When I think of one-piece bathing suits, a few things come to mind: 1) Triathlons; 2) Where I can locate my inhaler? Because, thinking about triathlons made me wheezy; 3) Childhood pool escapades; 4) That time I tried to be a synchronized swimmer. Obviously, these aren’t one’s strongest sartorial moments, which is why bikinis had long been my default swimwear of choice. With my boyish body type, one-piece bathing suits always seemed to emphasize my lack of shape rather than enhancing anything, or I felt they made me appear more childlike — decidedly not what I was going for as a twentysomething at the beach. Bikinis gave me a waist (or at least showed that I do indeed have one), and came in an endless amount of patterns, cuts, and colors. And, if your activity level maxes out at reaching for a margarita or Kindle, a bikini can be the perfect get-up. But, say you want to challenge a friend to a game of beach bocce, chase a toddler around, or actually swim — I hope you’re in France, because that bandeau you thought you were wearing is already at the bottom of the ocean.
Photographed by Jennifer Trahan.
So, here I am, after nearly two decades as a two-piece devotee (and untold accidents involving potentially indecent exposure), giving the old uni-suit another chance. Because, as an adult, I want the freedom to pull off whatever styles I like while relying on the comfortable functionality to do whatever I please: jump in that pool, run after a dog, heck, grill some burgers! (Or, let’s put on clothes for that last one — not safe.)
We all have things we want to emphasize using fashion, and now it's pretty easy to find the right one-piece do just that. With a little effort, I've hunted down suits that flatter my shape and give me the same amount of sexy I felt in a bikini. And, along the way, I've learned that it doesn't matter how much skin you're showing; when you feel confident in what you’re wearing, you’ll look great. Period. So, no, bikinis are not inherently more sexy than one-pieces, they just offer different things to their wearer. And, it’s fun to have both options at your disposal. If you're also guilty of passing over every single one-piece in your quest for the best swimwear season after season, I kindly ask that you allow me to change your mind.
For me, the two suits pictured made for a great jumping-off point. The cut of the hot-pink Cover suit above makes me feel like a Bond Girl (in addition to offering 50+ SPF). In it, I want to walk in slow-motion out of the waves, like Halle Berry in Die Another Day (who was actually wearing a bikini in that scene, proof that one-pieces can stand up to split suits when it comes to strong sexy vibes). The higher neck takes the emphasis off of my less-than-ample chest and brings the eye up toward my face. It also protects my decolletage from wrinkles. I love the high-cut leg, which lengthens my gams, and the way the gray stripe breaks up my torso to define my waist. This suit isn’t just for my body type, though; the mock neckline and higher cut add some secure support for women with bigger chests, too.
The one-shoulder Clover Canyon suit (available here in a different print) strikes a feminine form. This one’s flattering on my chest and brings attention to my shoulders (which is not to say that small-chested ladies shouldn’t go for low-cut suits, also). The floral print adds dimension, winding around and giving an illusion that I’m working with more than I actually am. Plus, it's made of neoprene, one of my favorite swimwear materials; it’s thick, offering support without uncomfortable wires, which makes this suit unbelievably wearable.
Because there are so many options out there, no matter what your body type, you can find a suit that flatters your shape. I picked these as a sort of entry-level course in one-pieces, because they could work on someone tall, short, curvy, straight, or any combination in between. They exemplify the universality of one-piece suits that many women — myself included — might not have previously believed. I'm not saying we should all go out and buy one of these two, because the right suit for you is the one you feel the most comfortable wearing. And, the best way to figure that out is to try things on. If you feel good in it, then it works. It's as simple as that — no matter how many pieces are involved.