The Best '80s & '90s Swimwear For Major Baywatch Vibes
The triumphant return of all things ‘80s and ‘90s is hardly breaking news at this point. Trends from pre-Y2K decades have been hot on the fashion radar, with the shoulder pads and frilled party dresses of the 1980s and the slip dresses, square-toe heels, tube tops, and track pants of the 1990s all represented in (almost) every 2020 wardrobe. For summer specifically, that means ‘80s and ‘90s-inspired swimwear is back. And brands are bringing the nostalgia in full force, with the latest swim collections drawing inspiration from iconic swimsuit moments like the high-cut red one-piece Pamela Anderson wore on Baywatch and the floral bandeau bikini Princess Diana wore while vacationing on a yacht in the South of France.
This revival trend is especially ideal if your style leans more on the sporty side — rather than romantic and ruffled — since one of the defining aesthetics of this era in swimwear is an athletic look. Key details include high-rise waists and high-cut legs, underwire tops, bold colors and prints, and activewear details like zippers and mesh. You might recall Body Glove’s wetsuit-inspired neoprene bikinis for example, or J.Crew’s cult favorite 1989 scoop-back one-piece. There’s still a sensuality to these styles, but they're practical enough that you could still catch a wave or spike a volleyball in them — think ‘80s aerobics meets ‘90s supermodel. The vintage swim ads below should give you an idea for the looks today’s versions aim to recreate.
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More and more, emerging swimwear brands are offering updated takes on this retro vibe. Fae's collection of 100% regenerated nylon swimwear features an array of minimalist suits and cheeky cuts. The high cut sides of this one piece give us major Baywatch vibes.
Australian swimwear label Fella takes a more simplistic approach to this 90's inspired suit, mixing minimalist silhouettes with high cuts for a sophisticated beach look.
Norma Kamali's swim has been making waves for over forty years so it's only natural that her suits have a certain level of retro appeal. This gold studded bikini is sure to garner some attention at the beach and beyond.
What makes this trend especially appealing for your warm-weather plans are both its wearability and versatility. If you need more support in the bust, there are underwire options. If you want something sans tan lines, there are strapless bandeau tops. If you’re not into two-pieces, then try a high-cut one-piece. Look to Pamela Anderson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Princess Diana, and the ‘90s supers for retro inspiration, or take cues from modern purveyors of the aesthetic like Kim K. or Elsa Hosk.
Whichever beach babe you choose to channel this summer, the current market is rife with options that’ll make every millennial girl nostalgic. Scroll on to shop more of the season’s hottest picks.
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