A swimsuit, bathing suit or swimming costume is an item of clothing designed to be worn for swimming. In New Zealand English and some areas of Australian English, swimsuits are usually called togs. This term is less common in other parts of the Commonwealth where it can also refer to clothes in general. Swimsuits can be skin-tight or loosely fitting and range from garments designed to preserve as much modesty as possible to garments designed to reveal as much of the body as possible without actual nudity. They are often lined with a fabric that prevents them from becoming transparent when wet.
Swimsuits are designed to cover at least the genitals and in most cultures women’s breasts. Men’s swimsuit styles are swimming trunks such as boardshorts, jammers, speedo-style briefs, thongs, g-strings or bikini. Women’s swimsuits are generally either one-pieces, bikinis or thongs. The most recent innovation is the burqini, a more modest garment designed for Muslim women; it covers the whole body and head (but not face) in a manner similar to a diver’s wetsuit.
The monokini, a style of swimsuit that most often takes the form of a bikini bottom without the corresponding top, leaves a woman’s breasts uncovered. Monokinis are quite common in many places throughout South America and Europe, though due to particularly stringent taboos they are almost never seen in the United States, except in places with a strong European tourist influence. For pre-pubescent girls leaving the chest uncovered is sometimes considered acceptable.
Special swimsuits for competitive swimming, designed to reduce skin drag, can resemble unitards. For some kinds of swimming and diving, special bodysuits called diveskins are worn. These suits are made from spandex and provide little thermal protection, but they do protect the skin from stings and abrasion. Most competitive swimmers also wear special swimsuits including partial and full bodysuits, racerback styles, jammers and racing briefs to assist their glide through the water and gain speed advantages (see competitive swimwear). Swimming without a bathing suit is a form of social nudity. Special nude beaches may be reserved for nude sunbathing and swimming. Swimming in the nude is also known by the slang term “skinny-dipping”. As an alternative to a bathing suit, some people use their trousers, underpants or T-shirt as a make-shift swimsuit. At beaches, norms for this tend to be more relaxed than at swimming pools, which tend not to permit this because underwear is unlined, may become translucent, and may be perceived as unclean.
Swimsuits are also worn for the purpose of body display in beauty pageants. Magazines like Sports Illustrated’s annual “swimsuit issue” feature models and sports personalities in swimsuits.