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The Best Swim Coverups Under $100, From Caftans to Vintage Terry Cloth

My personal criteria for what makes a good swim coverup are as follows: 1) It should double as a garment that I can wear places that aren’t just “the beach” or “a pool.” In other words, it has to be versatile enough to suit multiple settings–not too sheer, and not so short it could be confused for a shirt. I should be able to wear it into a restaurant. 2) It should be amenable to contact with water and/or sand–so ideally made with fabric that doesn’t take forever to dry and can be machine-washed, and not so expensive that the idea of putting it on while my bikini is still damp and salt-encrusted feels like blasphemy.

Guided by these guardrails, I compiled a shopping guide for your cover-upping pleasure. Scroll below for the goods, and feel free to share your favorite coverups and/or coverup criteria in the comments below.


All the Terry Cloth, All the Time

I love terry cloth coverups because they feel like putting on a delicious robe after taking a hot shower, or like wrapping yourself in the fluffiest towel. There are so many fun vintage ones on Etsy, like this mustard yellow micro mini, and this beachy version of a black-tie gown, and this delightful turquoise number with serious nightgown vibes. Honorable non-vintage mention goes to these adorable terry cloth button-down dresses that go up to a size 3X.

Embroidered Cotton FTW

I think a lot about the sensation a fabric will have on my skin in general whenever I’m buying something, but especially if I’m buying something to wear when it’s really hot out, and maybe I’m going swimming or maybe I’m pretending I’m going swimming—either way I just want my skin to breathe as much as it can. Cotton is the logical choice of material in these cases, and there’s something about embroidered cotton in particular that feels both uniquely summery and therefore uniquely suited to a feel-good swim coverup. I’m absolutely in love this style of dress, which is rooted in the tradition of Mexican embroidery (read more about that here). This one is a similar style but more colorful and with long sleeves, and this pretty one goes up to size 4XL. I’m also obsessed with this one and this one from Black-owned vintage marketplace Thrilling.

Easy, Breezy Caftans

When I’m thinking purely in terms of silhouette, nothing beats a caftan for swim-coverup purposes. Light on tailoring, heavy on comfort, they’re perfect for throwing on over a swimsuit. For a more put-together look, I love to style them with a rope belt like this, lots of layered necklaces, and strappy sandals. Here’s a nice, classic, stripe-y option on sale at Shopbop from one of my favorite brands, SZ Blockprints. I also like this one with an adjustable drawstring, and this beautiful yellow one you could easily take a nap in.

Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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