Fashion Comeback: We’re Loving the Return of Retro Swimwear


Whether it’s patterns from the psychedelic ’70s, peek-a-boo cutouts and high waists that harken back to a more modest fashion era, or headscarf stylings that seem to shape-shift through the ages, swimsuit fashion is experiencing a return to retro style. Glamorous suggestions of Old Hollywood along with the swanky vintage flair of the ’60s and ’70s lend an element of playful fun that leaves you feeling like you’re the star of the silver screen — or maybe just like you are a teenager again! Whatever high waists, headscarves and oversized sunnies may conjure for you, one thing is for sure: Retro swimsuit fashion is back!

So, let’s take a look at swimsuit styles, then and now, to see how these elements of fashion have come back. Enjoy!

Then & Now: Retro Swimsuit Styles

High Waistlines

When it came to bikini fashion in the ’50s, high-waisted bikini bottoms were de rigueur. For this cut, the waistline measured up to the natural waistline, always covering the belly button. This swimsuit style should come as a welcome fashion trend for those who are more hesitant to bare their midriff. Plus, the look exudes a vintage glam, embracing a classic feminine silhouette that flatters most figures.

Then:

retro swimsuit

We love the Hawaiian print and ruching on this high-waisted look.

retro swimsuit

A modest strip of the midriff is tastefully shown with this ’50s style.

retro swimsuit

This high-waisted bikini bottom mimics a skirt with its billowing ruffles.

Now:

retro swimsuit

Modern day bikini bottoms cover the belly button just as in the ’50s. From Cannonball Swimwear: Navy blue bikini top, $100; navy stripe bikini bottoms, $110; floral wrap swim top with cap sleeves, $110; red bikini bottoms, $90 | From Something Blue: Sunglasses, $15 each

Peek-a-Boo Cutouts

It seems like peek-a-boo cutouts can be seen throughout the history of swimsuit fashion. These playful yet modest peeks of skin “leave something to the imagination,” as the old saying goes, which is certainly why they have stood the test of time and have made a comeback now. And the great thing is that you can choose a peek-a-boo cut that is most flattering to your figure and your modesty preference, whether that is a side lace-up bikini bottom, side waist cutouts or some other playful “sneak peek.”

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Then:

retro swimsuit

A woman in a bathing suit — with chest and thigh peek-a-boo cutouts — poses in front of a studio ocean scene in Paris, France, circa 1920. Image: Underwood Archives/Getty Images

retro swimsuit

These side cutouts create the illusion of a smaller waist.

retro swimsuit

While the belly button is still covered, these dramatic circular cutouts are quite revealing on this suit. (More on the comeback of headscarves below!)

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retro swimsuit

Through a modern lens, these cutouts feel refreshingly minimalistic.

Now:

retro swimsuit

This modern suit is almost identical to vintage styles. From Cannonball Swimwear: Black one piece, $200 | From Something Blue: She & Sky black fringe coverup, $38; “rosé all day” sun hat, $32

retro swimsuit

These lace-up bikini bottoms are actually a classic look that is making a comeback. From Cannonball Swimwear: Navy blue bikini top, $100; navy stripe bikini bottoms, $110 | From Something Blue: Sunglasses, $15; yellow tassel earrings, $15

Playsuits

In keeping with the movement towards the modesty of vintage swimwear, suits are mimicking what was once called a “playsuit,” which combines a short-sleeved or sleeveless top with an uber-short pair of shorts or a skirt. This romper-style look was worn either as a bathing suit or over a swimsuit while at the beach, in the backyard or while playing sports — essentially leisurewear for the seaside. It’s definitely a versatile and easy solution for active days spent at the water’s edge.

Then:

retro swimsuit

Swimsuit meets romper in the two styles to the right.

retro swimsuit

Cap sleeves and skirts make these looks easily transition from waterside fun to other sunny day activities.

Now:

retro swimsuit

This modern look mimics the vintage playsuit with its wraparound cap sleeve top. From Cannonball Swimwear: Floral wrap swim top with cap sleeves, $110; red bikini bottoms, $90 | From Something Blue: Sunglasses, $15

Headscarves

Wear it as a turban, a headband-style wrap or a “Kelly wrap” (as in, Grace Kelly) — the headscarf is such a fun and personality-packed addition to your swimwear arsenal. These head wrap styles range from classic and elegant to bohemian and edgy. Grab the fabric and print that captures your personal style, and Google some head wrap tying techniques for a beachside look that really sets your overall swimsuit style apart.

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Then:

retro swimsuit

This headscarf, perfectly styled around the hair and draped over the shoulder, takes this classic swimsuit look to another level.

retro swimsuit

This screen siren’s pattern-matching headscarf is swept upward in a dainty bow.

retro swimsuit

This headscarf fashion covering the hair and tied around the neck is the “Kelly scarf,” so named for Grace Kelly, who often wore the style.

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retro swimsuit

This more dramatic turban-style headscarf from the ’70s has a hip, bohemian vibe.

Now:

retro swimsuit

Reminiscent of the ’60s, this suit has vibrant colors and “psychedelic” patterns with a matching head scarf to finish off the look. From Cannonball Swimwear: Multicolored top with headscarf, $90; matching bikini bottoms (not pictured), $100 | From Something Blue: Sunglasses, $15; blue tassel earrings, $17

Oversized Cat-Eye Sunglasses

Oversized sunglasses and cat-eye sunglasses have both made a comeback, among other retro glasses models, but the oversized cat-eye is the current darling of the sunglasses world. Whether thoroughly modern in style or with that throwback acetate look, the elegant yet fun, art-forward sweeping angles of the cat-eye have reclaimed their place in our summer wardrobes. Choose subtle and sleek if that’s your style, or embrace this vintage look with dramatic size or bold colors.

Then:

retro swimsuit

These cat-eye sunglasses were in their heyday in the ’50s. Note the pairing with headscarves!

retro swimsuit

Pictured here is none other than Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, in her iconic and seemingly ever-present headscarf and subtle cat-eye glasses.

retro swimwear

The ’60s brought oversized glasses like these into style.

Now:

retro swimsuit

Oversized meets a subtle cat-eye in these reflective sunnies. From Something Blue: Sunglasses, $15

retro swimsuit

“Hello summer,” indeed! These oversized frames are the very picture of understated elegance. From Something Blue: Sunglasses, $15; yellow tassel earrings, $20

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

  • To Something Blue and Cannonball Swimwear for providing the perfect swimsuit looks and accessories
  • To J Michael’s Spa and Salon for doing our models’ hair and makeup
  • To the Omni Louisville Hotel for providing their rooftop pool as the stunning backdrop for our modern models
  • To our photographer, Christine Mueller Photography, for shooting absolutely breathtaking photos
  • To our stylist extraordinaire, Shannon Kessler of Primp Style Lounge, for making our models look incredible
  • And last, but certainly not least, to our models Adrienne Pool, Miss Kentucky United States 2018; Laprecious Sade Brewer, Ms. Kentucky United States 2018; and Liz Bernard, Ms. Woman Kentucky United States 2018

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For more on what’s going on in Louisville, visit our Happenings page, and for more on the local boutiques that provided these styles, visit our SB Guide or download our FREE SB App.



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