Building a Swimwear Wardrobe

As warm Days approaches, we hope you may be giving thought to the swimsuit tucked into the drawer alongside your undies or hanging with your athletic wear. There’s no better time of year than late spring to evaluate your swimwear situation for the coming season, and we want to encourage you to consider that one or two swimsuits are unlikely to meet your needs. Building a swimwear wardrobe is akin to building an outerwear wardrobe: It’s not as large or varied as your wardrobe of street clothing, but you have pieces to meet different looks, moods, and weather conditions. Your swimwear wardrobe should work similarly, and we are here to guide you in compiling the swimwear pieces and accessories you need to have fun in or on the water no matter the occasion!

Evaluating Your Needs

What do you do in your bathing suit? Swim laps for exercise? Chase little ones as they play? Sit on a lounge chair and order drinks with little umbrellas? Personally, I do each of these things in their turn, and I wear a different kind of swimwear for each of them! Where do you wear your bathing suit? The neighborhood pool? At your family lake house? The Bahamas? Because those are all places I go, too, and I wear different swimwear for each occasion. Each locale and activity listed above requires its own level of performance, modesty, sun protection, or a balance thereof. No one or two bathing suits would be right for all of that, so let’s imagine a swimwear wardrobe that would work for these scenarios.

Swimming for exercise is best done in an athletic swimsuit—our legendary Tugless Tank comes to mind—that stays put comfortably and allows for maximum freedom of movement. This is a no-muss-no-fuss suit. This kind of swimwear is probably right for swimming in the lake with your family, too. A relatively modest suit with a pretty print is good for playing with little ones, whether they are yours or young relatives you are tending for an afternoon. You might appreciate a skirted suit or tankini top with swim shorts when you have to bend over to pick up a toddler, and sturdy straps when a child wants a “dolphin ride” on your back. A bathing suit appropriate for this is probably just right for wearing to the neighborhood pool! If you’re lucky enough to vacation in the Bahamas, consider that you might want a briefer, flirtier suit for ordering drinks at the swim-up bar, but if you want to be on the beach at Balmoral Island around lunchtime, you will need serious sun protection. We would recommend a long-sleeve rash guard for everyone, and I personally would pair it with swim capris because my skin is approximately the color of a white peach. That’s four different swimsuits or swimwear ensembles, and, we hope, an excellent illustration of why you need to build a swimwear wardrobe.

Making It All Work

There are further considerations. If you want to wear a long-sleeve rash guard and swim capris, you will want a small bikini—a bra-style top and bikini-cut briefs—to wear underneath. The top of the bikini is for support and the bottom is to keep sand out of. . . places you definitely don’t want sand! Think about the types of swim covers you will need. A terry robe is good for the gym pool, a linen shift is just right for the neighborhood pool, and a gauzy pareo is ideal for a tropical beach. You’ll need water shoes for natural bodies of water but will want chic sandals for the pool at a resort. Consider function as well as fashion. An enormous straw hat is very elegant with big Jackie O. sunglasses, but it will also provide you with excellent refuge from the sun. A big monogrammed beach towel is cute and preppy but also prevents mix-ups on the chairs. Your swimwear needs do not begin and end with the bathing suit on its own.

Ready for Any Occasion

When you have taken the time to build a thoughtful swimwear wardrobe, you can have confidence that you can go anywhere, anytime without facing the worst kind of sartorial crisis—the bathing suit kind. Not having the right swimwear can be terribly stressful, especially since some women already deal with bathing suit anxiety. Make sure that if you are invited to a neighbor’s pool party, to a water aerobics class with ladies from your card club, or to fill a last-minute opening on a girls’ cruise, you have the right swimwear already in your closet. That way, you can concentrate on having fun and enjoying yourself, which is what swimwear is really all about!