Courtesy of Bāmba Swim

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 2019 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.

Body Glove
Gotcha Swim Gear

More and more, emerging swimwear brands are offering updated takes on this retro vibe. OOKIOH’s latest collection of sustainable swimwear features an array of minimalist maillots and sporty bikinis in lime green and electric yellow, all trimmed with white piping for a cool contrast. The brand's Crandon Top has a bra-cup construction that’s true to the 1980s theme, while the Tulum Top with its halter style and straight-across neckline has a more ‘90s feel. And the bottoms also feature sporty details, like lace-up front panels and stripe accents. The pieces are all made to mix-and-match so you can create your own look.

Australian swimwear label Bāmba takes an edgier approach to its ‘80s-inspired suits, mixing minimalist lines with cheeky cuts, neon hues and animals prints for a modern bombshell beach look. Italy-based Reina Olga is another line doing beachwear with major retro appeal. Its color-blocked underwire tops, ring-detail monokinis and bandeaus, and skin-baring bodysuits have been worn by the Kardashians, Victoria’s Secret models, and countless influencers on Instagram alike.

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.

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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.