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Is it just us, or do swimwear prices seem to rise with every passing year? Although top-notch suits have never been cheap, data from Lyst shows that today’s most popular brands sell for an average of $263, if not more. This leads us to wonder: Why is swimwear so expensive?
Swimsuits, after all, require a lot less fabric than other clothing items and surely less production time too—right? Well, not quite. As with most things, the answer is complicated, a reality that became clear to us after speaking to experts in the field.
Keep reading to find out what the pros have to say about the cost and production of swimwear, and then shop a few of our favorite sets at the end.
The data scientists at Lyst suspect that today’s beloved construction practices such as crochet are increasingly complex, requiring more time and work, especially if they’re handmade. Gabby Sabharwal, the founder of It girl–favorite, albeit now defunct, line Giejo concurs. “Swimsuits might not require a lot of fabric,” she tells me, “but there are a lot of technical aspects to the design of swimwear that are quite laborious and, as a result, more costly.”
This includes everything from unique stitching and boning practices to the use of elastics and wires. It’s also important to remember that swimsuits require water and chlorine-proof fabrics, which can complicate both the design and production process. Finding a fabric with the right amount of stretch for the design, she points out, can be an especially tall order.
“[Swimwear] needs to function well and can’t pinch, bow, or bulk,” Sabra Krock, the creative director of Everything but Water, further explains, hailing European swim fabric as the crème-de-la-crème, made with yarn that is thinner yet tough enough to weather all that nature throws its way. But it’s not simply the fabric that must hold up, she notes, adding that everything from the trims to the hooks must withstand the wear and tear of chemicals, salt water, and intense heat. When you couple that with beloved details like macramé, ruching, and hardware, it only adds to the price.
Lyst believes that it’s this high-fashion spin on swimwear—a more-is-more approach, if you will—that’s at the heart of cost increases. That and the rise of social media influencers and bloggers who have helped turn swimwear into a more covetable category, one they believe has grown more lucrative from social media than anything else on the market.
So how can you be sure that the swimsuits you’re buying are worth the price? “Check the label,” Sabharwal says. “What materials are used? Where was the swimsuit made? What are the care instructions?” She suggests looking for suits made of polys, nylons, and some spandex in America or Europe, with instructions to machine-wash on delicate or to hand-wash.
“You do get what you pay for,” Krock argues. “Inexpensive suits fade faster, pull, pill, and get baggy when wet. A more expensive suit is well worth the investment and, with proper care, will last beautifully for years.”
Top and Essential Cotton Crochet High Waist Bikini Bottoms ($150) available in sizes S to L.
You can’t go wrong with a crochet bikini.