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The maillot makes a splash

  • Long overshadowed by the bikini, the one-piece swimsuit is now being reinvented by designers and beachwear labels
  • Also known as maillots, these swimsuits are elevated with bold prints, zips, belts, knots and cutouts

When it comes to swimwear for women, the bikini gets the bulk of the attention. From Ursula Andress’ opening scene in the first Bond film Dr No to Ashley Graham’s iconic outing in a purple bikini as Sports Illustrated’s first plus-sized cover girl, the two-piece swimsuit, reportedly first designed in 1946 by French designer Louis Réard, is positioned as the definitive garment to show off the beach body. The one-piece swimsuit, sometimes known by its French name maillot, has always been around but away from the spotlight.

Until now. In recent seasons, designers and beachwear labels have taken it upon themselves to reinvent the garment. Print, texture and colour comprise the trifecta of qualities that make the one-piece relevant for the contemporary beach bum. The result? Functional swimwear that also turns heads, and comes with updates in prints and detailing.

Printed swimsuits are always popular but this season sees new updates. Indian resortwear label Shivan & Narresh which recently unveiled a new store in Delhi, creates new iterations of the one-piece every season, and its recent collections have drawn their maximal prints and patterns from Indian folk art traditions. The vivid prints are elevated with contrasting shoulder straps, cut-outs, pleats and textures

Even if prints don’t make your heart sing, the other details add impact. Designers are incorporating belts, knots, ruching and scallops, the trimmings often inspired by vintage swimsuits. Sustainable designer Mara Hoffman’s knotted swimsuits come in vivid colours like golden yellow, baby pink and moss green.

The belted swimsuit is big this season—try American brand Solid & Striped’s herringbone-print and striped numbers or Indian online brand The Label Life’s designs in colours like powder blue or olive.

Pieces by The Beach Company (in black) and Lisa Marie Fernandez.  
Pieces by The Beach Company (in black) and Lisa Marie Fernandez.  

Textures and layers are other ways to spruce up a plain swimsuit. “Ruffles are universally popular, and the most popular one-piece swimsuits are the mesh ones," says Harshad Daswani, co-founder of multi-brand resortwear e-tailer The Beach Company, on its best-selling designs. Also try metallic textures—Lisa Marie Fernandez’s new collection abounds in high-octane designs in gold and bronze.

But the closest you can get to replicating the bikini’s risqué style quotient with a one-piece is to take the cutout route with a monokini. Lebanese-American designer Norma Kamali is the mistress of cutout designs, with swimsuits artfully slashed across the torso. Closer home, designers like Aakriti Grover experiments with cutout styles for her Mumbai-based label Flirtatious. Kai Resortwear, another Indian resortwear brand, combines geometric prints and highlighter hues with cutout detailing. And if you think the monokini is only for supermodel body types, turn to the internet for some body positivity inspiration. Cutouts flatter curves too.

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