With a trip to the local lido looking more and more appealing as the weather turns, and trips abroad firmly an option once more, it’s finally time to showcase your swimwear. We spoke to ten stylish women, from a travel journalist to a television producer, who know what they like when it comes to swimwear, to find out their favourite suits, be they itsy-bitsy, ultra supportive, or ideal for an Instagram OOTD. Read on for the best swimsuits, bikinis, and cover-ups.
Lee Cobaj, a freelance writer who specialises in tropical Asia, “goes through a lot of swimwear.” Despite the many glam brands out there, she finds herself going back to Marks and Spencer: “Although less cool, I’m a big fan. Their bikinis and cossies just always fit perfectly and last extremely well.” Recommending the suits for those looking for something “low-key,” Cobaj highlights the variety of “classic” looks, from nautical stripes to black two-pieces, as well as their excellent value for money. “They wash so well and take a lot of wear (no saggy elastic after just a few swims).”
“I do tend to go for designer,” admits Thatcher, “as they last and the fabric holds you in much better.” She’s had her “magical” Eres costume for the past five years and calls it the “ultimate swimsuit.” The bandeau costume has a cult following “thanks to its sculpting fabric,” which “holds you in all the right places while still being comfortable enough to wear all day.”
For an ethical swimwear option, you can do no better than Stay Wild Swim, says entrepreneur and editor-in-chief of About Time Angelica Malin. Based in London, the company specialises in premium sustainable swimwear, with all the suits “made using regenerated ocean plastic.” As well as being ecofriendly, Malin lauds the suits for being “some of the most flattering around” – they “suit everyone.” The Odyssey one-piece is her current favourite.
Gabby Beckford, who runs travel and lifestyle website Packs Light, knows a thing or two about swimwear – which makes her being a “die-hard customer for one brand, Matte Collection” all the more impressive. Even better? The swimsuits are very pocketbook–friendly, coming in at under £30 for both tops and bottoms. Beckford bought her first one for a trip to the Virgin Islands and has now owned six in total: “They’re just so darn affordable and high quality.” Praising the double-lined, thick material, bright colours, and on-the-mark sizing, she “recommends the brand at every chance to my audience: young travellers in their 20s and early 30s and who want a beautiful suit without a hefty price tag.”
“I adore Castamira because they’re designed by a woman for women,” enthuses visual artist and freelance writer Kelsey Marie, of her own Castamira costume. In particular, Marie sings the praises of the brand’s one-piece suits, which are “body contouring and extremely flattering.” Made from ecofriendly fibres, the costumes come in sustainable packaging, and are a “sure way to get a confidence boost.”
Marie also rates Riot Swim, which makes minimalist, very sexy bikinis and one pieces. “It’s ideal for the girls who have to get the perfect photo while on vacation,” she says, thanks to “super-stylish” cuts and “the most gorgeous solid colours.” The brand’s nude-coloured costumes match a wide range of skin colours.
“For luxury, you must always go for Agent Provocateur,” says Adebola Showemimo, who runs food and travel website My Breaking Views. They’re expensive – “I paid more than £200 for one bikini” – but Showemimo bought hers as a gift to herself and loves it. She wore hers in Marbella for a champagne party, but says the costumes are ideal for “chilling on the beach” or “hen do’s and cute girls’ trips.” Despite the glamour, the suits are still “really comfy,” although she warns that they’re cut to fit “a smaller-framed or petite woman.” Showemimo’s original all-black pick is no longer available, but Agent Provocateur’s new collection does have a similarly stylish (and flattering) swimsuit.
When swimming laps at Tooting Lido, a rather fetching puffin-themed swimsuit caught the eye of Strategist contributor Issy Sampson. She discovered the costume was from Batoko, a “micro-business” based in the North of England that makes each of its swimsuits from recycled plastics (as well as donating to charity). After months of being washed four times a week, “it still looks brand new,” says Sampson. What’s more, it looks good on everyone. “The medium-cut leg and scoop back mean it’s extremely flattering on all body shapes,” she says. “I’ve seen it worn by women between 18 and 80 years old in the lido, and the brand’s very heartwarming Instagram, which reposts customer’s pics, proves that point.”
Looking for a statement piece? Tolu Fasoyiro, who runs travel blog Travel With Tolu, says Andrea Iyamah’s pieces are perfect “for those who aren’t afraid to stand out.” The bold colour of the Kari High Waist bikini is eye-catching all by itself, while “the multiway element means you can style it out in a way that’s best suited to you.” Calling the swimsuit “a bit of me,” Fasoyiro says she can immediately picture herself “wearing it with an oversized hat on a Caribbean island.”
“I LOVE this piece,” says Fasoyiro, who points out the high waist’s stomach-smoothing properties – “sucking in is a thing of the past.”The piece comes in both black and white, but she recommends the black, as it’s “just that little bit sleeker and sexier.” Bear in mind, though, that smaller-breasted women are better suited to this costume, as “the single strap might not be the best in terms of support for those with bigger boobs.”
[Editor’s note: This product is low in stock.]
For plus-size women, it’s hard to beat Asos, says Chloe Elliott, who runs the Chloe in Curve website. “They have GREAT swimwear pieces for plus-size women,” she says, with “generally a great fit and loads of options.” The quality is also good for the price, she adds. “I feel that they take into consideration that we may need wider straps and generally more fabric than some other brands that stock plus-sizes at this price range.”
For “super-reliable, high-quality swimwear at prices that fit with the quality,” it has to be Elomi says Elliott, who has been wearing her Elomi pieces for years (Elliott was gifted the Elomi pieces and has previously worked with them, but has no current affiliations). “I have recommended them time and time again, especially for women that like to buy their bikinis in their cup size rather than dress size.”
“Sometimes designers give us the most boring styles and prints,” says Elliott of plus-size swimwear. So the bold styles and fun prints of Gabi Fresh are – excuse the pun – a breath of fresh air. “I have heard so many people rave about her swimwear range,” she says. The majority of the pieces are cup-sized, which is an added bonus. “This specific set is perfect to mix-and-match with.”
[Editor’s note: Unfortunately Elliott’s exact pick is out of stock, but we love this other cup-sized, bold option from the same brand.]
Showemimo was due to go on a trip to Jamaica last year, and though COVID meant the trip didn’t happen, she purchased several SHEIN bikinis in anticipation. “They are hella affordable (running from £3.99 to £25), easy to wear, and have so many options,” she says, saying that for £100 she managed to buy between 30 to 35 bikinis. They’re perfect for anyone who likes to mix up their swimwear look for Instagram snaps: “You can change outfits and take lots of different pictures.” They’re also great for curvier shapes. “I’m quite a curvy Black girl, and they definitely suit every type of body shape with sizes from really small to really big.”
This Black-owned brand has amazing reviews, says Showemimo, who “loves how colourful their swimwear is.” Many of the costumes also feature eye-popping prints, too. Citing the brand as a great midrange option, she emphasised that the bikinis are “really friendly to curvy girls.” Sizes run from XS to XL.
While seeing a guy in an American beach city a few years ago, television producer Roohi Hasan went on a huge swimwear buying session. Amazingly, she “hasn’t had to buy a swimsuit since then,” because she loves the Melissa Odabash costume she bought so much. An “almost T-shirt swimsuit,” the costume covers, but still has “a zip in front so you can show off your bikini top,” says Hasan. “The shape means you can wear it on and off the beach more easily – plus it’s white and fab on tanned skin.”
“The stripes on this set give me nautical vibes, a classic trend that is yet to go out of style,” says Fasoyiro. The matching set comes with a beautiful sarong, which makes for “the perfect stylish cover-up when you don’t want to show too much.” Plus, the bra is adjustable and “great for all boob sizes.”
Same no longer carries its stripy bikini-top style, but this similar piped set has the same nautical feel (and plenty of other colourways to choose from, too).
Cobaj, who has a “whole variety of swimwear” for different activities, says her go-to brand tends to be Seafolly – Australia’s largest swimwear brand – “which has a lot of glamorous prints and cuts, as well as decent support.” The major selling point, alongside the glam swimwear, is also the brand’s manifold “gorgeous kaftans, cover-ups and accessories.”
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