Ever Wonder Why Swimsuits Are So Expensive? Here's the Answer

Ever Wonder Why Swimsuits Are So Expensive? Here's the Answer

Ever wonder why swimsuits are so expensive? It's not just for the material. There is a lot of design and engineering that goes into these suits.

In this article, I will break down the different types of swimwear and explain how they all cost more than your average pair of jeans.

Swimsuits are tricky pieces of clothing. You want one that is attractive but also affordable. In the end, you might be paying for more than just polyester and spandex when it comes to swimwear prices. 

Three major factors contribute to the cost of a suit: fabric quality, design features, and location where it was manufactured.  

Fabric quality tends to correlate with price and durability, ranging from vinyl or nylon type fabrics on the lower spectrum up to expensive Italian Lycra Spandex blends at the higher end of the scale. 

Do you ever wonder why swimsuits are so expensive? I feel that it has something to do with the fact that wearing a bikini in public is considered taboo. 

In all honesty, stores want you to buy their products and will charge more for them because they know how much we love them. Swimwear is pretty pricey, but there are ways around it! 

Swimsuits are expensive. In fact, they're one of the most expensive items in a woman's wardrobe. But why?

The answer to this question is surprisingly simple: it all comes down to the fabric and design. 

Swimsuit fabrics vary in quality and price-point depending on how much you want your swimsuit to last—from a couple of days at the beach to years of wear with no fading or stretching. 

And then there's design—designers have been coming out with innovative new styles every year for decades now, which means that not only do these pieces need more fabric than your average garment but also more time invested into research and development so that each piece can be unique from any other suit on the market today! 

I've noticed that swimsuits are getting more expensive every year. I usually only buy one per season, so it's frustrating to see the prices rise. It makes me wonder why they're so expensive in the first place. 

There are a few reasons swimming suits are so costly, but most of them have to do with how much work goes into making them.

One reason is that different materials go into making a swimsuit, and those materials can range from nylon, polyester or spandex, which all cost money. 

The amount of time it takes for someone to cut out each piece adds up, especially if a lot is going on with the pattern design. Lastly, you have to take into account shipping costs.

Let's dive in!

Reasons Why Swimsuits Are so Expensive

If you've ever thought to yourself, "Swimsuits are so expensive," you're not alone. However, you might still be surprised to learn that there are actual factual reasons why this is the case. 

Sure, designers want to make as much money as possible, and although that is a factor, it’s not the main reason why you dish out hundreds of dollars to look cute on the beach each summer. 

For such a small piece of fabric, swimsuits are so expensive.

Sure, designers want to make as much money as possible, and although that is a factor, it's not the main reason why you dish out hundreds of dollars to look cute on the beach each summer.

Instead, the reasons are everything from the type of material used to innovation and designs.

1. You'll buy it

Yep, it is your fault (our fault) that a car payment costs the same as an expensive suit. Companies know that we will want the latest and greatest designs and technology, no matter what industry we’re talking about.

If you’re a fan of makeup, you might understand this example. I have a makeup company that I am OBSESSED with.

Every time they come out with a new product, specifically new eyeshadow palettes, I have to have it! 

The same is true for some people with swimwear and swimsuits. Every year there are new styles that all the influencers wear.

Just like the eyeshadow palettes, I lose my mind and buy all the swimsuits. Because we are willing to buy the next best thing, the prices stay high.

2. Look good, feel good

Swimsuit shopping is one of the hardest things for most women. Women are critical of their bodies.

And guess what? No matter who you are, the part of your body that you may want to change is probably on full display while in a swimsuit.

Designers know our insecurities, which is how they know how we'll shop for a flattering swimsuit. Which, in this case, isn't a bad thing. They take extra care to ensure the bottoms will fit your curvy/bubbly/skinny/flat butt! 

Although it’s challenging to create, they do the same thing with your top half. If you have a swimsuit that looks good and feels good, you will channel those same feelings.

Feeling confident and sexy is something most people will dish out hundreds of dollars for without a second thought.

NPD Group, a company that focuses on insights into all aspects of retail, surveyed swimsuits.

They found that the way a swimsuit fits is much more important than any other factor. The way a swimsuit fit outranks comfort, style, quality, and even price. 

Yep, you read that right. Fit beats how much a swimsuit costs in the eye of the consumer.

With this information, you can bet your bottom that companies will jack up their prices if they know they have a solid product on their hands.

In 2017, swimwear sales reached 4.6 billion dollars. Analysts believe swimwear sales will only get higher with the cost of suits and the technology that will make them fit and look better than ever before.

3. You need a new one every year

Designers know that every year customers are wearing new bathing suits. So women will throw out their old suits and buy some new ones. If this sounds like you, don't worry; there is no judgement from this writer! I do that exact same thing. 

There's just something exciting about a new swim look every summer. I'd be kidding myself if it was just ONE new swimsuit each year. I buy multiple new suits every summer even though the old ones fit just fine, and my bank account is screaming, "NO!" 

Companies know this, too. Every year they create new styles and create new fabrics to satisfy our need for something new.

4. Fashion keeps changing

If you've watched the Summer Olympics, you've seen swimsuit fashion and innovation in action!

Each year the bodysuits swimmers use have new technology and designs. 

The tech and designs are always innovating because humans need to be better, faster, and stronger!

But, unfortunately, these new designs worked so well in the 2012 Olympics that they had to be banned. 

That's right; the technology was so advanced that records were being broken every day, and the Olympic committee banned them.

Although it's not to the Olympic level, innovative designs and fashion are happening in normal people's lives as well.

You can use specific types of material to keep you warm in cold water or specific designs that truly make your butt look the best it's ever looked. 

Haven't you wondered how the best one-piece swimsuits to buy in 2018 were such a cornerstone in the market? And it will only get better from here, but the cost of innovation is cash.

5. There is more customization in the industry than ever before

In this day and age, we can customize everything. You can customize your cars, home, phone, office, and now you can create a suit.

This customization comes at a price. Look at vanity license plates, for example. 

Every state in the United States charges extra for anyone who wants a vanity plate.

That's because it's outside the realm of what's massed, produced and available. That is similar to swimsuits. With more custom options, the prices are going up. 

Now you almost always have to buy the bikini top and bottom separately. Because we are humans and not perfect alien creatures, sometimes our bust is an A cup while the butt is an XL. Or Vice versa…Small butt, huge boobs. 

Swimsuits that aren't sold in pairs cause the manufacturer stress. They have to essentially guess how many of each size and style to print. That, invariably, raises prices and causes you to pull out the credit card.

6. Swimsuits are made from pricey materials

If the type of materials my grandma's swimsuits were made of were used today, it's safe to say swimwear would be cheaper. In the 40s and 50s, bathing suits were made of rayon jerseys and cotton blends. I'm not saying that is preferable, just a fact; thank goodness, that is not the case today.

Nylon, lycra, spandex, neoprene, and polyester. These are the main materials used for swimsuits. Unfortunately, these are also very expensive. 

When comparing spandex prices to any of the non-stretch material prices like cotton, it’s easy to see why swimsuits are automatically a little more pricey than your fav t-shirt.

Manufacturers need specialized equipment to handle stretchy fabrics.

But, unfortunately, that equipment is more expensive than others, so its cost is handed down to us, the consumers, who are buying the product.

7. You don't want a cheap one

I'm going to take you on a journey back to your childhood. Remember when you were younger and shopping at Limited Too? The school was almost out, and you were at the mall, shopping for summer essentials under $100 you would love. 

You walked through the swimwear section and then spotted the perfect swimsuit ever. It had flowers and sequins and rainbows. You just HAD to have it. For the first few swim parties, it was ah-maz-ing. 

Then it started falling apart. It stretched out, the beautiful rainbow print was peeling, and just one sequin was hanging on for dear life.

But, ah, the good ol' days of cheap swimwear.

That swimsuit didn't cost too much to buy, and it definitely didn't cost much to make. 

Nowadays, you can't afford to have a swimsuit that stretches out. As women, we need support in multiple areas.

8. Swimsuits are multi-purpose


When you go to the pool or revel in the sand and salt at the beach, sometimes it's a casual day.

You want to get the perfect tan, or you want to show off the summer body you've been working on so diligently for the last few months. 

When that's the case, you have a specific type of swimsuit in mind.

Or maybe there is going to be a volleyball or spikeball tournament happening at the same time. Plus, you also have a few friends bringing the boogie boards and skimboards as well. 

What swimsuit do you wear for this special occasion? Designers now make swimsuits that are perfect for all of these scenarios.

Swimsuits have multiple functions. 

They have to stay put when a wave pummels you or when you dive on the sand to save that spike.

The amount of time it takes to create that perfect suit is worth a few extra bucks.

9. The Pink Tax is a significant factor in women's fashion

You pay for bags. You don't have pockets and spend your paycheck on feminine hygiene products because you buy the Pink Tax.

The Pink Tax is often described as gender-biased price discrimination. This is because it was coined with the colour pink.

After all, anything of that colour would cost more than anything of another colour.

Over time, it has progressed into full-on gender discrimination. Many products made for women are much more expensive than the same product made for men (i.e. razors, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, swimsuits, etc.).

According to Vox News, women's razors on average cost 11 per cent more than men's razors, and shampoo marketed towards women costs 50 per cent more.

Therefore, it makes sense that swimsuits would fall under the same price discrimination.

What's The Difference Between A $13 Swimsuit And A $300 Swimsuit?

Every body is a bikini body ― but not every bikini is created equal.

If you’re in the market for a swimsuit, you’ve likely been targeted by ads for outrageously affordable suits on Instagram, marketed alongside suits that will set you back almost a month’s rent.

When it comes to such a contentious piece of clothing, one with the power to make or break our beach-going experience, what do we need to know about investing in a pricier suit? Is it worth it? What is the real difference?

Before summer is gone for good, we spoke with two people who are pretty familiar with the topic to get some answers.

Margaret Bishop is an instructor in textile development and marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology. 

Lori Coulter is the co-founder and CEO of cult-favourite swimwear brand Summersalt, which boasts designer quality at a more reasonable price point of $95 per suit.

Here's what they had to say.

1. The Fabric Is Everything

Unsurprisingly, the price difference often comes down to fabric: what fabric the suit is made of, the lining the suit does or does not have, and the varying costs of the fabric based on its elasticity, support and control.

“Virtually all swimsuits today are made from fabric that has a high elastane or spandex or Lycra content to give us that stretch and recover we love,” Bishop said. “You need a good quality yarn and a high enough number of stitches per inch for better durability and coverage. 

When you have a higher number of stitches per inch, it impacts the cost of the fabric, so if someone is trying to reduce costs, they might go lighter on the yarn and use fewer stitches per inch, and that's, in turn, going to be a less durable product that is not going to give you the same coverage you frankly need in a swimsuit."

To understand the impact a lower stitch count has, Bishop compares it to the phenomenon of the see-through legging plight consumers face when, say, bending over in an inexpensive (and sometimes expensive!) pair of pants.

An inexpensive bathing suit might hold up for wear or two, but Bishop likens it to a dress you might buy to go out partying in once, in which case you might not necessarily care about the quality of the fabric.

"Quality does matter, particularly with something like a swimsuit, where you need a certain amount of coverage," she said. "A better quality swimsuit is going to have things like strategic lining in the front crotch area and bust line. 

Suppose you're buying a figure control bathing suit. In that case, it's probably going to be at a higher price point too because of the more dense fabric, additional lining or a style with more ruching or gathering, increasing the amount of fabric total. That is required."

2. Every stitch matters

Another difference between an expensive and inexpensive swimsuit is something Bishop says is easy to overlook: stitching.

"The stitching is particularly important with any garment with stretch because you need the seam to hold when the fabric stretches," she said. That requires more attention to detail, which requires more time and money, resulting in a more expensive bathing suit.

"It may seem really minuscule in importance to say, 'OK, we're gonna have 12 stitches instead of 8 per inch,' but it does make a big difference," she said.

Bishop recommends comparing stitching between three or four suits at different price points to see if there’s a significant difference. 

“If I saw a real difference in how dense that stitching was, how close together the yarns were, then I would reconsider whether to buy the less expensive suit,” she said. “I would recognize the seam might not hold as well.”

So yes, it is perhaps worth it to invest in a higher quality swimsuit with a high number of stitches per inch, a solid seam and a sturdy-feeling fabric. But if it's not in your budget, Bishop has a few words of advice for what to try before you buy.

“Bring a friend to the dressing room and have that friend photograph you front and back, including as you move, to see if you’re getting the coverage you want,” she said. 

Sometimes coverage can be addressed by going up a size, but not always. “I would also probably be more inclined to purchase something with a busy print that’s going to visually distract your attention from any deficits in the fabric itself.”

3. Brand Names Alone Can Drive Up Price

Unsurprisingly, there are instances when the name attached to the swimsuit is the culprit behind a cost spike.

"Some brands are operating on a low volume, high-profit business model, which means they have to earn more profit per unit because they're selling fewer units," Bishop said. "That could be a deliberate branding strategy to be perceived as more luxurious."

Coulter added that the many hands involved in making the swimsuit and bringing it to shelves all carry high costs.

But, as her brand does, going direct to consumers helps alleviate those costs without, she says, impacting quality.

"In swimwear, there are tons of middlemen," she said. "A major brand will sell the license to a third party who aggregates 10-15 brands, who hires another third party to represent those brands to major retailers. In any stage of the supply chain, those partners are taking a percentage of the sale."

We never thought we'd need to use our maths skills when bathing suit shopping, but if counting stitches, examining seams and testing out fabric is what it takes to feel better at the beach, count us in.

Why Celebs Pay so Much for so Little

Sure, you're practically living in your water-friendly duds. (Selena Gomez is, at least.) However, if at any point you felt like you may have overpaid for those two triangles held together by a string, you're not alone.

It's pretty customary for luxury-designer anything to cost an arm and a leg, but even indie-label bathing suits can set you back a pretty penny. 

Considering how little fabric, need for embellishments and wear you'll get from swimwear (compared to, say, handbags or shoes), do we really need to shell out the big bucks to be water-bound? We found out.

1. Quality Will Cost You 

Apparently, the best swimwear fabric comes out of Western Europe, which means a higher cost of materials for brands and a higher price tag for you. 

"We work with high-end mills, many in Italy and France, that have perfected the technology in swimwear fabric," said Shoshanna Gruss, founder of her namesake label, which is worn by the likes of Jessica Alba and Sasha Obama.

The cost of labour will also play a deciding factor. While affordable fast-fashion retailers, like H&M and Forever21, outsource production to often economically struggling countries to cut costs, a reason why your bathing suit costs more maybe because it was made right in America, where labour laws dictate a wage standard for workers.

2. Swimwear Is More Complicated Than You Think 

"The process to make a swimsuit actually takes much longer than most garments," said Michelle Copelman, design director of Solid & Striped, a brand beloved by stars like Taylor Swift, Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne.

"Essentially, the fabric has to relax between steps, and every machine has to be set for each new style."

"After our final pattern is perfected, we add any special trims and make sure the prints are placed in the most flattering way on the body," added Shoshanna. 

However, adding those details aren't cheap. "Eyelets, jacquards and textures come from mills with specialized machinery that can produce these novelty swimwear fabrics."

3. How to Spot a Quality Suit 

"It should not ‘pop' at the seams when you stretch it," advised Shoshanna. "It should maintain its shape, and the fabric should feel durable yet luxurious." 

Does your suit feel like a diaper once you hit the water? It may be lacking in design. "In our bandeau styles, for example, we have underwire, gripper elastic and, in many cases, cups to add the necessary support."

Also, look for two-way stretch fabric, which is also more expensive, "so that styles keep their form," added Michelle. "There is nothing worse than going to put on a swimsuit and realizing it's worn through or too baggy."

4. There Are Affordable Alternatives 

Suppose you can't afford a Mara Hoffman geometric stunner or a Lisa Marie Fernandez denim two-piece like Selena. 

Big-box retailers often collaborate with swimwear lines to create similar trendy pieces in various styles and sizes—something you often can't find with luxury brands.

"Target's swimwear selection has something for everyone with literally hundreds of cuts, styles, colours and prints in prices that range from $15-$70 in sizes to fit everybody," said Target spokesperson Jessica Carlson. 

"We think everyone, regardless of their budget or size, should be able to rock a stylish, quality swimsuit this season. So this season, we've doubled our assortment to make sure guests can easily find the style and size they need."

While these affordable options may not feature quality toggles from Italy, you can find the infrastructure (stretch fabric, underwire, cups, etc.) of a good suit. After that, it's just up to you, the savvy shopper, to look for it.

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