When several members of the Kardashian-Jenner clan — starting with Kendall, and then followed by Kylie and Kourtney — began wearing their string bikini tops upside down last summer, I figured that it'd be a blip as far as fashion trends go. After all, one of the big differences between famouses and the rest of us is that we actually like getting into the pool. But, like clockwork, once the weather warmed up, the DIY swimwear trend became ubiquitous, as people began tying their tops upside-down, criss-crossed, and even sideways. The Bachelor’s Chelsea Vaughn chose an upside-down bikini for a beach day in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in March, and appeared — at least in photos — to hold up during an outdoor shower. Brazilian actress Bruna Marquezine wore a flipped blue bikini with a belly chain in January. And Atlanta-based blogger Frankly Frankie’s Instagram feed is full of upside bikinis, tied in myriad ways, from 180 degree flips to backwards and sideways.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal. Essentially, by flipping your swimsuit top this way and that, you’re getting multiple bikinis for the price of one. You don’t even have to buy anything new to create the look; all it takes is digging out the string bikini that's likely been buried at the bottom of your swimwear drawer for a few summers. Also, oftentimes, they look great in photos. But do they stay up? How practical is it for doing anything in the water other than posing next to it?
I wore one for an entire workday this week, changing the tie pattern every few hours to see what worked and what didn’t. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have access to a pool nor pool-appropriate weather, so I did not take a dive in my upside-down bikini, though I did try to wear it in the shower. Even dry, though, when the most rigorous activity I did was transition from working on my back to my side to my stomach in bed, none of the styles held up. At one point, I had to climb on the counter to reach the cereal box I keep up high for emergency snacking, and the tie around my neck completely unraveled.
In the spirit of research, here’s what I found: While the standard upside-down style is the most sturdy when compared to any other style (strapless, criss-crossing it in the front, laying it on top of your chest untied while your assistant takes fake-candid pics of you with a book you don’t plan on reading), it still isn’t actually sturdy. While it might outlast a wade in the shallow end of the pool, there’s no chance it’ll survive a single wave at the beach or a dive into the deep end. When the cinching isn’t on the bottom, the “coverage” part of a string bikini becomes a complete joke. All day long, I spent more time adjusting my swimsuit than not adjusting it. Despite doing this experiment for work, I think it made me get less work done.
Others are equally skeptical: “It sort of works,” says Refinery29 creatives and updates editor Kate Spencer, who recently gave the trend a shot at home. “But I'd say it's not nearly as comfortable, supportive, or practical as wearing it right side up.” And then the hot take: “...And I don't think it's any more stylish.”
“The upside-down bikini is just unnecessary,” Refinery29 work and money editor Hannah Rimm says after, too, trying the trend IRL. “I don’t think it looks any better than a normal bikini and it certainly does not hold my D cups in if I move around. There's just so much underboob!” Though she admits that string bikinis aren’t her style — preferring, instead, a sportier, scoop-neck top — she still thinks the trend is “a lot of work for a very boring pay off,” adding, “The criss-cross neck one choked me.”
Ironically, Kendall Jenner appears to no longer abide by the trend she and her sisters sparked. Most likely, she came to the same realization that we did: swimwear was designed to be worn right side up for a reason. Any way else, and you won’t be wearing it for long.