Part of our series on our body and body image at midlife.
Would you post a current pic of yourself today wearing a bikini on the socials? I asked myself that very thing when I started researching the coolest swimsuits for women over 50 for this Next Tribe story. I knew I would—and eventually did—post one, although, truth be told, I angsted over it. Because. Bikini-body judgment. It’s right up there for me with fear of bears, heights, and being photographed naked.
In the name of facing my fears (the Facebook variety) and with Brian Hyland’s ode to small swimwear from the 60s ringing in my head, I put up a picture from my recent trip to Hawaii: Me in front of a surfboard after catching a few waves.
Gratefully, I got a lot of positive comments. “Gorgeous radiant you,” “Badass hottie babe,” “Such an inspiration,” are a few of my faves. I realized that although it’s not an itsy bitsy, teenie weenie, polka-dotted number, for me a bikini still rocks as a top choice in beach wear, as it does for other boldly aging beach bunnies.
One wave-chasing surfer friend just shy of 50 shared that she has close to 80 bikinis on rotation at all times. According to an earlier Shape magazine study, only 1 in 5 women wear a one-piece at the beach, while a 2013 Land’s End survey reported that 46 percent of women who responded said they’d brave a bikini. That’s a lot of us baring our bodies—and our psyches—on the sand. Since those stats weren’t just for women in our age group, help NextTribe collect our own figures, as it were. Click here to tell us what swimsuit style you wear.
The Skinny on Swimsuits
A hundred years ago, only men wore swimsuits. Women donned beach “costumes,” composed of copious amounts of material, billowing around their bodies in the salty summer breezes. Because…women “didn’t swim.” Of course not. During the first few decades of the 20th century the only fun women could have in the sea water was holding onto a rope tied to a buoy secured in the sand. Grrrrrr.
Thankfully, times, styles, and social mores shifted (and pretty quickly). During a 1946 fashion show at Piscine Molitor, a popular Paris swimming pool, designer Louis Réard unveiled the bikini, five days after the first nuclear test over, yes, the Bikini Atoll. Claiming it wasn’t a real bikini unless it fit through a wedding band, he had to enlist a stripper to show off those scanty squares of fabric on the runway; even the French models were screaming scandale!
Soon after, Lycra was invented, and, well, little was left to the imagination. Austrian-born American designer Rudi Gernreich deconstructed the swimsuit further in the ‘60s, creating the thong and the topless monokini, all in the name of liberating women everywhere.
Tell us what type of suit you prefer by taking our quick survey.
Fast forward to today, when a company called Swimsuits for All celebrates the body-positivity movement and collaborates with supermodel Ashley Graham as she promotes inclusivity and runs boundary-pushing ad campaigns.
Take the most recent one starring Ashley and her 53-year-old mother, Linda Graham, wearing—yes, a bikini. In 2016, that plus-size, barrier-busting brand placed a campaign in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue featuring then-56-year-old model Nicola Griffin, who with her silver mane, tanned limbs, and metallic gold bikini, is the epitome of aging boldly. Griffin was the oldest woman to ever appear in the swimsuit issue, telling The Huffington Post: “I am overjoyed to represent all women over the age of 50 and hope this campaign inspires them to feel confident in a swimsuit—a gold bikini, no less!”
Now that beach blankets beckon, waves wait impatiently for boogie boarding and surfing, and cool pools shimmer enticingly, let’s take a look at some can’t-be-called-dowdy swimsuits for women over 50, shall we?
Pick an area of your body you love, and there’s a swimsuit to accentuate it.
Pick an area of your body you love, and there’s a swimsuit to accentuate it. If you’ve got the shoulders, show ‘em off with strapless. Long legs? Go for a high-cut thigh look. Love your waist? Today’s trend toward belted one- and two-pieces give off that, well, quintessential Bond Girl look.
Not into the bikini, no way, no how, for no body? Whether you’re seeking freer movement or more modesty, there are a dizzying number of sexy one-piece wonders out there—from monokinis to maillots.
We’ve got you covered….or not.
Soma Intimates’ High Neck bikini swim top ties for extra sexy, graphic support. And even though this model has a traditional–well, um, thin–model’s body, don’t let this throw you. This could look good on lots of sizes and shapes AND retailers only photograph bathing suits on young shapely women that almost no one–even the millennial set–looks like!
Nordstrom Rack offers up a wrap bikini trimmed in what could be called a NextTribe special—cat print, which is sort of our thing. And even though this model has a traditional–well, um, thin–model’s body, don’t let this throw you. This could look good on lots of sizes and shapes AND retailers only photograph bathing suits on young shapely women that almost no one–even the millennial set–looks like! Get the top here and the bottom here.
We’re a huge fan of the retro-looking leopard print one-piece at the top of this article, but, alas, we couldn’t find the details. Unique Vintage to the rescue! This suit is just as cute (dare we say cuter?) and comes with a matching leopard print mesh wrap.
More In Our Body Series
An earlier version of this article originally ran on 6/8/18.