t sag or snag). Nothing digs into soft areas or ties around the neck.
Understanding the ugly side of the industry, Bernholtz also made it a priority to “soften Swiminsta’s imprint on the planet” with the use of luxury recycled fabrics from Italy. Nets, bottles and other waste materials are upcycled instead of using new synthetics. All brand packaging is also recycled or compostable, and you won’t find any plastics holding any of her pieces together. For the hang tags, the brand uses aluminum clips.
From design to execution, “Our line is about problem solving,” Bernholtz says. “Everything is made with intention.”
Her go-to suit is the Cheerful one-piece from the Christian Lacroix collaboration. “It’s got a low-cut V neckline and shows a little bit of cheek,” she says. The silhouette is a top seller in addition to the Joy bandeau (the heart neckline is a chic, sexy take on the more traditional linear cut) and Smart bottoms with adjustable sides. There’s a flattering style for every figure (go as skimpy or full coverage as you need), and this summer’s complementary collection can be mixed and matched. Sarongs are also available in a couple of the Lacroix prints.
Have little ones? Swiminsta stretches favorite prints like leopard and Lacroix florals into the Mommy and Me and ever-expanding kids collections, ranging from modest two-pieces to practical rash guards.
Swiminsta is available at Attu and Kiska Boutique in Laguna Beach and online at swiminista.com.
Women who play hard in the water know better than anyone the importance of a snug swimsuit. “When I push off a wall or get get hit by a big wave, I don’t want to wonder if my bottoms are around my ankles,” exclaims Lagunan Stephanie Havelka, an open-water swimmer and coach, who grew up as a competitive swimmer and then got into outrigger canoe paddling and flatwater kayaking, competed in triathlons and even served as a lifeguard. Although there’s no Olympic trials for swimwear design, she added this to her roster.
“Even as a kid, I hated the standard Speedos that were available to athletes,” Havelka says. “When I was 14—ya know, the age when you’re really getting your sense of style going—I started sketching my own designs because I was so disappointed with how boring everything else was out there.
Through different athlete circles—from fellow aquathoners to friends, training partners and professional volleyball players—Havelka listened to what was missing in the market. She’s seen all sorts of “rigged” suits, including a volleyball player who used safety pins and a rusted key ring to hold her garments together. “I thought, ‘I can engineer a better swimsuit,’ ” she says.
“A bathing suit is like equipment; it’s got to work, but you also want to look good. No woman has ever said, ‘Make me look dowdy.’ ”
Enter her Kandu Sport company and its Sportkini collection of flattering swimwear for active women (“and moms of active kids,” she notes) that won’t leave you deep-diving for a bikini top or trying to cover yourself as your suit floats away in a crowd of surfers. What else it won’t do: gape, dig, pinch, chafe, get spongy, sag or disintegrate with wear.
“We’re meticulous about construction,” Havelka affirms, pointing to three new tops, two bottoms and two one-pieces being added later this year to the current seven-piece collection.
“They’re all made to withstand a lot of abuse, while also making women of different shapes and sizes look and feel good,” she says. “For instance, there are places you just don’t put a print. You want to draw the eye upward toward your face so the whole body looks svelte. That’s done with design and how you lay color.”
A personal fan of the Ringback top and Sassy Hipster bottoms, there’s a cut for every bosom, bottom and comfort level. “Fit and how you feel in it is everything,” Havelka says. “It’s empowering to have the freedom to do your thing.”
Sportkini is only available online at sportkini.com and fittings are offered at Havelka’s office in Laguna Beach; to schedule an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the Active Man
Outdoorsman Ted Reckas, who divides much of his free time between riding local waves and climbing at Tahquitz and Joshua Tree, says shorter length shorts are the way to go when you’re active, noting nylon shorts from Birdwell Beach Britches as his staple for days at the ocean. “Long board shorts are terrible to run and swim in,” he says.
When opting for shorts instead of a wetsuit, there are a few things to keep in mind. “Stay away from styles that have open front pockets, as they fill up with water and sand,” says Brandy Faber, a surfer and avid free diver when conditions are right.
Faber recommends a side pocket that zips shut to avoid the above-mentioned problems as well as sitting on the contents while out on the board.
“My favorite trunks right now are Laguna Surf & Sport’s private label, [Circle Roots],” Faber says. Not only is the fit ideal, they feature a side zip pocket and are made of stretch fabric, which is great for surfing, he adds. “They also have a drawstring closure, which is more secure while surfing,” he says.
Faber notes that other local brands like Vissla and Roark [such as the Passage Mariner 19-inch boardshorts] make great activewear, along with all the big brands—Volcom, RVCA, Billabong—that can be found at local surf shops.
When temperatures get a bit chilly, Faber’s go-to spring wetsuit is Vissla’s sleeveless 7 Seas 2-2 Short John. “All of their summer suits are great,” Faber says. “… Your choice might depend on your preferred activity. I like the Short John for surfing since it is less restrictive while paddling with no sleeves. The jacket is great to project you from getting rashes … [when] surfing while also protecting you from the sun. The long sleeve spring is a great all-around suit, too, which will keep you warm enough while diving, warm enough on cool mornings while surfing and [offers] good sun protection all around.”