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Swimwear Structure Explained

Are you an aspiring fashion designer? A solopreneur launching a swimwear brand? A DIY gal who's attempting to design her own bikini? Or maybe you're just generally interested in swimsuit structure...

Either way, you've come to the right place!

I've been designing swimwear for over a decade for brands like Adore Me, Kona Sol, Victoria's Secret, and Lane Bryant. I love creating beautifully designed & constructed swimwear from start to finish. There's something so special about crafting a garment that can make women feel comfortable and empowered in!

Although swimwear can seem overwhelming, the basic anatomy of most well-designed suits is very similar. At least they have a lot of the same components!!

We'll break it down together... So without further ado, let's get familiar with some swimwear anatomy!

Before we get into the knitty-gritty (get it?), let’s discuss fiber makeup, as swimwear is very specific in the material composition.

Standard Material Compositions for Swimwear:

The most commonly used fiber in swimwear fabrics is nylon. This is because it is highly durable, resistant to chlorine, provides rich color, and can be blended with spandex for a very close fit. Most swimsuit fabrics use between 75-90% nylon and 25-10% spandex. The more spandex, the more stretch, and improved recovery.

Another fiber that is frequently seen in swimwear is polyester. Similar to nylon, polyester, is also durable and chlorine resistant. This material is not as vibrant in color but has very good colorfastness, meaning it doesn’t tend to bleed in the wash. Strategically using polyester in specific areas can be beneficial if you’re using multiple colors in one suit that are likely to bleed in the wash, like a pink and white color block. Polyester is frequently used in swimsuit lining.

All swimsuit fabrics have some composition of lycra, spandex, or elastane. Lycra is the brand name, while spandex and elastane are the generic versions of the same thing. Essentially, all three of these are the stretchy fiber that makes swimsuits and lingerie fabrics stretch to meet the curves of the body's shape.

Components that make up a swimsuit:

  • Tricot: A warp-knit fabric commonly used in swimwear and intimates. It’s created on a flatbed machine and has more structure than jersey knits. The weave zigs back and forth between each face, resulting in a ribbed texture on one side and a flattering look on the other.

  • Power Mesh: Used in swimwear meant to be more structured, hold you in, or enhance your shape. Sometimes using power mesh can make a swimsuit feel heavy. It can also be compressive, so use it thoughtfully.

  • Helenca: A type of lining material usually used in swimwear. This kind of lining is not considered as high-end as lining with nylon/spandex tricot material.

  • Stabilizer: Typically used as a fabric wide good material that is rigid and designed to maintain its shape. Usually, stabilizer is used at the center front of an underwire bikini or in any area where you might want to limit the stretch.

  • Neoprene: A type of fabric that isn’t super eco-friendly. Standard neoprene is created with a thin layer of stretch rubber laminated with fabric on both sides.

  • Rubber: A narrow, stretchy good, usually ranging from ¼” to 1 ½”, used in most swimwear for durability and recovery. The reason rubber is recommended for swim is because it has good stretch + recovery, it’s resistant to UV rays, chlorine, and sunscreen, and it doesn’t degrade as easily as traditional elastics.

  • Rings: Hardware that is usually used at the strap points. Rings are most commonly made out of metal or plastic.

  • Sliders: Typically used at the strap point, this hardware creates adjustability within the garment.

  • Hooks: Usually used at the strap point or back closure, hooks are a great way to add adjustability to the garment without overcomplicating things.

  • Closures: Functional trims that are used to open or close a garment such as hook and eyes, clasps, and ties.

  • Cord Tips: Usually metal-based, but sometimes plastic, this is hardware added to the end of drawstrings usually, these are added to add weight to the ties

  • Underwire: U-shaped piece of metal with plastic tipped ends inserted into the garment to give shape along the breast curve.

  • Removable cookies: Another term for removable foam cup pads.

  • Decorative Hardware: Swim hardware varies wildly based on the trends of the moment, anything from lucite rings to wooden beads, to jewelry-inspired necklines and everything in between.

Swimsuit Terminology Explained:

  • Body: The main part of the garment, sometimes a way we refer to the outer fabric.

  • Straps: This is what goes over your shoulders on a bikini or a one-piece swimsuit. You can have thick, wide fabric straps that are more soft and easy with the support in the fabric or narrow straps that are filled with rubber and a bit more supportive.

  • Neckline: The area of the garment that sits above the breast tissue and connects to the front straps.

  • Cups: The part of the garment where the breast tissue sits within the swimsuit. May also be referring to removable slip-in foam cups.

  • Back wing: The swimsuit part that wraps around the back of the bust area. Usually referred to as a back wing, it would indicate a CB closure of some kind like a hook or a clasp.

  • Cookie pocket: A discreet opening, usually on the inside of the garment, where you can slip in or out a removable foam cup.

  • Bottom band: Usually referring to the area of the garment that sits right under the bust. Depending on your suit style lines, you may or may not have this kind of feature to point out.

  • Waist: The smallest part of the garment at the midpoint of a one-piece or the top edge of a bikini bottom.

  • Leg line: The area of the garment that the legs go through on bottoms or one-piece swimsuits spanning from front to back.

  • Gusset: A triangular or diamond-shaped fabric liner that is inserted into a seam to allow for breathing room, improve shape, or provide reinforcement.

  • Double-lined: An area of the garment with more than one lining layer. This might be done at your cups if you have a slip-in cookie pocket or a very light-colored suit and you’re trying to make it more opaque.

  • Clean-finished: Another term for this is also called ‘bagged out,’ when there are two layers of fabric, the outer and the lining, joined together without visible stitching on the outside of the garment.

So how are you feeling about swimsuit materials and makeup now? Hopefully, you are feeling more comfortable with the lingo now that we’ve covered the basic material composition and components of swimsuit structure.

Want to dive deeper? Book a call with our team of swimwear experts. Head on over to our contact page to learn more.

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