Swimsuit Showdown: Bikinis or One Pieces

Two writers face off over whether the summer garment of choice is the bikini or the one piece.

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I am worried that we might be starting off on the wrong foot.

I think I know what you're thinking: Oh, great, let's hear it from some skinny girl with zero body-image issues about why we should all just suck it up (literally and figuratively) and embrace wearing the unforgiving tiny pieces of fabric that make up the bikini bathing suit.

But let me explain to you where I am coming from. First: You should know that from the years 2006 to approximately 2012, my nickname was Very Geri. As in geriatric. Because of how long the hems, how high the collars, and how deeply upholstery-like the floral prints were that composed every single thing I wore. 

Don't be shy! You'll look great in a two-piece.
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Then, just as the fashion world decided to embrace the concept of "The New Modesty," (late pass!) I had a fitting-room awakening, a sort of sartorial Benjamin Buttoning, while shimmying into yet another prim maxi skirt that shrouded my legs like a thick, billowy tablecloth at a fancy restaurant. I emerged from the fitting room wearing it to spin for my friend, who, stone-faced, responded disapprovingly with something along the lines of: "Woof. You're not dead yet."

"If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're thirty-four." — Nora Ephron

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It was true, I thought. I wasn't dead. I was, however, poorly dressed for my age. (I am reminded of the Nora Ephron line from her essay collection I Feel Bad About My Neck: "If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're thirty-four.") 

Bikinis come in more than one style, you know!

At the time, I considered my general outlook to be pretty punk—so why exactly was I hiding 90 percent of myself almost 100 percent of the time? Did I think that was what you had to do to be thought of as a serious person? That doesn't sound very punk at all.

I can't say I was dressing like a hipster Mary Poppins because I was insecure about some part of my body, but more so about my body in general, about the concept of having one, when, if given the choice, I would have preferred to exist as a cloud of vaporous gas with eyeballs and a mouth that said charmingly self-conscious things.

Risk-taking comes with handsome rewards.
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But that's no way to live! The concept of covering oneself up in the name of modesty—or worse, depth—is so thoroughly unmodern I just lost my wifi connection even thinking about it. It's more like what David Foster Wallace called "second-order vanity"—being so vain that you spend a lot of energy trying to seem down-to-earth. What I'm saying is, basically: get over yourself and get into a bikini.

And there are less existential reasons why bikinis are the superior swimwear choice. First of all, and maybe most importantly, bikinis are just more fun. A bikini says "yes," a one-piece says "maybe," and it says it reluctantly. (For those who attribute their hesitation to shyness, I have news for you: anyone who's seen with you with clothes on can probably picture what you look like without them—that's how we get over stage fright, remember? Your "bikini body" will likely be a surprise to no one.) And there are plenty of two-piece styles that aren't overtly sexy— there's lots to love about the sporty looks and arty cuts (like those on-trend high-waisted briefs).

Mixing and matching is like getting a new suit every time!
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For the practical among us, please take note of the fact that the more pieces of a bathing suit you have, the more options you have. A one-piece is a stand-alone option, which will never cross-multiply no matter how many of them you purchase. Bikinis can be mixed and matched exponentially. If you're planning to have an adventurous summer, you don't just want a bathing suit, you want a bathing suit drawer.

And we all want to have an adventurous summer, right? I mean, I hope so! We're not dead yet.

Here, see five fun bikini styles that you should say "yes" to this summer.

Crop Rashguard, $145; Hipster Bikini Bottom, $85; both by Tory Sport, barneys.com.

Think you're too "active" for a bikini? You thought wrong. 

Araks Bikini Top and Enil Bikini Bottom, $305, ssense.com.

An interesting cut will make a bikini feel like a highbrow choice.

Two-Tone Bonded Bandeau Bikini Top, $225; Bonded Bikini Briefs, $195; both by Alexander Wang, net-a-porter.com.

If the flimsiness of many bikini styles is what turns you off, pick one made of a sturdy fabric with a strong color-block treatment.

Embroidery Bikini Top, $45; Embroidery Bikini Briefs, $29; both by & Other Stories, stories.com.
Belle Crochet Bra Bikini, $195, zimmermann.com.
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Australians know how to do skin-baring swimwear better than anyone else—so you'll be in good hands with this Zimmermann piece.

Regular readers will have come to realize, through my preference for wearing coats properly with my arms where they should be (in the sleeves), and my adoption of socks and sandals in summer, both of which I've extolled the virtues of in these Sweet showdowns, that I lean toward more practical choices when it comes to fashion. Please note: I said practical, not boring! (And I should point out my default shoe style of choice is a towering platform!) So it's perhaps no surprise to discover that when it comes to matters of swimwear, I am a one-piece swimsuit kind of girl. Bikinis are not for me, but thanks anyway!

Acacia fashion show during FUNKSHION: Fashion Week Miami Beach Swim, 2015 in Miami, Florida. Photograph courtesy of John Parra/Getty Images for Acacia

Leave them to the Bond Girls, those who have no intention of getting anywhere near the water, and to the statuesque angels of Victoria's Secret. For me, there is nothing cooler or more fashion-forward than a one-piece.

Why? It works for all shapes—it defines your waist whether you have one or not; yet equally creates a long and flattering line if that's what you're in the market for; it pulls you in in all the right places (girls do care about this sort of thing); allows you to actually make a splash without worrying about a wardrobe malfunction (because, let's face it, bikinis were only ever made to pose and lounge around in, not take the impact of plunging into water); and, hey, guys kind of like them, too—a quick poll among male friends and the buzzwords were "sexy" and "statement." And while obviously that's not a reason to wear one, it is an added bonus!

A model walks the runway at the Mikoh fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim 2015 in Miami, Florida. Photograph courtesy of Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mikoh
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But it's one that's actually hardly surprising. Look back through history and you'll see that all the best pin-up girls—Rita Hayworth, Grace Kelly, and Marilyn Monroe among them—wore a swimsuit: the '50s was the heyday of the bathing suit, before Pamela Anderson stole the limelight in the '90s, during her Baywatch days (by the way a new Baywatch movie is coming out so prepare yourselves). Again, after a quick poll among friends asking about one-piece icons, it was my girl friends who most often brought her name up as swimspiration.

Actress and dancer Rita Hayworth poses for a portrait circa 1940 in Los Angeles, California. Photograph courtesy of Earl Theisen/Getty Images
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Because, the thing about the swimsuit, as with all my other preferred and aforementioned style choices, is that it is both practical and stylish—and that's the fashion holy grail, always. Think of it like the little black dress of the water world, which, in many ways, it is. It's sleek and streamlined, effortless, and able to go with everything, plus you can happily leap from the top diving board (or indeed, into the ocean), without the fear of emerging from the water with nothing preserving your modesty. 

If you still need convincing, here are five bathing suits to bring you over to the one-piece side:

Summer Glow Swimsuit, $50, topshop.com.

Exactly what you'll have when you feel confident in your one-piece!

Off-the-Shoulder Ruffled Swimsuit by Lisa Marie Fernandez, $430, net-a-porter.com.

See, there's absolutely nothing boring about the bathing suit—this one is off-the-shoulder! Wear it with a dirndl skirt and clogs for out-of-pool hours.

The Poppy Gingham Swimsuit by Solid & Striped, $168, matchesfashion.com.

The gingham pattern of this one will work to flattering effect, and the tie detail on the shoulder is a cute extra. 

Perforated Swimsuit by Anthony Vaccarello, $544, mytheresa.com.

We told you it was like the little black dress of the water world, so who better to buy one from than Anthony Vaccarello, master of sassy little black dresses? But this one is nothing if not practical, too!

Artist Bathing Suit, $65, adidas.com.

Cool and practical made with the job—swimming—in mind, this is the swimsuit holy grail and it's only $65!

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