Swim Trunks (Women’s): Meaning, Styles & More

What are swim trunks for women?

Swim trunks for women are a type of swimwear featuring a loose, shorts-style bottom half. Similar to men’s swim trunks, women’s trunks have a boxier, less revealing silhouette compared to traditional women’s bikini bottoms. The looser leg openings provide more coverage over the upper thighs and rear while the waistband sits at or above the hips.

Below are the characteristics of women’s swim trunks:

  • Loose fit – Swim trunks have an oversized, baggy cut and are not form-fitting. The loose leg design creates a boxy, masculine aesthetic.
  • Inseam length – Typical inseams range from 3-5 inches. Longer 5-7 inch inseams provide more coverage.
  • Thicker fabric – Swim trunks use mid-weight fabrics with more structure and opacity than a bikini bottom. The fabric is still swimsuit material that dries quickly.
  • Higher waist – The waistband hits at or above the natural waistline, akin to men’s trunks. Strings may be used to tie at the sides to adjust fit.
  • Wide leg openings – Leg openings are wide and loose, not hugging the thighs. This reduces definition of the hips and rear shape.
  • Lined or unlined – Some trunks feature a brief lining for comfort and security while others have no built-in lining at all.
  • Side slits – Some feature side slits for an increased range of motion. The leg openings may have mesh lining.
  • Pockets – Many have side pockets, some with zipper closures to hold essentials when swimming.

The roomy silhouette and higher waist creates a sporty, masculine look suited for athletic swimming or water activities. The extra fabric allows freedom of movement while providing modest coverage over more skin.

Different styles of women’s Swim Trunks

Board shorts

These loose-fitting swim trunks hit mid-thigh or below, similar to men’s board shorts. Board shorts for women typically have an elastic waistband with a drawstring for adjustment. They are often made of quick-drying nylon or polyester fabric. The loose silhouette offers full coverage of the rear, hips, and thighs for modesty. The leg openings are wide, usually 8-10 inches across. Popular board short colors are solid black, navy, khaki, white, and bold prints.

Swim Boyshorts

A shorter version of board shorts hitting 2-4 inches inseam. Boyshorts offer more coverage than a bikini bottom but still showcase a woman’s rear curves. The legs have straight or scalloped edges. The waistband hugs at the true waist or hips. Athleisure-inspired boyshorts come in sporty colorblocking. The modest coverage appeals to women uncomfortable in traditional bikini cuts.

High-Waisted Swim Trunks

Offer retro appeal with a waistband hitting near the natural waist, above the navel. The flattering high rise slims the torso. Paired with a 5-7 inch modest inseam, high-waisted trunks flatter mature and postpartum bodies. Adjustable drawstrings customize the fit.

Swim bike shorts

Bike short swimwear hits high on the thigh with legs similar to bike shorts. The fabric is compressive and supportive, ideal for athletic activities. The waist is medium-rise with a thick elastic band that stays put. Bike short swim trunks provide full rear coverage. The leg openings are tapered to offer a streamlined fit. They frequently use technical fabrics like Italian compression lycra. Popular colors are black, blue, and bright neons/prints.

Surf leggings

Worn skin-tight like yoga pants, surf leggings provide maximum coverage from waist to ankles. Made of lightweight compression fabric with UV protection, the “modesty suits” enable water activities without exposing skin. Visually pleasing prints and colors upgrade the activewear look.

Hipster swim trunks

Hipster swim trunks have a mid-rise waist that sits just below the belly button. Made of stretchy performance fabric, they contour the hips and rear. The leg length is short, exposing more thigh than boy shorts. Most hipster swim trunks include a front interior liner for security and opacity.

Rash Guard Swim Leggings

Combines leggings ending mid-calf with a rash guard top extending to the hips or upper thigh. The coordinated sets cover the torso, hips, and upper legs while still allowing free movement. Ideal for surfing, the protected skin prevents chafing. Matching prints (floral, tribal) create a flattering head-to-toe suit. UV-blocking fabric provides safety during water activities.

High cut swim trunks

The legs on high cut swim trunks rise high on the hips, hitting at or above the hip bone. This style bares lots of outer thigh. The waist is usually low-rise. Mesh panel cutouts add style by flashing skin.

Different lengths of women’s swim trunks

Women’s swim trunks come in varying lengths that affect how much leg they expose. Length also impacts mobility and athletic capability.

Below are the common lengths for women’s swim trunks:

Ultra High-Cut

At 2-3 inch inseam, ultra high-cut swim trunks barely cover the bikini line and bottom curves. The daringly short length creates a leg-lengthening effect similar to runner’s shorts. Low rise versions add sizzle. The minimal coverage works for beach lounging versus active water play.

High cut

High cut swim trunks rise over the hips toward the waist, sitting at or above the hip bone, they offer more coverage at 3-5 inches inseam but still cut high enough on the thigh to elongate legs. Curved leg openings hint at rear contours while avoiding full exposure.


The 5-7 inch inseam hits mid-thigh, a middle ground between short swim shorts and knee-length board shorts. The medium length offers a good compromise between coverage and freedom of movement. Mid-length swim trunks work well for casual recreational swimming and mild marine activity like paddleboarding.


Women’s knee-length swim trunks measure 8-10 inches inseam, mimicking capri pants. The longer fit provides protection from the sun when lounging poolside. The coverage also satisfies modest dressers wanting more fabric than micro mini styles.

Below the knee

Reaching below or right to the knee, these full-length swim trunks provide the most coverage. They look sporty but limit mobility for swimmers.


Mid-calf suits end below the knee, a medium length balancing modesty and mobility. The longer cut offers good leg coverage for confident swimming and play.


Ankle-length swim trunks extend fully down the legs to the ankles. At 12 inches inseam, the ankle or floor length cuts offer maximum skin coverage for the women’s legs. While less hydrodynamic for lap swimming, the full coverage accommodates religious convictions for modest attire at the beach, pool or waterpark.

How should swim trunks fit?

For maximum comfort during physical activity, women’s swim trunks must strike the right balance of compressive yet flexible. An ideal fitting swim trunk provides both security and unhindered mobility.

The waistband should sit comfortably at the natural waistline without pinching or constricting. Excessive tightness creates muffin-topping at the hips. But the waist closure needs to stay put during rigorous motions without sliding. An adjustable drawcord helps customize the grip.

Through the hips and rear, the shorts should skim the body smoothly without pulling or sagging. The leg openings must not cut into thick thigh areas. And the inseam should meet the mid-thigh without exposure issues.

The inner liner of swim trunks should lie flat, avoiding bunching and chafing. The liner should offer ample compression to avoid transparency issues. But the fabric should still feel light enough for hours of wear.

To test the fit, perform activities like stretching, lunging, kicking, etc. The trunks should not pinch, ride up, or limit mobility throughout. A mirror check identifies problem areas like waistband rolling, crotch wedging, and sagging fabric.

Pros and cons of swim trunks


  • Provide full butt and hip coverage – The loose shorts fully cover the rear, hips, and upper thighs, avoiding exposure of these areas. For women wanting more modesty while swimming, trunks deliver.
  • Comfortable fit – The shorts offer a roomy fit through the seat and thighs without fabric pulled taut across the body. This creates a relaxed feel many find comfortable for active swimming and playing vs clingy briefs.
  • Flattering on many body types – By covering problem zones like the stomach, hips, and rear, swim trunks complement wider ranges of figures versus skimpy suits. Their comfort helps women feel confident.
  • Greater sun protection – More fabric means greater UV ray protection on the lower body, especially the delicate bikini line area prone to burning. The shorts help block sun exposure to upper thighs.
  • Allow body hair – Swim trunks accommodate body hair growth some women may have in bikini zones, avoiding embarrassment or irritation from shaving. Unwanted hair can be hidden.
  • Limit panty lines – The loose shorts minimize visible panty lines under swimwear. This helps achieve a smooth, seamless look compared to clingy bottoms.
  • Enable active wear – From beach volleyball to paddleboarding, swim trunks allow free range of motion for sports and adventures vs skimpy bottoms prone to wedging.


  • Less leg exposure – Swim trunks cover much of the legs, avoiding the elongated look of bare thighs in regular bikini bottoms. For some, this shortened leg line is unflattering.
  • Less skin for tanning – Those looking forward to sunbathing and tanning might be disappointed by the large areas of skin the trunks conceal compared to briefs and Brazilian cuts.
  • Added drag in water – While competitive swimmers benefit from less drag, casual swimmers may feel slowed down by the shorts versus bare legs that cut through water.
  • Bottoms ride up – When wet, swim trunks often ride up the thighs and backside, bunching awkwardly. Constant pulling at leg holes is required.
  • Drying time – More fabric means drying takes longer after wearing in the water. This dampness is uncomfortable out of the pool and causes chafing.
  • May still show VPL – Like shorts, swim trunks can display visible panty lines. Choosing nude or seamless undies is key to avoid this issue.
  • Limited color/print options – Many women’s swim trunks come in basic black, navy and dark hues only. Finding bright patterns and colors is difficult.
  • Awkward bathroom trips – Wearing swim trunks requires nearly full disrobing to go to the bathroom. Changing in public stalls can be challenging.

Should I wear swim trunks?

Desired Skin Exposure

If wanting to reveal legs, slim thighs, and show off curves, steer away from swim trunks. But if seeking chest and bottom coverage, trunks work well. Assess how much of your figure you wish to display at the beach or pool.

Planned Activities

Swim trunks allow free movement for sports like diving, sailing and swimming laps. But for leisurely sunbathing or lounging poolside, simple bikini bottoms may suffice. Think about what range of motion and coverage different plans require.

Body Image Comfort Level

Women less comfortable bearing lots of skin or showing certain areas of the body typically appreciate swim trunks. Those with positive body image may embrace skimpier bikinis. Consider how ready you are to bare more flesh publicly.

Public vs. Private Setting

Fuller-coverage swim trunks meet most public pool and waterpark policies. But for semi-private hotel pools, adult-only venues, or risqué beach destinations, an itsy bitsy bikini likely blends right in. Assess the norms and regulations of where you will wear the suit.

Swimming Purpose

For competitive swimming like races, laps, or triathlons, performance-focused swim trunks with hydrodynamic fabrics aid speed and function. For recreational splashing and leisurely wading, fashionable style can trump functionality.

Finding the Balance

Split the difference by pairing trunk-style swim bottoms with a cute bikini top to highlight your assets while covering problem areas. Tankinis that blend top coverage with boyshort-cut bottoms provide figure flattery with modesty. Mix and match to get the right proportions of daring and demure.

Price ranges for women’s swim trunks

Women’s swim trunks are a relatively new category of swimwear for those seeking more coverage than traditional bikini bottoms. The average retail price for women’s swim trunks from mainstream brands generally falls between $50 and $65. Most quality women’s trunks range from $30 to $80 depending on fabric, brand, and stylistic details. Mass market versions can cost as little as $15 to $25 while high-end designer swim trunks for women can reach $100+.

Do women’s swim trunks have linings?

In general, most swim trunks contain some form of partial or full lining for coverage and security during active swimming and beach play. The lining is usually made of quick-drying stretchy swimsuit material, with spandex and nylon blends being popular.

The most common linings for women’s swim trunks are:

Inner brief lining – This is a classic bikini-cut brief sewn into the trunks that provides full bottom coverage. The inner brief is usually made of a stretchy swimsuit material that contains everything securely. This type of built-in lining offers modesty and confidence for active swimming and playing. Popular for sporty boardshort styles.

Partial inner lining – Some designs feature partial linings in the form of a strip of fabric just covering the crotch/bikini line region. This slim liner retains modesty while keeping the trunks lightweight. Often seen in shorter swim short silhouettes.

Mesh liner – Trunk linings made of open mesh or fishnet fabric allow water flow through while obscuring direct visibility of the bottom underneath. Provides a sheer, sexy look. Common for nightclub, beachwear styles.

Cotton liner – Less common but some casual trunks feature a full cotton brief liner for comfort and absorption similar to underwear. The cotton lining dries slower than technical swim fabrics.

No lining – Higher-end designer swim trunks often have no built-in lining at all. These unlined trunks are meant to be worn over a standard bikini bottom. The lack of liner reduces bulk.

Can you wear women’s swim trunks by themselves or should they be worn over a swimsuit?

The choice comes down to personal preference and occasion. For leisurely lounging poolside, swim trunks with a lining suffice alone. But active water play like tubing may warrant layering over more secure bottoms to avoid accidental exposure. Some resort pools or venues require females to wear trunks over a swimsuit for modesty standards. When in doubt, pack both to achieve the desired look and coverage.

In general, you should:

  • Wear swim trunks alone without a swimsuit if the trunks have a built-in lining. The interior lining acts as the main bottom coverage so no additional suit is needed.
  • Layer swim trunks over a one-piece swimsuit for a sporty look with more sun protection. The trunks styled over a one-piece offer an extra layer of fabric.
  • Pair swim trunks with the matching bikini top from a coordinating swimsuit set. Mixing the swim trunks with the matching bikini top creates a cute, eclectic look.
  • Layer swim trunks over bottoms in a contrasting color or print. This creates visual interest by showing the contrasting suit peeking out the sides or bottom.
  • For athletic water sports like surfing, wear quick-dry swim trunks over sporty bottoms that offer fuller coverage such as surf leggings.
  • Try swim trunks over high-waisted bikini bottoms. This conceals more of the midriff for a retro-inspired beach outfit.
  • Wear a dress over swim trunks as a cover-up to and from the pool or beach. Then remove the dress cover-up to reveal the swim trunks for swimming or sunbathing.

How are women’s swim trunks different from men’s swim trunks?

Though serving a similar modest function, women’s swim trunks differ from men’s in several design aspects:

  • Silhouette – Women’s are cut to fit the female form while men’s have a straight, boxy fit.
  • Fabric – Women’s trunks use lighter, form-fitting stretch fabrics that still follow body contours. Men’s feature heavier non-stretch fabrics, like board shorts, that obscure the lower body shape.
  • Fit – Women’s maintain a slimmer, closer fit through the hips and rear while men’s remain overly baggy and shapeless. Women’s trunks are not as loose.
  • Length – Typical inseams on women’s trunks run 3-5 inches versus 5-7 inches on men’s. Women’s trunks expose more upper thigh.
  • Rise – The waist hits lower on men’s, right at the natural waistline or even below. Women’s maintain a higher rise sitting 1-3 inches above the natural waist.
  • Pockets – Side seam pockets are more common on men’s while most women’s lack pockets entirely.
  • Lining – Many women’s trunks integrate a partial lining or full brief lining while most men’s have no lining at all.
  • Leg opening – Women’s feature a narrower leg opening that follows the curve of the upper thigh. Men’s have very wide leg openings.
  • Tailoring – Women’s contain darts, seaming and curved side seams to add shape through the rear. Men’s lack any shaping.
  • Colors/prints – Women’s offer brights, neons, and colorful patterns absent on most men’s.

The main distinction is that women’s swim trunks balance modest coverage with a hint of femininity through a slimmer silhouette, strategic seaming, and use of lighter fabrics. Men’s emphasize function and comfort exclusively without regard for flattering fit. Women’s swim trunks deliver coverage through a shaped, hybrid style blending elements of both men’s trunks and women’s bikini bottoms. The looser legs and mid/higher rise keeps these decidedly modest while subtle tailoring nods to a woman’s curves.

Differences between women’s swim trunks, swim shorts, and board shorts?

Swim trunks exhibit a loose, mid-thigh length, similar to men’s swim trunks. The legs are straight cut, and the waistband hits at or just below the navel. Swim trunks provide full coverage of the hips and rear, making them a modest option. The fabric is often a quick-drying nylon or polyester blend. The looser fit allows free range of motion. Swim trunks suit athletic swimming, water sports, or leisure pool wear.

Swim shorts describe shorter, above mid-thigh length bottoms. They cut off several inches higher on the leg than traditional swim trunks. Swim shorts offer a compromise between coverage and leg exposure. The fit hugs curves slightly closer than looser trunks, but still conceal more than a bikini would. Swim shorts work well for casual pool and beach activities.

Board shorts are typified by an extra loose, baggy fit and longer over-the-knee length. Board shorts originally were designed for surfing but now function as a multipurpose swim bottom. The low waist and loose legs enable unrestricted mobility for watersports. Quick-dry synthetic fabrics dominate. Board shorts provide the most modest coverage and tomboyish silhouette of these three styles.

The table below summarizes the main differences between women’s swim trunks, swim shorts, and board shorts:

AttributeSwim TrunksSwim ShortsBoard Shorts
LengthMid-thighAbove mid-thigh, high cut legOver the knee, longest cut
FitLooseSemi-fittedVery loose and baggy
WaistAt or below belly buttonLow hipster riseDropped, surfer rise
Leg ShapeStraightCurvedVery loose and straight
Rear CoverageFullModerateVery full
Front RiseMid to highLow to mid riseLowest rise
FabricNylon/poly blendNylon/poly/spandex blendThick quick-dry synthetic
Best Suited ForAthletic swimming, water sportsBeach & leisure activitiesHardcore watersports

Sophia is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers pop culture, gender, media, history, and plus-size fashion. With her keen eye for detail and a unique perspective, Sophia's writing captures the essence of the world around us, bringing it to life through her words.

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