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What Is the Best Bikini?

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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Summer is swimsuit season, and while one-piece bathing suits are a timeless style, a great bikini is just the thing for days when you want to show a little more skin. To help you hit the beach (or lake or pool) in style, we spoke to 16 cool women — including stylists, models, and Strategist writers — about their favorite bikinis (and other two-piece bathing suits). Then we checked our archives to make sure we didn’t miss any standouts we’ve written about before. Below, the 18 recommended styles include string bikinis, sets that offer more coverage, and even some with built-in sun protection.

$50 and under

Style expert Dianna Baros, like so many people we’ve talked to, cites Target as a go-to when she is looking for cute swimsuits “at a great price.” She has two words for this leopard-print number: modern and fresh, thanks to details like the neutral color palette and the top’s subtle twist front.

This simple string bikini is another Target find, courtesy of the retailer’s in-house Wild Fable line: Stylist Kiarra Logan calls it “one of my favorites,” noting that its basic design doesn’t look basic at all in the bright green, her favorite of all its colors. It’s also available in pink, orange, blue, black, and white, and in sizes XXS to 3X.

Baros tipped us off to this bikini that she originally discovered on Instagram. She explains that its appeal is due to “the high-waist bottom, which is super-popular right now, and the sweet little ruffle detail on the shoulder.” The longline top will give you more coverage, and if you don’t like the pink-and-black option shown, you can get the two-piece in seven other colorways.

$100 and under

“Since I tend to be a little curvier, I love a string bikini, and it’s also obviously flexible as I continue growing,” says content creator and talent manager Ariel Oz, who is currently five months pregnant. “Also, my top size has adjusted a lot, so I find the underwire really great and supportive.” She’s worn the suit mostly while soaking up the sun on a boat or by the pool, and has found it easy to flip the straps down to prevent tan lines.

If you’re looking for a suit with built-in sun protection, you’ll want to keep an eye out for any that have a UPF rating. Just like sunscreen for your skin, finding swimwear with a UPF rating of 50 or higher is best for optimum protection. One expert-recommended line of UPF swimsuits for adults (and kids) is Mott50, where former Strategist writer Hilary Reid found this “appealingly minimal two-piece alternative with a cut reminiscent of cool swimwear lines like Nu Swim and Araks” in her deep dive into the world of UPF clothing. It has a UPF rating of 50-plus, and in addition to the pale blue shown, you can get the top and bottoms in plenty of other colors and patterns.

For something a little sportier, this two-piece from Arena comes from our list of the best women’s athletic swimsuits, where it was recommended by Julie Stupp, a 2012 Olympic-trials-finalist swimmer and an in-house product reviewer for SwimOutlet. “Their suits fit super-well,” she says, and this Rulebreaker set can be purchased in lots of different colors and patterns. Stupp adds that the brand is good for those who like to shop around: “It has triangle, bandeau, and crop tops as well as boy short, bikini, and tie bottoms,” she told us.

Peachy Keen Swim is a favorite of content creator Jessica Blair for its size-inclusive line that goes up to a 5X and is made from recycled fabrics. She especially appreciates how the brand offers “a mix of regular two pieces and string bikinis,” since “as a plus-size person, I know firsthand how hard it is to find cute bikinis that aren’t full-coverage.” She bought this sky-blue set a few years ago, and it “still looks and feels like new” after taking it on vacation to both Malibu and Italy.

$150 and under

This palm-leaf-printed Tanya Taylor suit is a go-to for Megababe founder Katie Sturino. “It’s a great silhouette; I love a high-waisted bikini bottom,” Sturino says, adding that she also bought a top and shorts in the same pattern for a head-to-toe matching moment.

“Skims really has a finger on the pulse of what’s trendy,” declares content creator Kelsey Kotzur. “We’re definitely seeing a resurgence of the early-2000s style, with rhinestones on everything.” She says this crystal-bedazzled suit is “super soft and comfortable” and “washes up very nicely” — none of the rhinestones have fallen off so far. If hot pink isn’t your style, it’s also available in a baby blue, as well as several neutral shades of brown and black.

Oz and her sister, who are usually a size 0 and a size 6 respectively, both own a few YouSwim suits that are so stretchy and adjustable that they’re able to swap pieces, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants–style. Oz has owned the suit for around three years and has worn it for high-intensity swimming and water-skiing activities, and reports that “it’s held up great. I’ve washed it repeatedly, and it continues to be flexible and hasn’t lost any of its elasticity.”

For a two-piece that provides enough support and coverage for high-impact summer pastimes like beach volleyball or freestyle swimming, Ironman triathlete Christine Frietchen recommends checking out Athleta. She previously recommended the brand as one that makes some of the best women’s athletic swimsuits, telling us, “Mine is great for pool laps or casual open-water swimming on vacation, then hanging on the beach afterward.”

Alljahni Mack, a stylist coordinator at Kith, describes Melissa Simone as “a Black-owned line that’s taking over the summer with its vibrant swimwear.” Of all its styles, Mack considers the brand’s two-pieces “a must-have.” She loves the “tropical colors” of the Enita string bikini, describing its material as “soft and stretchy” while ensuring a perfect fit. If it’s not the one for you, Mack promises you’ll find something from the “super-sexy line’s range of bikinis,” and when you do, “all eyes will, without a doubt, be on you.”

Over $150

Strategist senior editor Chelsea Peng has a “relatively large cup-to-band-size ratio,” so she appreciates how this Laya top is designed with a front tie that’s “super useful in keeping your boobs together and making a nice shape.” It’s also made of a high-quality matte fabric “that feels much softer and smoother than other swimwear.” She’s worn the suit to the beach and various rivers and lakes upstate, and though she doesn’t recommend doing anything too vigorous in it like surfing, the support is definitely there — “I’ve never lost a boob,” she says.

Strategist associate editor Jenna Milliner-Waddell decided to splurge on a bikini from Riot Swim ahead of a trip to Mexico. She had long been eyeing its Bixi bikini, but when the time came to click BUY, she couldn’t commit to its thong bottom. So when the brand came out with this two-piece with a bottom that provides a bit more coverage, Milliner-Waddell pounced. “It’s by far the softest bathing suit I own,” she says. “It feels buttery smooth against my skin. The bottoms are still pretty cheeky, so they may not be the best for family beach days, but they do provide way more coverage than the Bixi would.” One note for interested buyers: The brand has a pretty strict return window of seven days and won’t provide refunds, just store credit.

Content creator April Lockhart describes this Free People set as a “bikini for people who hate wearing bikinis.” She appreciates the top’s scoop-neck cut and how it doesn’t have any padding, “which I personally prefer because sometimes in the wash, padding will fly everywhere.” As for the bottom, though she does love a high waist, “a lot of times it’s so much coverage that your tan lines get messed up,” she says. But the Dylan bottom’s “vintage, Pamela Anderson–esque cut” allows her to have coverage in the right places while still maintaining a flirty, sexy vibe — plus, the thick band helps scoop her in and “feels almost like shapewear.”

Strategist writer Arielle Avila has lately become “obsessed with crochet dresses and hats,” an interest that has naturally spilled over to swimwear. After weeks of searching, she landed on this suit from Shondel “because of its vaguely checkered pattern and flattering cut.” Though she was initially apprehensive about how a crocheted bikini would function at the beach, after wearing it while diving in and out of waves, she can assure that it’s “incredibly well-made. There were no loose threads and it looks good as new.” And since the fabric is thick and durable, she anticipates it’ll last “much longer than just one summer.”

Though the concepts of “knitwear” and “bikini” may not seem to go together at first, Brooklyn-based brand Deta Knits has managed to pull it off, according to writer and model Lydia Okello. “The suit is both soft and sexy, and the unique texture is so cool in the water,” Okello says, adding that they weren’t sure if the knit would “get misshapen or pilled in the wash,” but found that it has retained its shape with “no textural changes.” Okello is a size 20–22 and reports that the 1X fits comfortably; other than electric blue, the suit also comes in eight other colors and patterns.

According to stylist Chelsea Volpe, Maygel Coronel makes swimsuits “for those who love to make a statement when they’re splashing around.” She loves how this top’s “dramatic oversize ruffles” are set off by its simple high-waisted bottom. While the set is pricey, Volpe says the top is nice-looking enough to wear with pants for a nighttime look. The two-piece is available in black and red.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

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What Is the Best Bikini?