In a city where bodies hide under layers of fleece for much of the year, women are ready to show a little skin. Lots of shops carry skimpy swimsuits for girls with Britney Spears bodies, but there are plenty of choices for others whose proportions are less than perfect. Styles range from a collection of teeny-tiny triangles to more modest, but still sexy, one-pieces. Here are some of the best places in Seattle for gals—and guys—to suit up.
ITTY BITTY BIKINIS
617 N. 35th St., 206-985-6772
You'll forget all about Seattle's gray skies once inside Tininha's sunny little boutique. Christina Silva (aka Tininha) specializes in Brazilian bikinis—she has hundreds of the tiny tops and bottoms in dozens of styles and a kaleidoscope of colors hanging from bamboo poles. The native Brazilian touts brands such as Cia Maritina, Salinas, Vix, and Rosa Cha. "They fit better than American bikinis, and the quality is very good," says Silva.
Silva has seen many of her clients make the switch to sexier Brazilian styles in the two years she's been in business: "They're afraid of trying them on, but once they do, they really like them." To accommodate conservative clients—or those with bountiful booties—she has just-as-cute bikinis in more generous American cuts and boy-short bottoms.
For summer trends, Silva predicts animal prints in bright colors, halter-top styles, hand embroidery, anything turquoise, and flashy buckles and rings to hold it all together. ($65–$320)
10032 Main St., Bellevue, 425-462-7390
This Eastside lingerie boutique in old downtown Bellevue has an exclusive on Onda de Mar bikinis, made in Colombia with European fabrics. The two-piece suits are exotic and playful and come in 18 styles, with low-rise bottoms, string bikini, and halter tops. ($100–$125)
Coastal Surf Boutique
2622 Alki Ave. S.W., Suite 102, 206-933-5605
"These suits are not going to be showing cheeks when you wear them," Sarah Steere says of the swimsuits in her all-girl surf boutique on Alki Beach. Staying true to its mission of carrying stylish fashion for women who surf, ski, and snowboard, the spot carries sportier styles by Billabong, Roxy, Rip Curl, Nikita, Erin Chang, and Paul Frank. Most have board shorts and minis to match. Low-rise bikinis and halters are popular this year, according to co-owner Christy Metzger. "We also have a bikini with Peter Frampton's face on the rear in powder blue trimmed with orange and brown," says Metzger. "It's just so cool." Steere and Metzger will reopen their shop April 15 for their second year in business. ($50–$75)
FOR GUYS AND GALS
2419 First Ave., 206-441-1999
Scott Kuhlman, owner of his eponymous shop, has a small but hip selection of swimsuits. For women, he carries hard-to-find sexy Shoshanna bikinis in cute patterns and prints, and Penguin swimming suits in retro boy-cut styles with string-bikini tops. Choices for guys include T. Walko's updated nylon classics, the trendier Ben Sherman trunks, and Penguin, which Kuhlman can hardly keep in stock. "The styles are cooler," says Kuhlman. "They're not big, baggy board shorts, but have an appealing square cut." They come in Pucci-esque prints, stripes (in the perfect width), and tiny repeating patterns, all graced with the tuxedoed penguin who made his debut in the '50s. (Men's $41–$58; women's $78–$180)
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
9596 First Ave. N.E., 206-985-7946; and 14100 N.E. 20th Ave., Bellevue, 425-747-1131
This family-owned operation has sold suits for decades and stocks everything from the immodest Speedo thongs for men to the gut-gripping, take-10-pounds-off Slimsuit. "We carry men's, women's, kid's, plus sizes, cup sizes that go up to 38E—and we separate every single two-piece," says co-owner Sylvia Bailey. "Nobody has the same size top and bottom. We can put a girl in a D or DD that doesn't make her look enormous." There are more than 100 brands to choose from, including: Vix, Sauvage, Bebe, and Lucky for girls; Billabong and Rip Curl board shorts for guys; and old standbys like Cole and Jantzen. Miracle and Slimsuits are popular, even at $120 a crack—Bailey says they do the job, but can be difficult to work with when wet: "It's like wearing a girdle."
For the summer, Bailey is seeing a revival of '80s styles, such as one-piece suits with cut-outs and spider sides in Flashdance colors like hot pink and black or bright turquoise and black. Also in the mix: brown with light pink or light blue, Kelly green, stripes, polka dots, and Pucci prints. (Men's $16–$50; women's $40–$120)
LOCALLY DESIGNED BEACHWEAR And ACCESSORIES
Available at: Hello Gorgeous (411 E. Pine St., 206-621-0702); Damsel (2222 Second Ave., Suite 100, 206-374-8669); Pretty Parlor (6729 Greenwood Ave. N., 206-789-8788); and Rummage (first Sunday of each month at the Crocodile Cafe, 2200 Second Ave., noon–4 p.m.)
Jamie Stratton can picture the curvaceous sex kitten Betty Page wearing one of her swimsuits at the beach. "I do the boy-cut style so they cover," says the Agent X designer. "They're kind of granny style, but cool." The retro designs of her one- and two-piece suits are flattering, especially on curvy shapes. Playful but edgy, the suits feature sea horse and floral appliqués, pleather cutouts, beading, or whatever strikes the capricious Stratton. She designs custom suits as well. ($60–$90)
Available at Hello Gorgeous, Damsel, and Rummage
"You don't need a Brazilian wax for anything I make," says designer Victoria Howe. Her one- and two-piece swimsuits are still sassy but have easier-to-wear boy cuts. Fitted bra-style tops sex up the two-pieces, where she features girlish details such as buttons and ties. Howe will mix-and-match decades using a '60s-era Simplicity Pattern for a bikini top and a Kwik-Sew underwear pattern from the '50s for the bottom. Most of her suits are one of a kind, made with vintage or new fabric in geometrics, stripes, and sweet little flower prints. Custom suits are also available. ($50–$100)
Available at M:Pulse (3516 Fremont Place, 206-545-4854)
"I test-drove it all last summer and decided that it was the greatest suit in the world," says Portland designer Jennifer Foust of her Liberator swimsuit. "It's nice to have a suit where you don't have to worry about your butt hanging out." Made under the Narcissia Dial label, the comfortable two-piece Liberator is a design marvel, due in part to the seamless crotch—making it the perfect active-wear suit to swim, Rollerblade, or garden in. The reversible string bikini tops are lined with a solid contrasting color. Foust also makes a halter-style top to flatter and support well-endowed women. This year, she's focusing on vintage and retro inspired fabrics, and color combinations of brown and pink, blue and orange, and maroon and pink. Suits come in two sizes: "Jen" (size 5–8) and "Jen +" (size 7–10). ($82)
Available at Pearl (310 N.E. 65th St., 206-729-1149)
Simons' roomy totes are outfitted for the beach—they're made of Textilene, the same woven plastic material as '60s-style lawn chairs and awnings. The cotton-lined beach bags can easily hold a beach towel, flip-flops, oil, and a trashy novel. "They're completely washable," says Simons. "Just hose 'em down in the backyard." ($72)
Available at Tininha's
Julie Boehm's gossamer silk sarongs do double duty as a beach cover-up or sexy skirt for evening. The adjustable wrap-arounds accommodate a little or a lot, and come in a variety of rich jewel-toned colors in florals and prints. Wear it around your hips for a siren-of-the-sea look. ($78)