I Tried Wearing Swimsuits as Tops for 3 Days

The ratio of bathing suits I own to number of times per year I require one is nothing short of shameful. And never does that shame register more acutely than when spring rolls around and I give newly released styles my bedroom eyes. I must be stopped! Acquiring another suit would be absurd. I almost never go to the beach; I do not have a pool nor know anyone who does; no one has ever invited me to the Hamptons (consider this a hint, Hamptons people); and did I mention I already own 15 perfectly great bathing suits, stockpiled and rarely worn over the course of the last 10 years?

Ever the enterprising individual, I managed to find a way around this logic when I pitched a story about wearing swimsuits as tops as justification for owning more than one’s aquatic life may dictate. This wasn’t because I wanted an excuse to buy more swimwear, though (I wore samples, swear!), or rather, it wasn’t entirely. I was also interested in figuring out how I could actually wear the swimsuits I love and remain on my beloved parched earth. What I didn’t expect to discover over the course of this trial run was the solution to my long-time conundrum of what the hell to wear when I go out. More on that in the below documentation, which follows my attempt to wear bathing suits instead of shirts on three separate occasions.

1. The Throw-on-Jeans Test

While I love this bathing suit and think all one-pieces should feature a zip-for-more-cleavage option, I found my styling of it lackluster. In my defense, I was late for dinner and had under five minutes to get dressed. Less in my defense, I retro-named this my “throw-on-jeans test” to hedge against you thinking I tried hard and failed. (I really did throw them on, though!)

Anyway, I must say this outfit’s in-the-wild performance was top-notch. I may have looked a little like an off-the-clock lifeguard, but I also felt very summer-y! And ready for anything! And casual but not overly! As someone who often wears Hanes T-shirts to bars as some kind of “statement” vis-a-vis my effortlessness (and who consequently ends up feeling like a slob), this felt like the beginning of a going-out top renaissance.

2. The Lean-the-Fuck-In Test

After my first semi-botched styling effort, I really put in the work on this one. I tried this delightful lavender (belted!) suit on with no less than five bottoms (denim cut-offs, linen pants, green skirt, white shorts, navy trousers, none of which felt right) before this striped skirt caught my eye. I pulled it on with doubt in my Grinch heart, but then my heart promptly grew three sizes! This is probably the most un-me outfit I’ve ever worn and I’ve never felt better. (Not gonna psychoanalyze that.) I even posted it multiple times on my Instagram like an animal.

Don’t I look like I came straight from the indoor-outdoor lobby of a beach resort? (I’m assuming that’s a thing.) Either way, the beachiness of this look worked for and against me in the framework of this test, because I was hoping to decontextualize the suits enough to not make people think “water” when they saw me in them. Not sure I achieved that here (I went to my sister’s and she asked me why I was wearing a bathing suit). Still fun though! And will make me consider my overstuffed bathing suit drawer next time I’m putting an outfit together and need a little help up top.

3. The Somewhere-in-the-Middle Test

For my last trick, I hoped to hit somewhere in the middle: easy and casual, but sans came-from-the-pool energy. I went for jeans again, but fun jeans. I also added big-ass earrings and a treat of a bag. I wore this to run some errands in my neighborhood, and felt like I’d truly discovered swimwear-as-clothes neutral. I felt casually festive and decidedly un-beachy (I think).

Two more things worth noting: 1. I don’t often wear tight clothes on my upper body — I think due to some hesitance around my boobs becoming the focus of an outfit — but this experiment made me realize there’s something kind of liberating about leaving so little to the imagination. Surprisingly, wearing tight clothes made me fuss less, because there was no material to fuss with, you know? And 2. Bathing suits do not make great underwear. Do with that what you will.

Overall, I consider this trial run successful (and my documentation of it unnecessarily long, sorry). Bathing suits are just tops! Next time you’re in a style rut, take a peek at your swimwear. You might be surprised.

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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