Tankini: What Is It?

What is a Tankini?

A tankini is a two-piece swimsuit that combines a tank top and a bikini bottom. The tankini top extends below the waist but does not fully cover the midriff.

Tankinis provide more coverage than a traditional bikini but are more revealing than a one-piece swimsuit.

History of the Tankini

The tankini was first introduced in the late 1990s as a compromise between one-piece and two-piece swimsuits.

It was designed to provide women with more comfort and flexibility while still offering a stylish look.

The name “tankini” comes from combining “tank top” with “bikini.”

Tank tops had become popular casual wear for women in the 1980s and 1990s, so combining the tank top with bikini bottoms was an obvious evolution in swimsuit fashion.

Designer Anne Cole has been credited with first using the name “tankini” and popularizing the style.

Her original tankini design from 1998 consisted of a sleeveless top that extended to the waist and was worn with low-rise bikini bottoms.

The tankini quickly gained popularity, as it allowed women to show off a little skin while still feeling secure and comfortable.

It provided more torso coverage than a bikini, making it appealing for women who wanted a modest two-piece swimsuit. The style also accommodated women with longer torsos that traditional bikinis did not fit well.

Types of Tankini Tops

There are a few main styles of tankini tops:

1. Standard Tankini

The traditional tankini features a sleeveless top that extends down to the waist or hips and fully covers the midriff. The shoulders may have straps or be strapless. This style provides the most coverage of all tankini variations.

2. Crop Top Tankini

As the name implies, the crop top tankini top ends above the waist, leaving some portion of the midriff exposed. Crop top tankini tops offer more skin exposure than a standard tankini top while still providing more coverage than a regular bikini top.

3. Halter Tankini

Halter style tankini tops wrap around the neck and tie behind the back or around the neck. This style is supportive while still allowing for an exposed back and midriff area.

4. Bandeau Tankini

Bandeau tops are strapless tops that wrap horizontally around the chest. They can be paired with tankini bottoms for a strapless tankini look. Bandeau tops may need to be adjusted more frequently than other tankini styles.

5. High Neck Tankini

High neck tankini tops feature a higher cut neckline that reaches up closer to the collarbone. The high neck coupled with the longer cut provides maximum chest and torso coverage while still showing leg and arm skin.

Features of Tankini Tops

Tankini tops come in a wide variety of colors, prints, fabrics, and features:

  • Built-in bra cups: Many tankini tops, especially strapless and halter styles, have built-in molded bra cups to offer breast support.
  • Underwire: Some tankini tops have underwire in the bust area to provide lift and support.
  • Removable pads: Pads that can be inserted and removed allow wearers to customize the cup fit.
  • Ruching: Ruching or shirring, a row of gathered fabric, adds visual interest and helps camouflage the midsection.
  • Tummy control panels: Tankinis may feature control panels made of stretchy, firming fabric to smooth the abdomen.

Variations of Tankini Bottoms

The bottom half of a tankini can vary in style:

1. Low-Rise Bottoms

Low-rise bikini bottoms sit low on the hips, leaving the midriff mostly exposed. This style pairs best with cropped tankini tops.

2. Mid-Rise Bottoms

Mid-rise bottoms offer medium coverage, sitting just below the navel. This is the most common tankini bottom style.

3. High-Waisted Bottoms

High-waisted or high-cut bikini bottoms cover more of the hip and abdominal areas for a retro-inspired look. They pair well with tank tops that are not cropped.

4. Skirted Bottoms

Skirted tankini bottoms feature a sheer, lightweight skirt overlay that provides more coverage over the hips. The skirt may be removable.

5. Boy Shorts

Boy short tankini bottoms provide full backside coverage and high waistline coverage. This modest bottom pairs well with any tankini top.

Benefits of Wearing a Tankini

Tankinis offer several advantages that make them a popular swimsuit choice for many women:

  • More coverage than a bikini but still stylish
  • Allows for adjustable coverage depending on top and bottom pairings
  • Provides support and security for bustier women
  • Accommodates longer torsos better than one-piece or bikini styles
  • Offers mix-and-match versatility with different tops and bottoms
  • Often includes tummy-control features
  • Wide variety of designs and colors to choose from

Finding the Best Tankini for Your Body Type

With so many tankini options available, you can find a style suited for your body shape and size:

Pear body shape

A pear shape wider at the hips can balance out proportions with a dark-colored bottoms and lighter tankini top. High-waisted bottoms will minimize the hips. A bandeau top adds fullness to a smaller bust.

Apple body shape

An apple shape with a fuller midsection and bust should choose a tankini with a longer top for coverage. A top with ruching helps camouflage the tummy area. Bold colored bottoms draw attention downward.

Hourglass figure

Show off your curves in a tankini. Choose a halter neck or bandeau top to show some skin up top. Mid-rise bottoms that tie at the sides are flattering for hourglass figures.

Athletic build

Athletic body types with broad shoulders and slim hips can balance proportions with a sporty racerback tankini top paired with skirted bottoms. The skirt slims athletic hips and legs.

Plus size

Tankinis work extremely well for plus size bodies, providing tummy control and bust support. Look for adjustable straps, underwire, and tops with multiple layers for larger busts. Solid black bottoms are universally flattering.

Long torso

Finding a swimsuit long enough to fit a long torso can be challenging. Tankinis solve that problem with their tops that extend down to the hips or waist. Choose a tankini with a longer cut top and mid or high-rise bottoms.

Rocking Your Tankini With Confidence

With the wide range of tankini tops and bottoms available today, you can easily find a look that makes you feel comfortable, confident and fabulous at the beach or pool.

A quality tankini in a stylish design provides the best of both worlds – the comfort and security of more coverage with the fun and flirty look of a two-piece swimsuit.

Pair tops and bottoms for the level of coverage and skin exposure you feel best in.

So go ahead and work that tankini! Whether you prefer a plunging neckline or higher cut, traditional straps or a strapless bandeau, you’ll look and feel your best rocking a tankini that flatters your unique shape and size.

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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