The itsy, bitty, teeny, weenie, yellow polka-dot bikini may still be the go-to for many when building a summer wardrobe, but this summer’s trends have a wide range of styles and patterns, featuring both old swimsuit fashions and new modern ones.
When thinking about swim style, one cannot help but to first think of the designers who made real strides in shaping what our beach bodies wear today.
Dating back to 1913, Carl Janzten came out with the first two-piece “bathing costume” for women competing in the Olympics to enhance their performance, according to an Elle Magazine timeline. The costume ruffled some feathers, as its tight fit showed off women’s figures. In fact, in Chicago during that time, women could be arrested for wearing swimsuits that had necklines that were too low, according to the Chicago History Museum.
Fast-forward to the time when designers began getting more adventurous with small amounts of fabric, and the timeline leads to France.
Listed together in TIME Magazine’s “All-Time 100 Fashion Icons,” Jaques Heim, a French designer, and Louis Reard, a French auto manufacturer and designer, came out with their designs of what we now know as the bikini in 1946. Heim introduced the “atome” (atom in French) swimsuit, which he dubbed, “the world’s smallest bathing suit.” A short time after, Reard designed an even smaller swimsuit, which he called “bikini” after the Bikini Atolls in the Pacific.
According to Reard, a bikini is not a true bikini, “unless is could be pulled through a wedding ring.”
Ashleigh Timchenko, vice president of the Chicago Fashion Foundation, says some styles have changed in decades after the first bikini was created, but that classic bikini has stuck around.
“The string bikini has stayed the same, and it will always stay the same,” Ashleigh says. “It’s the style that works for everyone.”
She says over the years, the swimsuit styles have varied. The 50s and 60s featured high-waisted suits, while the 80s got skimpier with the look. In the 90s, suits started to become more detailed adding jewels to the tops and bottoms, or metallic accents. Now, Ashleigh says, swimsuits are even more fashion forward.
“They are really an extension of our wardrobe,” she says. “Today’s styles are following runway fashions with those patterns and colors.”
With today’s trends being such a large part of our summer wear; Ashleigh shared some of the styles du jour:
-Neon – she says the neon colors were big last year, but this year they are getting brighter. “Neon can only get so bright,” she says. “So, neon is being used in more subtle ways this year.” Such subtleties include the neon colors being used in accent pieces, straps or on the piping of solid color suits.
-Fringe – another trend that was big last year is back again this year. Last year featured bikinis with fringe on solid colors. This year, Ashleigh says the fringe may be printed with a pattern and laid over a solid color base.
-Cutouts – Ashleigh says these cutouts can range from a laser cut on the sides of a suit to a tie-twisted look using knotted fabric.
-Retro – the high-waisted bottoms and fuller, molded tops are being revived and seen more frequently.
-Nautical – another trend from recent years that is back again, Ashleigh says this years nautical trends are featuring more navy and white stripes, and not using as much red.
-Full-suits – new trends with this style suit can be found in the exotic flowers patterns featured this year, Ashleigh says.
-Mix and match – becoming more frequent is mixing and matching both different patterns and colors of bikini tops and bottoms.
-Ruffles – suits that have ruffled edges on top and ruffled edges gathered at the back on the bottoms are also popular this year
-Hardware – though not really for swimming, Ashleigh says more necklace-like chains and gold and silver pieces can be found on swimsuits.
Overall, Ashleigh says the trends this year are differing in both the silhouette of the suit and the patterns and colors.
As far as Chicago trends go, Ashleigh says the fringe style was really big around the area last year, and she believes it’s catching on even more this summer. The nautical trend is also big around Chicago because of the boating culture and being near the lake.
The retro swimsuit style, which Ashleigh says is beginning to hit into the mainstream stores, is also growing more and more popular. She says she’s seen retro style at Banana Republic and also at Forever XXI, showing these suits are now available at all price points.
“I think the retro is coming back into to style because more people are willing to explore fashion and more willing to take risks,” she said. “And for our generation, we weren’t around when retro was in style, so these are unique styles to add to our wardrobe.”