What Material Are Swimsuits Made Of?

If you are like most people, you are looking for a swimsuit that is flattering, trendy, and built to last. There are so many options available when it comes to swimwear material, that it can be truly overwhelming at first glance. We have a helpful guide to show you the various types of materials that swimsuits are made of so that you can choose the right suit to fit your needs. 

What Are Swimsuits?

Ultimately, swimsuits are classified as leisurewear. However, many people who are wearing them are doing much more than leisurely activities! Swimwear can be used for competition purposes, for laying on the beach, for wearing on a summer cruise, or for wading through the ocean waves. 

There are many different types of swimsuits, but for the most part they break down into two main categories: One-piece suits and two-piece suits. Within those two categories there are a few of the most commonly worn types of suits.

Types of Swimsuits 

No matter what the purpose, you are sure to find a swimsuit that will fit your needs. For most of us, the problem is not a lack of choices, rather it is an excess of them! Here are some of the most common types of swimsuits that you will find in the catalogs and on the racks.

Traditional One-Piece

A traditional one-piece bathing suit typically has two straps, full coverage of the stomach, and either full coverage or a high-cut leg opening at the bottom. This is one of the most popular types of suits, and like all swimsuits can come in a variety of materials. 


A monokini is sort of a cross between a traditional one piece and a bikini. This type of suit is more risque. The top and the bottom of the suits are connected, but often the midsection remains bare.

Swim Dress

The swim dress is a quintessential favorite in the swimwear category. It is perfect for those who like a little more coverage. They are designed to look like dresses and have a flattering skirt connected to the bottom of the suit. 


Tankinis are another hybrid type of suit. They offer the full coverage of a one-piece with the ease and versatility of a two-piece. The top is long enough to cover the entire midsection, but the top and bottom are two separate pieces. Some people prefer the feeling of a bikini but the look and coverage of a one-piece suit. This is the best of both worlds!

Multi-Tier Tankinis

As if one type of tankini wasn’t enough, there are actually multiple types of bathing suits within the tankini category. Tankinis with two or three tiers offer extra layers of flowy, decorative coverage and camouflage the midsection. 


The bikini is a full two-piece bathing suit. There are many different varieties of both tops and bottoms, but in general, they offer much less coverage than any other type of bathing suit. 

What To Look for in a Swimsuit

If you are looking for new swimwear, you are probably hoping to find the perfect blend of style and comfort. There is a certain amount of emotion attached to swimsuit shopping, and most women cite it as one of the most stressful clothing purchases to make.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and the swimsuit doesn’t need to be your worst enemy! When shopping for a bathing suit, keep an open mind. Remember that you don’t need to be a size two to find a gorgeous suit that you feel confident and beautiful in. 

Here are some tips that can help you make the best of your swimwear purchase:

  • Look at the straps: If you have a bigger bust, you probably want thicker straps. Comfort is key!
  • Think about the edges: Pay attention to what the suit is made of, how it sits on the body, and what the edges are like. Rigid edges will cut into the skin and cause some discomfort.
  • Don’t be afraid to go bright: Sometimes those of us who prefer a modest suit opt for solids or dark colors to try to blend in. Instead, consider choosing a lively print that makes you happy. 
  • Go online, but be patient: Online shopping is the best thing since sliced bread. Nowadays, most retailers have outstanding return policies, so order a bunch of suits to try on, just like you would in a fitting room at a department store.

Consider Your Unique Swimwear Needs

First and foremost, you have a lot to think about when choosing a suit. When selecting a swimsuit, it is important to think about what you will be doing in your swimwear. After all, we all have different needs when it comes to our clothing, and swimwear is no exception. 

If you are planning to use your suit for swimming laps, you most likely want something that is sleek and aerodynamic. However, if you are mostly going to be lounging on the beach, you might not need as much control in sleekness in your suit.

You might want to think about:

  • How often you will be wearing your swimsuit
  • What kind of movement you will be doing in your swimsuit
  • The thickness you are looking for in material
  • What kind of style you are most comfortable in
  • The colors that best suit your complexion
  • How much sun exposure you will face in your swimsuit
  • How much coverage you are looking for

The Most Common Swimwear Materials

Though there are many different types of suits on the market, most of the time they are made of the same few materials. We will go over the materials that you will most often find in swimwear.


Almost any swimsuit you can pick up off the rack or online is likely to have some nylon in its material. It is often blended with other materials such as spandex or Lycra. Nylon is ideal for swimsuits! It has the following benefits that make it perfectly suited for swimming:

  • It is lightweight
  • It is moisture-wicking
  • It dries quickly
  • It is one of the strongest manufactured fibers on the market

The only negative characteristic of nylon is that it can have a tendency to fade after prolonged exposure to the sun, but this can be remedied by washing or rinsing your suit in cool water after each use. 


Spandex is another commonly used material for swimsuit construction. It has been around for years, and it has definitely stood the test of time, and for good reason. If you check the tags of your clothing, you will probably find that a lot of the items you own have at least a little Spandex in their fibers. 

This material goes by many names. You may have heard it referred to as LYCRA or Elastane. LYCRA is the brand name for spandex. Whatever the name, it is a perennial favorite for swimsuits, and with good reason. 

There are plenty of benefits to this miracle fabric:

  • It has a flattering, form-fitting fit
  • It is not very costly
  • It is extremely durable
  • It has the perfect amount of elasticity and stretch

Spandex has the potential to be itchy if it is not blended with other fabrics, but since it is often blended with nylon or polyester, this tends not to be an issue. 


A commonly used swimsuit material is polyester. It is sometimes used as an alternative to Spandex. It is not as stretchy, but that can actually be beneficial as it offers a lot of control and support. Polyester has the following benefits:

  • It is extremely durable
  • Unlike nylon, it holds its color well, even after repeated sun and chlorine exposure. It is chlorine resistant and colorfast
  • Because it doesn’t stretch as much as spandex, it holds its shape very well
  • It can last 2-3 times longer than a spandex suit

Polyester does, however, have a few characteristics that you may or may not want in your swimwear:

  • It tends not to be quite as comfortable as spandex
  • It is more costly than spandex and nylon
  • Because it is not super stretchy, it can be more difficult to put on at first

Despite a couple of potential negatives, polyester is still a desirable material for swimsuits. When it is blended with other materials, it helps swimsuits last longer and retain their bright vibrant colors. 


Commonly referred to as PBT, the initials stand for polybutylene terephthalate, which is a type of texturized polyester.  It is most often used for high-quality fitness and competition swimwear. Here are a few of the positives:

  • It is extremely durable
  • It is both chlorine and heat-resistant
  • The stretch level is similar to spandex
  • It is quick-drying and doesn’t absorb much water

Really, the only downfall about PBT is that it is slightly more expensive than some other fabrics. 


Cotton is a material that is actually not recommended for swimwear in most situations. Where you may find cotton is in certain fashion swimwear or cover-ups. With cotton, there are more negatives than positives.

Here are some reasons why you probably don’t want to choose a cotton swimsuit:

  • Cotton absorbs water and is not quick to dry
  • It is not fitted to the body in the same way that spandex and similar materials can be
  • When it gets wet, it can lose its shape

The only positive to cotton is that it is a soft, comfortable fabric. As such, it makes for great cover-up material. 

The Takeaway

Swimwear is an ever-evolving product. As new technologies arise and new materials are created, so too will the materials for swimsuits. 

In today’s modern suits, the best swimwear is often made of spandex, polyester, nylon, PBT, or a blend of one or more of these materials. While cotton is cozy and comfortable, it is best suited for beach coverups for when you get out of the water and into your beach chair.

There is no magic formula for finding the perfect swimsuit, but information is power. Knowing the materials that are going to work the best for your purposes will allow you to embrace your shape and enhance your own natural beauty. 



 Benefits Of Nylon | Leaf TV 

21 Types of Swimsuits: A Breakdown of Swimsuit Styles | MasterClass

Shopping Tips From Swimsuit Models: How to Buy a Bathing Suit | Glamour