Stripes with polka dots or a hot-pink string top and orange boy shorts: Why not?
“We are definitely seeing our customer steer away from matchy-matchy,” says Nancy Taylor, Athleta's director of design.
Swim separates, including bikini and tankini tops, and brief, bikini and short-style bottoms, were introduced into wide distribution several years ago. They were intended to solve a practical problem when consumers needed a bigger top or bigger bottom, but women have since started using them to make a style statement.
Mixing pieces, sometimes in different silhouettes or from different brands, builds a swim wardrobe that suits different occasions — a strapless bandeau for a party and an athletic racer-back for a day with the kids, perhaps? — while a woman can remain comfortable and confident in the bottom she feels best fits her figure. (Loyalty runs deeper for bottoms, experts say.)
Celebrities were photographed in mismatched tops and bottoms, and young women soon followed, says designer Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss, who launched her brand with swimwear. It was only a matter of time until more fans of two-piece bathing suits caught on to it, she says. Fans of the one-piece can accomplish a similar look by adding a pair of swim shorts or a skirt.
That has made designers more conscious of using complementary colors and prints.
Taylor of Athleta plans for all sorts of combinations as she plots the collection. Right now, shoppers seem to favor printed tops with solid bottoms as they're still adjusting their eye, she says. It's a way for customers to dip a toe into separates.
Taylor doesn't want to put any rules to it — rule-breaking is the best part, she says — but still, she'd encourage color families, pairing cool beach blues and greens. Neons also work together, and so do warm tropical hues.
It's the same idea with prints: Nautical stripes and cheerful polka dots marry well, as do ethnic and animal prints, and ikats. But a dot and an ikat would look more like they were just two pieces pulled haphazardly from the drawer.