Still the one: Versatile one-piece bathing suit is stylish and budget-friendly

Move over, skimpy bikinis! With new designs, bold colors, sassy slogans and a dose of star power, one-piece swimwear is your best bet this season.

"Baywatch" stars sizzled on the big screen this spring in sleek red swimwear — courtesy of Baltimore-based Under Armour, which helped to design the suits. Miss District of Columbia, Kára McCullough, wore an animal and bold blue print one-piece by Yandy Swim on her way to being Miss USA 2017. And retailers are reporting that one-piece swimwear is the top seller this season.


"The one-piece was officially back last year and it's going strong for 2017," said Zoey Washington, senior style editor at Brit + Co, the San Francisco-based women's lifestyle company, who attributed the garment's success to the Hadid sisters, the Jenner sisters, Chrissy Teigen and supermodel Joan Smalls, who "are really rocking the statement one-piece."

Because one-piece suits have more material than their smaller bikini cousins, they are ripe for incorporating the top fashion trends seen in the ready-to-wear world.


"The real reason that one-pieces are so popular is because they can basically work for all body types and they can incorporate all of the major trends," Washington said. "For example, the one-shoulder trend is big in ready to wear and it's very big in swim. All those feminine details: Ruffles, asymmetrical cuts and scallop edges are seen in both swim and on the runway."

She loves the trends associated with one-piece suits, including those with pithy messages such as "Beach babe" or "Rose all Day" by Asos or "beach, please" by Milly.

"One-piece swimsuits are sexy — if not sexier — than their two-piece counterparts," Washington said.

Local retailers and designers with local ties are also part of the trend.


Under Armour, the Baltimore-based sporting apparel company with an international reach, worked with the costume design team from the movie "Baywatch" to develop and manufacture the swimwear worn by the main characters, according to Danielle C. Daly, senior manager, global communications and entertainment for Under Armour.

"The film's costume department designed the swimwear; Under Armour partnered with them on the technical development and manufacturing for the on-screen product," Daly said.

South Moon Under, the privately owned chain with headquarters in Berlin near its Ocean City beginnings, has noticed the popularity of the one-piece.

"Last year, it really took off," said Samantha Baier, swimwear and lingerie buyer for South Moon Under. "This year, it's booming. It's a huge increase to our business. It's the No. 1 growing category in our swim category."

Baier has seen the one-piece trend building for the past couple of years.

One-piece suit sales are up about 50 percent from last year, according to Baier.

"We're seeing it's very successful across all stores and on e-com," she said. "I think it's still going to keep going."

Curvier women are also buying one-piece suits.

Eloquii, a fashion brand that caters to fuller-figured women, has a bevy of sexy one-piece swimwear.

Although Eloquii has only sold swimwear for a year, one-piece swimsuits are the company's top seller, according to creative director Jodi Arnold.

"I was kind of surprised with all the social media around the high-waisted bikini," Arnold said in reference to the national buzz behind the swimwear collection by GabiFresh (Gabi Gregg), the blogger who popularized the term "fatkini" after she debuted a two-piece suit in her collection.

"We found that [our customers] preferred the one-piece," said the New York City-based Arnold.

The top-selling suit for Eloquii is a wrap halter, one-piece suit in pink and blue camo print, Arnold said.

"There's a peekaboo detail. It comes with a separate belt. It accentuates your waist," she explained.

Another top seller is a one-piece number that features a series of criss-cross fabric.

"Our customers like anything that gives the illusion of being wrapped or ties that give that illusion of being wrapped," Arnold said. "We're all about dispelling myths. We just advocate. We will show you how to wear it in a nice, tasteful way."

Expect more of the same from the company next year.

"We've already started planning swim for next year. We'll do a lot more styles. But we're planning to do more one-piece suits," she said, adding that one-piece suits will account for about 70 percent of suits. Currently, one-piece suits account for almost half of the brand's swimwear offerings.

Tammy Rivera, the "Love And Hip Hop Atlanta" star and Baltimore native, has a collection of sexy swimsuits that includes a slew of one-piece options that feature zipper details, exposed lower backs and daring cuts that reveal the hip region. The offerings are available up to an XL on her website T-rivera.com.

Rivera regularly wears a number of these haute swimsuits on her Instagram page, which has 4.3 million followers.

Mandalynn, a Baltimore-based swimwear company that has a significant social media and national following, is known for offering daring, sassy swimsuits. And although the brand's bikinis get a majority of sales, the one-piece suits account for 31 percent of swimwear sales, according to the brand's owner and founder, Amanda Dukehart.

"In my opinion, one-pieces are the ultimate in swimwear," she said. "You can get a little cheekier with a one-piece without it being overly sexy. If designed well, they can be 10 times more flattering and really show off your sense of style."

Dukehart said her brand has been known for offering fun one-pieces.

"They are the ultimate purchase because they can also been worn under shorts or jeans and taken from day to night," she said.

Washington agreed about the versatility of the one-piece.

"It can transition really effortlessly from pool and beach to brunch," Washington said. "You can easily rock a simple coverup without being too scandalous. And the best thing about one-pieces is that you can find a stylish buy for your body type in your budget. Every retailer is making one-piece suits."

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