Make A Splash In Retro Swimsuits This Summer

A bit of nostalgia for your beachwear.

Oceanus Retro Print Bikini
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Swimwear trends are constantly in flux, but fashion history will forever be a source of inspiration for what’s new and next — even when it’s calling upon the past. That said, retro swimsuits are having a major moment these days, with celebrities like Sabrina Carpenter, Kourtney Kardashian, and Bella Hadid among those embracing throwback design details like high-waisted bottoms, halter tops, and swim skirts with their suit selections.

So what makes them so hot these days? If you ask Hannah Attalah, founder and creative director of Oceanus, revisiting the past through your swimwear is a desirable form of escapism. “These swimsuits evoke nostalgia for past eras, offering wearers a break from contemporary trends with a sense of timeless glamour and simplicity,” she explains. “They provide a nostalgic retreat into a bygone era, resonating with individuals seeking comfort and elegance in vintage fashion.” And the same can be said of those like Attalah, who are the ones designing the suits. Dipping into the past for style muses can actually awaken a surge of creativity. For example, the Oceanus founder shares that Cher’s bold, glamorous styles offer a wealth of inspiration for the brand’s embellished suits.

Montce, another brand that creates swimwear with a nostalgic wink, also looks to icons of the past when designing. Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot, and Marilyn Monroe all serve as muses for founder and designer Alexandra Grief — and you can see it in the brand’s off-the-shoulder bikini tops, high-rise bottoms, and retro prints (think stripes and gingham).

But so-called retro styles aren’t limited to those popularized in the 1950s and 1960s, as the term itself can actually apply to items from as recent as 15 years ago — which means yes, the aughts are now technically considered retro. Some quintessential retro trademarks in swimwear to look for? Think high-cut legs for the ‘80s and ‘90s, navel-high bottoms with bra tops for the ‘50s and ‘60s, and plunging halter one-pieces from the ‘70s.

While brands like Oceanus and Montce do love to take a page from the past, they also make an effort to stay current — which they may do by mixing elements from different eras (for example an ‘80s bandeau top with a ‘60s high-waisted bottom), or simply by choice of color, pattern, or fabric. “[We merge] retro elements with modern touches by incorporating classic silhouettes and vintage-inspired prints while updating materials and fits to suit contemporary preferences,” Attalah says. “This approach allows them to maintain timeless appeal while adapting to modern standards of comfort and style, appealing to individuals who prioritize personal taste over fleeting trends.”

As for Grief, paying attention to how the younger generations are styling their suits helps her keep designs from feeling costume-y. “I love to see how Gen Z comes in and puts their own spin on old things,” she adds. “Suits that we've seen before, but are new to them. It's fun to see fresh approaches to styling and designing the classics.”

Want to dive into this old-new trend? Ahead find a handful of styles tinged with retro vibes that recall bombshells of the past, but with just enough updates to bring them squarely into present day.

Perfect for the tomato girls, this Italy-inspired bikini top has a nostalgic cut and Dolce Vida style print that gives major Sophia Loren vibes.

These retro bikini bottoms have the high-waisted cut popularized in the 1950s and ‘60s, but the cheeky back coverage that’s on-trend today.

With its cherry red hue, high cut leg, and ruched bra cups, this one-piece was made for anyone who idolizes 1960s bombshells like Marilyn Monroe.

This puff-sleeved top with button details can be worn on or off the shoulders for a more Brigitte Bardot-esque look — plus it looks fab even when you’re not at the beach. Just pair with cigarette pants to complete the retro effect, or make it more contemporary with your favorite cut-offs.

Who says you can’t mix and match eras? Montce includes a range of retro styles — from ‘50s to ‘90s-inspired. These high-cut, dipped-front bottoms are firmly in the latter category, but look so chic with the Mid-Century style top.

The square neckline, attached belt, and tie-up straps make this one-piece feel so delightfully retro.

Oceana credits Cher as one of its iconic muses, and this embellished bandeau bikini feels like something the Moonstruck star would have worn in the ‘80s.

If you’re more into a ‘70s throwback for your beach and poolside attire, this halter top one-piece with a dramatic keyhole and ring detail has the sultry vibe you’re looking for.

Madras plaid was a staple in the 1960s, and it gives this balconette bikini top an even more retro sensibility.

Swim skirts were popularized in the 1940s and 1950s when women’s swimwear was intended to maintain modesty, and while versions like this one by Staud are great for those who crave more coverage, it’s mostly a stylistic choice these days — especially if you love a retro look.

Although its high-rise, high-cut bottoms and twist-front top have a decidedly vintage feel, the simplicity of this suit keeps it from looking dated in 2024.

The halter top, sweetheart neckline, and ruched front detail make this suit feel like something Elizabeth Taylor might have worn in the 1950s, but the dainty floral print keeps it more youthful.

From the muted color palette to the keyhole cut-out, this one-piece suit embodies the sleek sexiness of 1970s swimwear styles.