How to say it: tang-kee-nee

Traditional Features: 


  • two-piece swimsuit
  • tank-top style top
  • bikini bottom can be any style
  • top can be adorned with a variety of embellishments and decorations like frills, embroidery, beading etc
  • may or may not expose a small strip of skin between the top and bottom
  • top can be halter, traditional tank style, strapless, asymmetric etc

21st Century Tankinis

Since its creation in the late 1990, the tankini has held about one-third of the swimwear market thanks to its versatility and extra coverage. In the 21st century this remains true as tankinis in various styles abound on the modern swimwear market. Strapless or halter, printed or plain – there is a tankini out there to suit everyone’s style.


Gottex, Shoshanna

Sperry Top Sider Tommy Bahama

Sperry Top-Sider, Tommy Bahama


…of the style: The tankini, often thought of as the bikini’s more modest sister, was introduced in 1998 by designer Anne Cole. Applauded as the first innovation in swimwear for decades, the tankini combined the freedom and versatility of a bikini with the comfort and coverage of a one-piece, and gave women a third style option when it came to swimwear shopping.

The style was an almost immediate success and apparently quickly captured almost a third of the swimwear market; this market share remained constant over the following years as the style was duplicated by other high-end designers like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein.

The beauty of Cole’s creation, with its tank top styling, is that it offers a happy medium for women who don’t want to bare all their skin in a bikini, but like the convenience of having a two-piece swimsuit. The tankini can also incorporate additional bust support, making it a great option for women with bigger chests.

The release of the tankini coincided with the introduction of separates swimwear, an innovation which allowed women to mix and match swimwear tops and bottoms to achieve the fit and look that they desired. The tankini was particularly well suited for this style of selling and the mix-and-match phenomenon no doubt helped boost the popularity of the new style.

In the 21st century the tankini continues to hold a large section of the market as the versatility of the tank style allows designers to create a huge variety of top styles that appeal to the tastes of a huge swath of customers. Given this flexibility in styling and the large number of styles currently available on the swimwear market, it seems unlikely that the tankini will ever be out of style.

…of the name: the term tankini comes from a combination of the words ‘tank’ and ‘bikini’

Random Facts

  • the tankini is particularly flattering for women with long torsos
  • in 1998 GUCCI created a tankini covered in crystals with a price tag of $2,425

For more info on Tankinis try Wikipedia, wiseGeek, Everything Bikini or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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