High WASPs Do Love A High Waist

I’m tired of one piece bathing suits. Anyone else? This is not a fashion whim. It’s sensory. I like the way water feels on my skin, I like sun, and if I choose to cover up I prefer light silk to heavy, wet, bunchy, swim fabric.

Tankinis are, if anything, worse than maillots. Bathing suits stretched tight are tolerable, once gathering and flapping commences all hope is lost.

I confess that did I wear a bikini in Hawaii. But I’d be hard-pressed to do so anywhere except the tropics, and very hard-pressed to do so except in the presence of Significant Other and my children. I bear no ill will towards the belly that bore my babies, but like birth photos, it’s not something I need to share with the world.

So when I saw this nautical high-waisted two-piece number on net-a-porter, I stopped and looked. Surely this s less brazen than a bikini, possibly it avoids the full matron of many skirted, or shorts-bottomed suits.

High-Waisted High WASPs

Quite a nice variant of the species,  I think. But $575? Yikes.

The red Norma Kamali below was apparently one of her best-selling items, ever. That’s ruching I could embrace, alternatively, allow to embrace me. Still pricey at $350, but a classic. Luckily, the style is currently benefiting from other retro revisits. The Rose Bug print by Ted Baker can be had for $150. i imagine that Target racks would yield a few that looked great on.

Which is not to say, of course, that the high-waited two-piece bathing suit can’t be done very, very badly.

We do not want to look as though:

  • We’re wearing leopardskin granny panties
  • One quick tug and we’ll be pantsless
  • Our middle requires full opera curtains, no matter how lovely the colors.

What say you, oh Privilege[d]? I sense I may be on my own here.

Net-a-porter 2014 swimwear (Norma Kamali’s classic ruching lives on)
ASOS 2014 swimwear (high-waisted gingham for a full bust)
Neiman Marcus 2014 swimwear (a glorious floral rashguard and matching bottom)

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  • I am SO with you. As I write this, I am wearing a TWO PIECE bathing suit by the pool. I bought a one piece last year, thinking I would do the sophisticated St. Tropez with a big hat thing, but all it ended up doing was threaten to fall down or cut me in half. Not for the long-waisted, apparently. Two piece forever!

    8:06 pm
    Lisa said...

    I’m long-waisted too. I suspect we’re prone to the two piece impulse.

  • Oh. My. GAWD. I’m darn near sobbing with happiness at this new style – a high-waisted, 2 piece bathing suit! The fashion gods ARE there for the middle-aged, short-waisted and pudgy.

    Wow. Just…wow.

  • i like the way water feels on my skin as well, but you’re gaining an extra…two inches of real estate there, only in the front (since many one-pieces are already bare in back), and a well-built one-piece remains more comely (and practical in the water; take it from an enthusiastic ocean swimmer) than a bikini. i differ, strenuously!

    8:07 pm
    Lisa said...

    I gain about four inches of real estate. Long waisted:).

  • Spot on, Lisa.

  • I’m generally more comfortable in a one-piece (for the enjoyment of water on the skin, there’s always skinny-dipping, after dark, bien sûr), but I’d consider these. I do have a two-piece with a bottom closer to these than to a skimpy bikini bottom, but I like these higher waists as edgier, somehow.

  • I think the retro high waisted two piece bathing suits are fantastic, on the young. I’ve tried one on and found it matronly. I’ve decided to embrace the European women and wear a bikini when I want to. I love the water on my skin also. I think you should give the two piece a try though.

    8:07 pm
    Lisa said...

    I believe I’ll try it, and I imagine it may not look as well as I hope. But I’ll report back.

  • I do love big pants. The YSL bikini is gorgeous – and I think Norma Kamali swimwear is fab. I wear a one-piece for swimming lengths in the pool but always wear a two piece on holiday. I take the ‘no one can see me once I’m in the water’ approach and dive in!

  • I like these. Very 40s-Esther Williams-proper lady ish. Oh wait, that’s called retro!

  • Oh no my friend, you are not alone on this one! The high waisted bathing suit bottom can look so glam if done right (much like your fab collage!).
    My heart is fluttering for that Norma Kamali bottom, that is one gorgeous piece!!

  • last week i bought a navy blue bikini from target. j. crew has a high waisted navy bikini too. i’m long waisted so sitting on the beach in a one piece is torturous. the minute i get to the beach i can’t wait to get home and rip the thing off me. this year will be different. i don’t care what anyone thinks or says, i’m going to be comfortable!

  • These may be perfect for those of you who are toned and slim but for me I need the coverage that only a one piece can offer. I have recently purchased two slimmer styles from Land’s End and like the taming of the flabby bits that spandex offers :-))

  • I remember seeing that Norma Kamali in women, it was *wonderful*. Your comment “…like birth photos, it’s not something I need to share” made me laugh aloud!

    Sending you a smile,

  • The wearing of the wet bathing suit after one has been in the water is what gets me. Once I’m out of the water it’s not so nice to be covered in those lines.

    However, I’m not sure how I feel about these, to be honest. I love the look of retro suits in general (especially the one piece suits), but the high waisted bottom and tiny top is not something that I think would flatter my own body type. I feel like it might highlight large hips and not do enough to help my chest.

    But for your style? I think these might be about perfect.

    8:08 pm
    Lisa said...

    I will just HAVE to try one then.

  • I *love* the idea of this, but I think it can be very tricky to execute successfully in real life depending on one’s body type.

    9:32 am
    StacyfrPgh said...

    I agree. While these suits are great, I feel the high waisted suits are tough for many people to wear. I wear a two piece while at the beach house, but a one piece a little closer to home. I realized some years ago that comfort and style could happily co-exist if one looks hard enough.

    8:08 pm
    Lisa said...

    Yes. I agree.

  • Haha I just audibly cracked up with my office door open. Those last three options were INCREDIBLY UGLY. I am 100% in agreement with you. I had to give up on J.Crew suits ages ago as their ‘high waist’ options do not work with child-birthing-ready hips/thighs and sizeable bottoms. I think the Kamali would look beautiful on you. Ever look into Jantzen? They often do attractive swimdresses (not granny ones) with comfortable high-waist bottoms. Also Nannette Lepore, Carmen Marc Valvo, and Spanx (yes, that Spanx).

  • I am a huge fan of the quick dry nylon tankinis. I hate having to put a cover-up over a wet suit – leading to the oh-so-attractive strategic wet spot(s).

  • I don´t even have a bathing suit/ bikini.
    I have created a fish-fobia myself, the water is always so cold, and I hate going to public swimming pools.
    If I had a private pool, I´d choose the one that appeals to me more. I guess, that a one piece is right for serious swimming.

  • My favorite bathing suit ever was a two-piece with high-waisted bottom. I was a retro Esther Williams style with wide halter-style straps on the top and a sweetheart neckline. Underwire padded cups. I loved that thing. I bought it in 1998 – but I think the Esther Williams style is still around?

    I googled “retro swimsuit” and found this one on Etsy, which would be custom made to ones measurements.

  • Not only is the Esther Williams style still around, but Esther Williams is now making swimsuits in that style! I have one of her fabulous one-pieces, but have been trying to summon up the courage to try out one of her two-pieces. The photos on her site look a bit dated, but I can promise you that they look quite lovely in person (and come in plus size!).

  • I’ve got to go against the tide on this one. High-waisted anything tends to make the wearer look heavier than they are… very similar to “mom jeans.” I like to go with a scoop, but a relatively high scoop, or a bottom which ends a little below the natural waist. Here’s my problem… I am of normal weight, and even used to be underweight (just couldn’t gain weight.) I have never given birth. But I seem to have a body type I rarely see on anyone else – I have an hourglass figure, so a disproportionately small waist, and very little fat on my stomch above the waist. But even when I am really thin, I have a little pooch on my lower abdomen. Viewed from the side I I have a pretty flat expanse from below my breasts to my waist (pretty much only as prominent as the rib cage) then the flesh goes in at the waist, then it poofs out in a noticeable way. (That is, it’s not an imaginary pooch.) I actually WISH that I were heavier but had, viewed from the side, an expanse of flesh on my torso which was all one “width” so to speak. I can never wear tiny bikinis while many who are much heavier can. I have to wear a bottom which holds in the little pooch. But anything that ends at the natural waist or higher is seriously unflattering.

    I actually really like tankinis, but not ones which bag around the waist. I like them to end above the waist and lay flat or be a bit gathered.

  • I absolutely love this style! I almost like the bondage one too, but liking something on a model and wearing it myself are two very different thing indeed! I wonder how hard it might be for my seamstress to make me a set of high waisted bottoms? I think I’ll look into that. And some sewing classes too! there is no reason I should be able to do this myself. Time, I guess is never in abundance around here.

  • You have to have a flat belly and not a millimetre of waist flab to wear that. I’ll take a one-piece with enough ruching that obscures what is fabric and what is me.

    Even a bikini which shows the sweet viola curve of waist to hip is more forgiving. Want to feel the water? Skinny dip!

    5:30 pm
    SewingLibrarian said...

    I’m with you, Duchesse, on this topic.

    7:21 pm
    ChristineB said...

    I am so short waisted that a high waist bottom would practically reach my boobs. Not attractive. I do love the look…but it’s not for me.

  • Having made a commitment to go to Grenada next winter with my mother, I read your post on bathing suits with great interest. However, I’m not going to join you in considering a high waste two piece – as a person of short stature, no way do I need to cut my body into four parts!

    I think I’ll be following the Duchesse, looking for a ruched one piece – and no, I’m not going to consider skinny dipping!

  • High waist that is!

  • Let’s talk, shall we? I summer at the beach. Playing volleyball that is, mostly pick-up these days. Great fun and exercise nonetheless, but few identify with my obsessive mentality. As one does, I’ve surrounded myself with those like-minded. All ages. Shall I go there? O.k. I’m forty-something. There. I said it. Sort of. Who needs that fodder anyway? The suit is a necessity. Nothing else will do and it had better be a good one to handle the full-on, pay loader digs required. Shorts and skorts? Don’t bother putting your sandle in queu for next game. I will giggle heartily at you lol. Hi-waisted flambouancy? There’s a tropical blue pool waiting somewhere for you and an adjacent rock on which to lounge. The platoon-buttoned pants? Do-able, given the right setting as you say. Hard for me to see them on anyone but Faith Hill, who coincedentally wore a version of them as slacks for her return performance at the CMA’s. But we digress. I think I must trudge forward toward the likes of body glove, no prints, no tassles, no kidding around. I’m not here for the sun. :)

  • I’m over 50, fit, curvy rather than thin, and follow current styles. My beach and boat solution is surf shorts in a tropical print and a cami with built-in bra. It’s comfortable, flattering and a young but not inappropriate look.

    4:30 pm
    Flo said...

    Oh BlackDog! Maybe you’ll appreciate a semi-recent interview w/ Candice Bergen that she wears your SAME board-shorts-cami combo to the beach! or then again, may it will depress you, we get to pick and choose however we feel about stuff we read on the internet.

    Meanwhile, I’m going to track that nautical red YSL suit at Neimans to see if it goes on sale, it’s not for me because I no longer sport the caliper-negative midriff and upper thigh, but if Lisa likes it, then dadgummit she shall HAVE it.


    If you’re lookin for me poolside, I’m the one wearing this [in black], and have been from around 1980-2012:


  • I will be going to Hawaii for the first time ever in August and have started to look for the perfect bathing suits to replace my ancient and somewhat mommish Lands’Ends. It sounds silly and ungracious to complain about such things, but it feels like a huge chore to shop for bathing suits. A huge, unpleasant, and slightly traumatizing chore.

    Love the red Norma Kamali.

  • I like the ruched bottoms.

    I never wore a bikini as a young girl and don’t see a reason to expose that smooth skin to the sun in my 50s, but if you were/are a bikini wearer the high-waisted suits seem like a good solution. I saw a picture of Princess Caroline of Monaco in one and it was flattering.

  • Hm, actually I’ve been eyeing the matronly with skirts type of suits…taking vintage to the last turn of the century extreme. The last time I wore a “2 piece” would have been middle school. I do like the first one–the bandeau top.

  • As my daughter would say, “X on that,” as in No way for me. I’ve actually found tankinis to work pretty well for the beach, and one-piece suits better for the pool. I like the longer line, and I don’t won’t have to worry about my pale, pale belly getting sunburnt.

  • Agreed. I’d love to get a high-waisted two piece for the summer.

  • Oooh I love this but am very short waisted and the bottoms would be so high on me! Great post! x

  • I’ve been thinking about bathing suits, even though I own a bunch of them already — I’d really like to find something two-piece, but with a bottom that hits somewhere between bikini and high-waisted. And a really good bra top.

    Then I’ll need SPF 1000, because my midriff flesh hasn’t seen the sun for about 38 years.

  • It’s a challenge for me to find a high-waisted style that works, and I’ve seen a lot of bad ones. You’ve really got to have the right frame for it. If it works, it’s great. For the maybe 5 days a year I spend on the beach, I wear a bikini. I wore one pieces in my 20s and a bikini now! People should wear whatever makes them comfortable but when I look around at the beach, it’s not like a one-piece covers up so much. Everyone still sees the shape of your body and a great deal of skin. Might as well let it all hang out!

  • Wow wow wow! I had no idea! This is the answer for so many of us. (The red with the ruching is gorgeous, but not in many of our budgets, I fear.)

    Will have to keep an eye out for these!

  • OK, you’ve got fabulous taste and you would look great in any of your choices, except for the last three. But you knew that didn’t you?

    Can’t wait to see what you decide on.

  • I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve been eyeing the Lands’ End new Swim Mates collection. I want a two-piece mostly for convenience (do those of you who wear a one-piece not need to use the facilities?) and for years I’ve been wearing a tankini, but for the reasons you mention it is not a satisfactory solution. I don’t like the high-waisted look–I remember the 1950’s and don’t want to go back there. The Lands’ End line has a “mid-rise” bottom that might be almost high enough for me, and it also has shorts and a skirt made of swim material that you can wear over the bottom if you want more coverage. Here’s a link if you’re interested: http://tinyurl.com/6rvnc6y
    And for Liz – you’re a good candidate for liposuction, if you’re of a mind to do it.

    2:25 pm
    Staircase Witch said...

    Thanks for the link–when I was in Florida this winter, I just couldn’t bring myself to wear an ordinary bathing suit by itself. It wasn’t that it would have looked terrible–bicycling and hiking have kept my legs in very good shape–but I was unexpectedly hit with an attack of modesty. I actually like the high-waisted two-pieces–they’re somehow charmingly retro–although the three last examples above, maybe not so much.

  • As a mid 50’s grandma with a curvy figure I have worn in the past few years tankini tops and board shorts to match . These take care of beach vacations with the grand kids, kayak trips and short hikes. I wear the board shorts in various lengths depending on the activity . I feel great wearing them,pasty thighs and all! Oh, yeah I do wear them with hipster cut swim briefs underneath