The retro swimwear rundown: my top vintage inspired swimsuits and bikinis

If you’re a longterm visitor to the site (or indeed, a friend) you’ll know that vintage inspired swimwear is a huge passion of mine. I’ve yet to venture into proper vintage (it’s the fear that it’s been a bit to close to someone else’s ladyparts that stops me!) but I do buy a lot of retro stuff. If it’s polka dotted, ruched and contains the same amount of fabric as at least a dozen tiny triangle bikinis, it’s likely to find its way into my swimwear ‘wardrobe’. I must have about 20 bikinis and swimsuits by now, which is a bit ridiculous given that I don’t go swimming, am not a member of a gym, and have only had one beach holiday in the last four years.

But after waiting ages to find the perfect retro 1950s style swimsuit or bikini, I went a bit mad when dozens came along at once. This season it’s easier than ever to pick up something that’ll have you feeling like Marilyn Monroe in those famous beach photos. So here are some of my current favourites that are easily available in the UK. For Etsy finds and more authentic bits, try my list of retro & reproduction fashion retailers. These are the more mainstream offerings in a variety of sizes, colours and cuts…

Ruffle Swim Dress £35 at ASOS

- I own this swimsuit, and it’s nothing short of fabulous. There are full bottom under the skirt, which you can adjust to sit just where you want it. The halter top is supportive even for my DD’s, and it looks fab – playful, but the frills aren’t so big it looks ridiculous. I’m thoroughly tempted to buy the white too!


- Orange is a bit more unusual than your usual black or red polka dot, and I love the clever gathers on this cotton-look swimsuit, which make it look more authentic and vintage than some of the more modern ruched spandex styles. The colour looks amazing with a tan, too!


- There are loads of Jantzen swimsuits floating around TK Maxx stores at the moment and they’re not only really well made, but also have some great vintage touches. This is perhaps not the most easy to wear print, but try your local branch for block coloured ones, and pink polka dots. I picked up a turquoise one with a gathered skirted section. This is a brand that’s got great heritage, too. Look out for the mentions on Mad Men!


- Joules also make a frilled halter swimsuit in the same fabric, which is perhaps even more vintage-esque, but I couldn’t resist the fab photo which really shows off the retro detailing of this cute bikini. If you’ve got the bod to pull it off, this baby is a lovely way to add a touch of retro style without going overboard. Just add big white cats eye sunglasses!


- I’ve spoken about Red or Dead swimwear before. They make great modern pieces with real retro inspiration, and this year one of the standout pieces is this fish print bikini with ruched, semi-skirted briefs. It’s not cheap, but it is fabulous! There’s also a skirted swimdress, lots of bandeau styles and some reworking of last year’s sailor suit in the new range.


- A rare find; not only does this classic ruched cossie come in larger sizes (up to a 32) it also comes in a longer length version for those who struggle to find swimsuits that fit their torso. The look is pure pin-up girl and will never go out of style.


- What, you thought I’d let this rundown go without a mention for the ultimate retro cossie? Esther Williams sells styles based on the ones she wore in films during the Golden Age of Hollywood. And they’ve never been more popular. I bought my red bikini from For Luna which I absolutely recommend as a UK stockist, but Modcloth also stock a selection (including plus sizes) or you can order direct.


Cherry print has long been associated with anything pin-up and retro, after Ms Monroe wore a cherry print dress in Misfits. This bikini has quite a modern shape but the cherry print, gathered sides and bow lend a bit of a retro feel.


- A lot of the more retro inspired styles have halter necks or bandeau cuts, which are great for sunbathing but not so good for swimming. If you need more support around the bust, this one has wider straps and a great shape that makes the most of a killer cleavage. It’s expensive, but well made.


- Trust Toppers to deliver the perfect vintage-inspired swimsuit in the perfect show-off colour! If you want to stand out and show off a golden tan you can’t go wrong with yellow. Definitely not one for the faint-hearted, but it is fabulous. I love the frills, which don’t look quite as young and girly as ones around the waist.


- If you prefer a higher cut on the thighs this is the one for you, in four different polka dot patterns. Boden have come up trumps with something that nods to the vintage style without being a full-on copy, so it’s great if you’re a bit frightened of looking like you’re wearing fancy dress.


- With a name like Marilyn, you have to expect a real va va voom swimsuit! I love the twist on a classic style, adding the white trim to grab a bit of attention. Monsoon have a few great 50s inspired styles, but this is my current favourite.


- Though there are loads of retro style swimsuits about at the moment, finding them for less than £40 can be a struggle. Luckily, catalogue brand Resort has saved the day with a very pretty 50s style bikini. I don’t think the photo does it justice, but on a woman with the right attitude, this £20 gem could really work.


- Ladies with larger busts, rejoice! This Freya swimsuit is not only gorgeous, with a touch of retro and a really flattering waist belt, but also affordable! BraStop’s great deals make this one a no-brainer. It should be £48 but it’s now less than £20! Snap it up now before I do!


- Yes, it’s ridiculously expensive. Yes, it’d probably look frumpy and ridiculous on 99% of us, but I couldn’t resist this number from Seafolly purely because it teams up two of my favourite things – retro swimwear and shabby chic cabbage roses. There is nothing I don’t love about it except the price!

  • http://missbeliever.com Tamsin

    Ohh I love these! I never go swimming but I do have an original 1950s swimsuit. It’s beautiful and incredibly flattering but it takes about a year to dry due to the fabric as I discovered in Barcelona last week :( Perhaps just for lounging in…

  • Marissa

    omg you must see the Australian label My Sister Pat

  • Lara B

    hey tasmin i have an orginal 50s bathing suit ( all cotton lined love it toooo bits ) but it takes so long to dry: I found this label My Sister Pat that although cotton its all lines in swimsuit lining ; was i excited i have the best OF BOTH WORLDS
    Cotton and quick drying
    i adore My Sister Pat swimsuits

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  • http://twitter.com/AlwaysForMe AlwaysForMe

    For a vintage look in plus sizes take a look at the AlwaysForMe. Venus halter swimdress – http://www.alwaysforme.com/plus-size-swimdress.html