This story originally appeared on ELLE UK

It’s hard to shop for 2021 swimwear trends when holidays abroad are quite literally cancelled for now. We’re still holding out hope for travel restrictions lifting but, then again, a summer of socially-distanced picnics, BBQs and trips don’t sound so bad after the year we’ve had.

We’ve seen a few mini heatwaves already this month – and everyone needs something to sunbathe in, right? Even if it is on a patch of grass in your local park, or via that small crack of sunlight coming through your living room window.

To help you navigate the new-ins, we’ve rounded up all the key trends to look out for this season. From buzzy barely-there briefs and ‘upside-down’ bikinis to animal print classics and sustainable options, here’s what everyone is obsessing over this summer.

Upside Down Bikinis

Yes, the once-makeshift styling trick has become an actual bikini design. A few summers back, the likes of Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner were tying their triangle tops upside down to create an underboob-flashing look that made for somewhat strange tan lines.

It’s clearly doing it for the fans, though, because demand for ‘upside-down bikini tops’ is currently up 49% from last year. Cue Khloé Kardashian posting an Instagram picture of herself lounging poolside in a lilac iteration in April, and searches spiked 150% within a week.

It’s actually the smaller, under-the-radar swimwear brands nailing this design, while we’ve yet to see big labels drop anything similar. If you can’t find the colours or prints you’re after, just fashion yourself one the old-school way: flip your triangle top and fasten the back ties around your neck instead. Or, take cues for Victoria’s Secret and cross your straps the front to create a demi-cup.

Barely-There Bikini Bottoms

Another trend, unsurprisingly, channeled by the Kardashian and Jenner sisters is barely-there bikini bottoms. Over the past month, searches for thong bikini bottoms have jumped up 57% and the term ‘micro bikinis’ has also seen an uptick by 31%.

If you don’t have Kardashian-levels of confidence or frankly can’t be dealing with the extensive hair maintenance involved, fret not: high leg bikini bottoms are still going strong for summer 2021. This trend, revived a few years back from its 1990s grave, is rightly being hailed for its leg-lengthening, curve-enhancing capacities. They’re comfy, too, and a great way to dip your toe into the ‘barely there’ trend – it’s the thong, but with more coverage up top.

Terry Cloth Everything

A particularly pleasing micro-trend ELLE‘s spotted this year is terry cloth swimwear. Spotted on old school running shorts, tracksuit-clad celebs in the Noughties, or, more iconically, Sean Connery’s romper in the 1964 film Goldfinger, towelling fabric has had an update for 2021.

If Paris Hilton is your Pinterest hero, Triangl’s baby-pink upside-down bikini made from the tactile, loop-back fabric will tick all the boxes. If you keep things strictly retro on the beach, opt for anything by Lisa Marie Fernandez.

Designers are also paying homage to the mid-century resortwear that made this fabric famous this season. So you can team your triangle bikini with a boxy camp collar shirt and high-waist shorts when you’re lounging by the pool (read: local Lido).

Animal Print Anything

Once it finally shook off those Pat Butcher connotations, animal print became of the key trends that never dies. It wasn’t until AW18, however, that designers started foraying further than classic leopard print, exploring tiger stripes, zebra and cow spots, too. And according to Lyst, it’s going nowhere anytime soon. Searches for ‘leopard print bikinis’ are up 25% month-on-month and zebra stripes are also proving popular.


According to Lyst, cut-out swimwear is currently the most sought-after style online, with searches rising 39% month-on-month.

For those who like to go all-out, brands like Reina Olga and Agent Provocateur are getting more experimental by the year. But if this, ahem, minimalist style instills fear rather than delight, go light on the cut-outs: Christopher Esber’s suit exposes a sliver of skin, and there’s just the one subtle slash on Pucci’s printed number. For those in doubt, a keyhole swimsuit (also trending) will provide coverage and is undeniably more timeless thanks to its 1970s shape.

The best bit is, most of the swimsuits below will double as a top in the evening. Now that kind of multitasking is key to nailing a capsule holiday wardrobe – when the time comes, ofc.

Sustainable Swimwear

Now for the trend we’re most excited about: sustainability breaking through token status to enter the mainstream. More and more shoppers are now actively seeking out eco-friendly brands like Mara Hoffman, Johanna Ortiz and Fisch. It’s not just luxury labels stepping up though, the high street has really come through this year: a large proportion of &Other Stories and Arket’s swimwear lineup is made from recycled bottles, fishing nets and plastic.

By far the most genius invention when it comes to sustainable fashion is from Modibodi. The Aussie label has forayed from re-usable period-proof pants into swimwear. Not only are its high-rise bikini briefs kinder to the planet but they’ll save your holiday too – there’ll be no more sitting on the side lines with shorts on. What’s more, Modibodi gets double brownie points for making these magical bottoms from 78% recycled plastic waste.

Read more:

12 On-Point Swimsuits You Should Scoop Now
5 Ocean-Friendly Swimwear Labels to Wear This Summer
11 Canadian Swimsuit Brands to Shop This Summer