What is the difference between a $20 swimsuit and a $200 swimsuit? “For such a seemingly uncomplicated item, there’s a tremendous amount of detail that goes into it,” says Sabra Krock, co-owner and creative director of e-commerce site Everything but Water. “Better swimsuits have Lycra woven into them in a particular way that avoids a sheen [which can make a suit look cheap],” she adds. Minimal line Miné Mediterranean uses the same Italian fabric inside and out for a luxe feel, and surfer-inspired brand Dos Gardenias sources its neoprene from Japan.

For Vancouver swimwear designer Beth Richards, whose knotted styles have been worn by Miranda Kerr, the higher price tag reflects the use of athletic-grade materials (some styles even offer UV protection) and a made-in-Canada mandate. “The swimsuits are made by someone like you or me, which makes labour costs higher,” says Richards. “Brands go to great lengths to test swimwear,” adds Chelsea Power, buyer at MATCHESFASHION.COM. A well-made swimsuit won’t deteriorate from the sun, salty water or chemicals — just don’t sit on poolside concrete or it will pill.

How to choose an investment swimsuit 

You can’t go wrong with a black one-piece, especially because it can work double duty as a bodysuit and will never go out of style. Power suggests a one-shoulder silhouette: “I love that it can pair with a skirt for a more beach-to-bar look.” Miné Mediterranean’s Sibel Patino recommends earthy tones for an “organic, natural feel.” Her sister and co-founder, Selina, considers a classic triangle bikini a must and suggests opting for a high- cut leg to create a longer, leaner silhouette. It’s also worth investing in a brand that takes a considered approach to fit — Power shouts out Brit label Heidi Klein for catering to a wide range of bust sizes. For Richards, an investment swimsuit is simply one that takes “that ‘ugh’ moment to an ‘aah’ moment.”

The trends to shop now

“Over recent seasons, we’ve seen a more sporty, sleek look emerge in swimwear, inspired by Helmut Newton’s nostalgic images of beachwear,” says Power. A squared-off neckline is a key look for summer (and works for a range of bust sizes) as are simple, minimalist details, like belts.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of Elle Canada.