Growing up in a Muslim household in the United States, an invitation to a beach or pool party was something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the prospect of sun, sand and swimming with friends was undeniably appealing. On the other, the fact that I lacked swimwear that was both stylish and relatively modest (one-piece suits were permitted by my parents) was enough to make me dread the approaching occasion.
When it came to swimwear, the spectrum, ten years ago, lacked middle ground. There was an abundance of beautiful bikinis in stores, but only a limited range of one-pieces, most of which were either horribly mumsy, or intended for sport. In a pool full of friends decked out in floral and polka-dot-printed bikinis, I'd stick out like a sore thumb in my black racer-back Speedo. Another permissible option was the rash guard – labels like Roxy and Billabong made some cool, feminine options. Even then, it would have to be paired with bikini bottoms or shorts, and in my house, baring even an inch of midriff was a big no-no.
In mid-2017, however, there is a wide range of swimsuits that tick both boxes – style and modesty.
Born and raised in the UAE, Ola Kashani launched her label, Ola Swimwear, in 2014, and her one-piece suits are incredibly fashion-forward. She explains how the one-piece silhouette has become trendy in recent years.
"They accentuate any body shape in an elegant, understated and modern way," she says. "The trends today take inspiration from one-piece and high-waist suits popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There are less embellishments and the focus is on celebrating the female form with the right cut and fit."
The designer’s latest one-pieces feature elaborate rope-adorned neck pieces layered over solid, strapless silhouettes. Her previous collection featured minimalist marble-inspired prints, coupled with pastel accents.
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One-pieces aren't only making a splash in the Middle East – modesty is trending worldwide, and the movement is clearly translating in swimwear too. While many modesty-conscious women have had to opt for the burkini styles available on the market, new, international labels are catering to women who want to be more covered up when in the water.
Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Albion Fit is a family-owned swimwear and fitness apparel brand. Utah is home to many Mormons, who are also known to practice modesty when it comes to clothing and swimwear. While some of the brand's designs incorporate elements like cut-outs and lace-up backs, the results are tasteful and offer far more coverage than your average two-piece. One-pieces are decorated with striped and floral patterns, some with off-the shoulder necklines, and the brand's website ships internationally.
Another American swimwear brand, based out of Dallas, Texas, is Cover, which creates swimwear that protects wearers' skin from the sun's harsh rays. A long-sleeve monochrome, hound's-tooth-patterned design and sleek black style with a zip-up front feature in the brand's latest collection. Styles are modest, available in long-sleeve and tank one-pieces, long-sleeved swim shirts and swim dresses. They also have a head cover available for special order. Cover is stocked at luxury retailers Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, and is available online at Shopbop.com, which offers delivery to the UAE.
One-piece swimsuits are no longer synonymous with being matronly. The styles for spring/summer 2017 give fashion-conscious consumers more choice than ever before – from vintage designs topped with flouncy peplums, to sporty, long-sleeved surf-inspired suits.