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When it's time to hit the beach or the pool you have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to swimwear. Sometimes the options can get a bit confusing when you're trying to decide which look is best for you. You should keep in mind the differences in fabric, pattern, shape and type of swimwear -- bathing suit or bikini -- that will be the most comfortable and make you look your best.

Bathing suits

In the early 20th century bathing suits were very long and conservative -- some even had weights sewn into the hem so that they would not come up under water. As with any other article of clothing time has drastically changed the look of bathing suits today and designs range from very conservative to very revealing. Bathing suits, however, are still typically one piece, cover the majority of the trunk, and have straps over the shoulders to help keep the suit in place.


Bikinis are typically made with less fabric and cover significantly less skin than conventional bathing suits. Bikinis come in two pieces, a top and a bottom, that are typically color-coordinated and leave the abdomen (or midriff) exposed. Bikini tops vary in appearance and can be strapless, with straps, or in halter form. Bikini bottoms can be high-waist, low rise, bloomers, or various other cuts. There are many varieties and styles to choose from and separates can be mixed and matched for even more personalization.


The purpose of wearing a bathing suit versus a bikini is usually very different. If you are going for a long swim, to get a lot of exercise and not spend much time on the beach a bathing suit would be a good choice. Bronzing in the sun on a warm day at the beach, however, would make it more appropriate to choose a bikini for an all-over tan with fewer tan lines.

Trends and Combinations

Many women are now choosing combinations of bathing suits and bikinis. You can wear a halter or tank top style as the top half of your suit while wearing a bikini bottom for the bottom half and get the fun look of a bikini with the coverage of a bathing suit. You can also accessorize with colorful cover-ups which add elegance and style to your look. Whichever you choose, have fun and don’t forget the sunscreen.