While it’s a feat to find the perfect swimsuit, many of us only end up slipping it on a few times a season. But if you have a stylish suit you love, why only wear it by the water? Whether you're trying to save room in your suitcase for a Caribbean getaway or simply running errands post-pool party, transform your swimsuit into an outfit so put-together no one will guess you’re wearing swimwear (shh, we won’t tell).
We tapped Caribbean content creator and style blogger Carolyn Carter who was raised in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, for advice on styling swimsuits for everyday adventures. After all, if life’s a beach, why not rock swimwear 24/7?
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Find the right swimsuit style for you
First up: Finding the right swimsuit to style. If you’re planning on snapping some seaside photos in your outfit, Carter says “warm tones,” like hot pink, red, or yellow, “photograph phenomenally,” whereas the colors of the beach—like green and blue—are more likely to blend in with the environment. Because you’re planning to wear something over the suit, you may want to avoid bulky ties or other embellishments that might affect how your coverup will lay.
Regardless of what color and style you feel most comfortable in, to find a quality swimsuit online, Carter recommends searching for photos of other consumers wearing it. “I like to see not only what [the company] has posted as its own branding, but I like to see what they've been tagged in and how other people are wearing it on social media,” she says. “If it puckers strangely around the waist or sometimes around the hip, you can tell they're not well made. That usually shows that in the non-professional photos.”
Dress up your swimsuit with a dress
Once you press “add to cart” on the right suit, it’s time to dive into styling. To elevate your swimwear style, consider a kimono or cover-up dress that “picks up one of the colors that’s in your swimsuit,” says Carter. Go from beach to brunch in seconds with a simple-yet-stylish summer dress like the Cross of Sunlight Mini from Free People, which comes in 10 colors in women’s sizes XS to XL.
Top off your outfit with a straw hat that fits snugly, as “especially if it's a windy day, a straw hat catches really easily and flies away,” says Carter. Consider shopping styles from Eric Javits, which the brand claims block 95% of harmful UVA and UVB rays. Try the stylish Mita Squishee Bucket Hat, which comes in tan in one size with a 22.5-inch circumference.
Another way to mix style and sun safety? Shopping for a cool pair of shades. Try the Ray-Ban RB3447 Round Metal Sunglasses, which both Carter and Amazon reviewers swear by. The circle-shaped style has a 4.5-star rating out of 5,700 reviews, making it a top contender among the best Ray-Bans on Amazon. Reviewers rave over the lenses, which one says “provide a wonderful, natural-looking tint for protection and comfort, without blocking out all light.”
- Get the Cross of Sunlight Mini at Free People for $78
- Get the Eric Javits Mita Squishee Bucket Hat at Nordstrom Rack for $275
- Get the Ray-Ban RB3447 Round Metal Sunglasses at Amazon for $163
Pair breezy pants with a stylish suit
With the right styling, a one-piece swimsuit can do double duty as a bodysuit. Beat the heat by pairing a fitted suit with lightweight, high-waisted pants. “Especially if they match the swimsuit, it looks like an outfit and it's appropriate for walking around here in the Caribbean,” says Carter. Try the Women’s Tie-Front Cover Up Pants at Target, which comes in black, white, and floral print in women’s sizes S to 3X. “The material is so light and breathable that I don't feel bundled up,” one reviewer writes.
For a one-shoulder one-piece swim style, consider the bestselling Summersalt Sidestroke suit in a solid color. Our reviewer raved over the “fashionable, comfortable, and well-made” design, which comes in 13 colors in women’s sizes 0 to 26.
Don’t forget to bring some tropical flair into your accessories, too. Opt for eye-catching earrings like the Beaded Circle Drop Earrings at Nordstrom, which add a pop of color to any outfit. (Just be sure to keep your bling safe from sand and water if you end up bringing it onto the beach.)
- Get the Kona Sol Women’s Tie-Front Cover Up Pants at Target for $25
- Get the Sidestroke at Summersalt for $95
- Get the Beaded Circle Drop Earrings at Nordstrom for $25
Show a little skin
While one-pieces tend to pair seamlessly with everyday outfits, that doesn’t mean you can’t transform two-pieces into a versatile look. A longer style, like Athleta’s Longline Plunge Top, doubles as a crop top. The top-rated bikini top has a 4.5-star rating from almost 160 reviews and comes in four colors.
For a string bikini—one of Carter’s personal favorite styles—consider designs from Tropic of C, a swimwear brand founded by former Victoria’s Secret model Candice Swanepoel. The suits come with extra long strings, says Carter, so that you can “tie the top multiple ways around you,” including flipping it “upside down”—a trendy style often sported by celebrities like the Kardashian-Jenners. Try the Praia Top, a classic stringed triangle style, which comes in brown in women’s sizes XS to L.
If the bikini on its own feels too skimpy, layer over a sheer top or a breezy linen button-down to show off your swimsuit in a stylish-yet-subtle way. Channel the coastal grandmother aesthetic with the Summersalt Perfect Boyfriend Shirt, which comes in white, pink, and polka dot in women’s sizes XS to 2X. The design has a perfect 5-star rating out of 65 reviews, with one reviewer raving that the material “maintains a nice wrinkle free shape straight from the wash.” (Although, as Carter notes, you’ll likely want to avoid long sleeves if you’re hitting the beach in the tropical heat.)
Tuck your shirt into some high-waisted denim shorts, which are “go-tos that you can easily toss on for the Caribbean,” says Carter. Try styles like the BDG Carrie Denim Short, which is available in a light wash with cute cuffs and a relaxed fit. It’s sold in women’s sizes 24 to 34.
- Get the Longline Plunge Bikini Top at Athleta in cup sizes A to C for $54
- Get the Longline Plunge Bikini Top at Athleta in cup sizes D to DD for $54
- Get the Praia Top from Tropic of C for $80
- Get the Perfect Boyfriend Shirt at Summersalt for $75
- Get the BDG Carrie Denim Short at Urban Outfitters for $59
Go for tropical flare with a sarong
Make your own matching set by pairing a similarly colored one-piece swimsuit and a beachy sarong. While some are too skimpy to double as clothing, the ones at blogger-owned brand Monday Swimwear work, er, swimmingly as both skirts and coverups. “They’re long enough to be worn as a skirt properly,” says Carter. Try the St. Tropez Sarong, a long linen style available in eight colors in one size fits most.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.