Picture this: it’s the summer of 2023, and you’re ready to hit the beach or pool for a fun-filled adventure. You pull out your favorite swim crop top that’s flattering and supportive in all the right places. As you admire your suit, you might start thinking about how much swimwear has changed over the years. Trends come and go, but there’s never been a more inclusive and celebratory time than now! Swimsuit options abound, ranging from modest tankinis to peplum swim tops and dainty bralettes. Even full coverage swim tops have become trendy again!

The evolution of styles is truly fascinating – especially to swimsuit enthusiasts like us! So today, we're going to be exploring the history of women's swim tops and tankinis. From the vibrant and audacious styles of the 1980s to the trendy and diverse options we have today, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Let's dive in – starting with the 80s!

The 1980s: Making a Bold Splash

The swimwear trends of the 1980s featured bold and vibrant designs like high-cut one-piece suits and daring bikinis with neon colors and graphic prints. The era also saw the rise of athletic swimwear for active beachgoers. This decade celebrated individuality and self-expression, reflecting the energetic fashion of the time. Here’s a closer look at different options:

  1. Triangle Bikini Tops: The classic triangle bikini top was an iconic symbol of '80s beach culture. It featured triangular cups with thin straps that tied around the neck and back.

  2. Halter Tops: Halter tops were another popular swim top choice in the '80s. These tops featured straps that tied behind the neck, creating a chic and flattering look. Halter tops were often adorned with eye-catching prints, neon colors, or metallic accents.

  3. One-Shoulder Tops: Asymmetry was very on-trend in the '80s, which is seen in the one-shoulder top style. They featured a single strap or sleeve and were available in various cuts, including bikini tops and tankinis.

  4. High-Cut Tops: The '80s were known for high-cut swimwear, and this extended to the tops as well. Tops featured a deep V-neckline, creating a lengthening effect for the torso.

  5. Sporty Tops: With the rise of the fitness craze, sporty swim tops became popular. These tops often featured racerback designs, offering both comfort and freedom of movement. They were favored by active beachgoers and gave off a sporty, athletic vibe.

The 1990s: Minimalism and Sporty Vibes

In the 1990s, swimwear trends began to shift towards simpler and sportier styles. Bandeau tops became popular, as they offered a clean, minimalist look. Tankinis also evolved, now available in a wider variety of styles – women embraced racerback tankinis for their enhanced comfort. The top also expanded to include different lengths, from cropped tops to hip-length options. Here’s a quick breakdown of popular tops from this era:

  1. Bandeau Tops: Bandeau tops were common in the 1990s. These were strapless and featured a straight-across neckline that accentuated the shoulders and collarbones. They often came in solid colors or simple patterns, embracing a simplistic look.

  2. Bralette Tops: Bralette-style swim tops also gained traction during the ‘90s. These tops featured soft cups without underwire or excessive padding. They provided a more relaxed and natural silhouette, offering a balance between comfort and style.

  3. High-Neck Tops: High-neck swim tops became increasingly trendy during this decade. These tops featured a high neckline often accompanied by a halter-neck design. They provided more coverage and a sleek look, giving a nod to the era's sporty fashion trends.

  4. Racerback Tops: Reflecting the athletic influence of the ‘90s, racerback swim tops became quite the craze. These tops had straps that met in a Y-shape at the back, allowing women to move more freely.

  5. Cropped Tops: The swim crop top was introduced in this era! These tops featured a shorter length, typically reaching just above the belly button. They were available in various styles, including bandeaus, halters, and tankinis.

  6. Longline Tops: Another trend we saw often in the 1990s was longline swim tops. These tops extended lower on the torso, often reaching the hip area. Longline tops provided additional coverage and a more modest option while maintaining a fashionable appeal.

The 2000s: Retro and Contemporary Designs Combine

The 2000s brought a new wave of creativity to swimwear fashion. Swim top trends featured a mix of nostalgic styles, bold experimentation, and diverse choices. Triangle bikinis, push-up tops, and plunging halter necklines emerged as popular options, showcasing a fusion of retro influences and contemporary designs. Let’s look at a few of these styles:

  1. Classic Bikini Tops: The classic bikini top remained a staple during the 2000s. However, there was a surge in new variations – in addition to the triangle top, halter-neck bikini tops, push-up styles, and bandeau tops were now available.

  2. Halter Tops: Halter tops continued to be popular during this decade. These tops featured straps that tied behind the neck, providing a flattering and supportive fit. Halter tops often incorporated different embellishments, such as rings, beads, or decorative knots.

  3. Push-Up Tops: The 2000s also saw the rise of swim tops with push-up padding. These tops were available in various styles, including halter, bandeau, and underwire variations, providing options for different body types and preferences.

  4. Bandeau Tops: Bandeau tops remained trendy in this era but received contemporary updates. Along with the classic straight-across neckline, these tops started featuring additional details such as ruching, center cinches, or twist-front designs.

  5. Tankini Tops: Tankini tops flourished during the 2000s, offering a versatile alternative to bikinis and one-piece swimsuits. Modest tankinis came in various lengths, including cropped styles, mid-length options, and longer tops that reached the hip.

The 2010s: Embracing Versatility and Coverage

In the 2010s, swimwear became even more diverse and inclusive. High-neck tops, crop tops, and bralette-inspired options gained popularity, offering a mix of comfort and style. Ruffled and off-the-shoulder designs added femininity, while sporty and active-inspired tops catered to the athleisure trend. Here’s a closer look:

  1. Bralette Tops: Bralette-style tops gained immense popularity in the 2010s. These tops featured soft cups without underwires, providing a comfortable silhouette. Bralettes often incorporated intricate lace or crochet detailing, offering a stylish and feminine touch.

  2. High-Neck Tops: High-neck options became a favorite among fashion-conscious women in the 2010s. These tops featured a neckline that extended higher on the chest, offering more coverage and a modern, chic look.

  3. Crop Tops: Crop tops remained trendy in this era, now featuring shorter lengths. They allowed women to show off their midriffs while maintaining a trendy appearance. Crop tops came in numerous styles, including bandeau, halter, and tankini variations.

  4. One-Shoulder Tops: Asymmetry took center stage in the 2010s, and one-shoulder swim tops were seen everywhere. These tops were available in different cuts, including bikini tops and tankinis, allowing women to express their individuality.

  5. Sporty Tops: The influence of sportswear was evident in swimwear during the 2010s. Sporty swim tops featuring racerback designs, scoop necklines, and athletic-inspired details gained traction.

  6. Longline Tops: Longline swim tops that extended lower on the torso were a prominent trend in this decade. These tops offered additional coverage and were available in various styles, including bikini tops and tankinis.

The 2010s also brought a newfound focus on size inclusivity, and we saw brands beginning to expand their size ranges and offering swim tops designed to celebrate all body types. Sustainable swimwear options also gained popularity, causing some brands to incorporate eco-friendly materials and production practices into their design processes.

Today: Self-Expression and Individuality

In the present day, swimwear trends truly celebrate individuality and freedom of expression. Women have an abundance of options, from classic bikinis to stylish one-shoulder tops, cut-out details, and even retro-inspired swim tops. Here are some popular swim trends we’ve seen for the 2020s (so far):

  1. Sustainable and Eco-friendly Materials: In recent years, there has been a surge in the popularity of sustainable swimwear options. Brands are incorporating recycled materials, such as recycled nylon or polyester, regenerated fabrics, or innovative eco-friendly materials. This reflects a growing awareness of environmental issues and the desire to make conscious clothing choices.

  2. Textured Fabrics: Swim tops with textured fabrics have gained popularity in the 2020s. Ribbed, ruched, or smocked swim tops provide visual interest and add dimension to the look, elevating the piece overall.

  3. Cut-Out Details: Cut-out swim tops have also become a popular trend in recent years. These tops feature strategic cut-outs in various shapes and placements, adding a contemporary and alluring element while still maintaining a modest look.

  4. Wrap and Tie-Front Styles: Wrap and tie-front swim tops have gained momentum in this decade. These tops feature a wraparound or tie-front design, creating a versatile and adjustable fit that can cater to any style.

  5. Athleisure-Inspired Tops: Sporty-inspired swimsuit tops with racerback designs, high necklines, and supportive straps are still trendy choices, as we’ve seen throughout the decades. These tops offer a blend of comfort, functionality, and style.

  6. Retro and Vintage-Inspired Tops: Nostalgia for retro and vintage fashion has also been a big influence on recent swimwear trends. Bandeau styles and sweetheart necklines have a throwback vibe while still providing a timeless, feminine look. Our peplum tops are a great example, as they were inspired by the vintage look from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Inclusivity also continues to be a significant focus, with brands expanding their size ranges and embracing diverse body types. For example, Lime Ricki tops are available in a wide variety of flattering cuts, such as traditional bikinis, tankinis, one-pieces, and swim crops + bralette tops. We also focus on making swim + tankini tops that are just as stylish, even though they offer more coverage. We believe it’s important to cater to different preferences and provide options for women of all shapes and sizes.

Swimwear Trends Through The Decades: What’s Next?

That brings us to the end of our journey through modern swimwear trends! Swimwear has come a long way, especially in the past two decades. From the boldness of the 1980s to the versatility and inclusivity of today’s styles, women now have an extensive range of options to suit their style, body type, and comfort level. We can’t wait to see what trends the future will bring!

So, next time you're hitting the beach or lounging poolside, take a moment to appreciate the evolution of swimwear and how it reflects the ever-changing trends and attitudes of our society. Celebrate your unique style, embrace the diversity of swimwear choices available, and dive into the joy of self-expression. And don’t forget to enjoy the sun, sand, and waves along the way!

July 07, 2023 — Jennifer Anderson

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.