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One-piece swimsuits make a fashion splash

By Anna G. Larson

Forum News Service

FARGO – One-piece swimsuits are making a splash in the fashion world.

And they’re not the dowdy suits of years past.

The one-piece is back, and it’s stylish. Scoop necks, lace-up backs, details like edging and metal accents, fun prints and a variety of colors give the one-piece a modern twist while maintaining its practicality.

“It’s partially a reflection of what women feel good in and what they’re responding to versus what the norm should be,” says Carrie Baumgartner, a fashion buyer for Scheels All Sports in Fargo. “‘You should wear a bikini because you’re 15.’ Well, no, you should wear what you feel comfortable in.”

The one-piece suit can be elegant and sophisticated or playful and modern. One-piece doesn’t mean ultra-conservative, either. Baumgartner recalls classic images of Marilyn Monroe in her fun, white halter-style one-piece and Elizabeth Taylor in her sexy, scoop-neck one-piece with a keyhole detail at the chest.

Further proof of the one-piece’s popularity? Juniors’ brands like Raisins and Roxy designed one-piece suits this year, Baumgartner says, and that’s something she hasn’t seen in the market until now.

But the suits aren’t limited to teen bodies.

Part of the appeal of the one-piece swimsuit is its ability to flatter many body types.

“It used to be that a one-piece was hard to wear because if you had a short torso or a long torso, it didn’t fit correctly,” Baumgartner says. “There’ve been so many changes to adjustability that it fits a wide variety of body types. It’s not just mom-friendly but everyone-friendly – a practical piece you can wear to the pool.”

Sales of one-piece swimsuits have increased nationally by 15 percent from the April 2012 to March 2013 period to the April 2013 to March 2014 period, according to market research group NPD. One-piece sales netted $819.6 million during 2013 and 2014 compared with $783.9 million for two-piece swimsuits.

Karen Bope, a 25-year-old fashion blogger living in Fargo, is one of the many women choosing one-piece swimsuits over bikinis.

“I thought it would be fun and different,” she says. “It made me feel comfortable. I gravitate toward trends and saw they were coming back.”

Bope hadn’t worn a one-piece since she was a child.

“They’re making them really fun and sexy,” she says. “I don’t mind being a little more covered up. I don’t want to go back to my bikini.”

Teresa O’Day, owner of downtown Fargo boutique Proper & Prim, has also noticed more women wearing one-piece suits. Although her store doesn’t carry swimwear, O’Day worked in the swim department at Bloomingdale’s in Minneapolis and remembers how stressful it was for women to find swimwear they felt confident wearing.

The one-piece suit, she says, takes away some of the self-consciousness of wearing swimwear in public.

“It is a way to feel more comfortable at the beach or pool and not have to bear it all but still find something really cute that suits your style and your personality,” O’Day says. “Not everybody wants a bikini. Some people want more coverage but still want to look cute and still want something fashionable. As long as you get the right fit, really anyone can pull it off.”

Styles she’s seen range from girly-retro to modern and funky with cutouts. She favors the one-piece suit herself, having owned a few since her college days working at Bloomingdale’s.

Beyond comfort, one-pieces offer a lot of diversity, O’Day says.

“It’s not just the ones with the skirt or (the swimsuits) made for swimming laps. Now they’re fashionable and they’re cute, and they’re ones that really make a statement.”

Trends in swim for 2014 include navy blue and nautical twists, Scheels’ Baumgartner says. Patterns and prints are also popular – “you’re not just seeing a black suit anymore,” she says.

“I think women are responding well to it because it feels like traditional swimwear without feeling old or tired,” Baumgartner says. “I think women are feeling a lot more confident in it and comfortable in it because you don’t feel like everything’s showing.”

Tips for picking the perfect one-piece

FARGO – Finding the perfect swimsuit can be stressful, even when it’s a one-piece.

Teresa O’Day, owner of Fargo boutique Proper & Prim, and Carrie Baumgartner, a fashion buyer for Scheels All Sports in Fargo, offer tips for finding a one-piece suit that fits flawlessly.  

  • Try it on. “It’s so deceiving when you look at a one piece. You’re like ‘It looks so old-lady’ but then you put it on and realize how good it feels and how well they fit,” Baumgartner says.

  • It could take a dozen try-ons to find the right suit – keep going.

  • Different styles flatter different bodies.

  • Necklines and the cut of the leg can make a significant difference in how a suit flatters the body, O’Day says. “See what works for you; don’t be afraid of them,” she says.

  • Size doesn’t matter; fit does.

  • Swimsuit sizing can run differently from regular clothes, O’Day says. Trying on a variety of sizes can help achieve the perfect fit. “If something doesn’t fit right, it won’t look right. It always seems like you need to go up a size to be comfortable,” she says.