Plan #21 – Find photos of 80s bathing suits

First, I suppose, one has to determine if they say “bathing suit” or “swimsuit.” Apparently I say bathing suit; David does not. Now that we have that important discussion out of the way…

Reminiscing about growing up in Huntington Beach got me thinking about high school bathing suits. There are a couple of styles that stand out distinctly in my mind, but as far as the internet is concerned, they did not exist. I, of course, am quite sure that they did.

bikini bottomsFirst: the classic two-piece of my high school days. It had a fairly standard top, and fairly standard high-cut bottoms (which I think were usually shirred down the front like the ones shown here, actually).  The important distinction is the length of the strings on the top. Instead of just tying behind you, as a normal bathing suit would, these strings were extra-long. You would criss-cross them behind you, thread them through the sides of your bottoms, then bring them around and tie them in the front.

Did this only happen in a tiny part of the world? How is it that the entire internet does not have a picture of this? I am usually an excellent Googler – no, seriously, I am; you can ask anybody – and I have not figured out a way to describe this suit that Google can understand. I am embarrassed to admit how much research time I invested in this in the wee hours of the morning today.

Second: my all-time favorite one-piece suit, circa 1983-1984. OP made these one pieces that were actually skimpier than a two-piece in some ways. This particular one was actually my sister’s, although I coveted it. It was black with white pinstripes that came to a V in the center; the straps were white. The classic OP details – besides the little “op” on the front hip – were a) that the back and front were connected at the hips by three strings and b) that the front was a very deep V.

I don’t know what I was thinking, borrowing that suit from Gina. She had way more of a figure than I did, at that point; instead of showing cleavage, that deep neckline probably just showed each of my ribs. (I’d had a terrible case of mono my junior year – got hospitalized, had parades of medical students in to study me, couldn’t eat or drink – and I was down to 93 lbs.) But every time I wore it, I felt perfect.

Yeah, that bathing suit doesn’t seem to have made its presence felt on the interwebs, either. I found one pretty close to it:

Source: a fantastic site called, which you should go to because it is amazingly comprehensive and super cool.

I never would have worn these bright pastels, though, and I remember the neckline as much more drastic. Whether it was actually different or not we may never know, but the black-and-white suit of my memories was way cooler.

As long as we are on the subject of 80s bathing suits and the beach, I suppose I should be required to put up photos of myself from that era. I could only find ones from my trip to Corfu in 1988:

on the beach
Lori and what must be an Irish or English woman, working on our tans.

I only had a one-piece when we got there, which was not conducive to tanning, so I think Deb and I skipped eating for a day to buy these old, stretched-out bikinis at a local shop. (I have no idea why I have my foot on a piece of paper. I may not even know it is there.)

What’s hilarious is the difference between how I looked and felt before and after we spent each day on that Corfu beach:

Lying in the hot sun for hours makes me a wee bit cranky and disoriented, but you do what you have to do to get that beautiful bronzed look. Then you get melanoma and are forced to stay out of the sun for the rest of your life. It’s definitely a trade-off.

7 thoughts on “Plan #21 – Find photos of 80s bathing suits

    1. LOL! You are absolutely right! In fact, I saw it tonight when I said, “Go clean your room and leave your phone here on the kitchen table while you do.”


  1. I can’t believe no pics exist of that famous suit! (I looked online too.) But more importantly, do you remember how much crappola I had to take from Dad the first summer I wore it up there? And as far a figures… LOL! Plus, I wanted your tan SO BAD!!! but yes, then there’s that pesky melanoma… Still, I laid out there with you all and used baby oil and simply burned the crap out of myself and then freckled and turned back to white (so the freckles could really show). Plus, we’d go in the water, and your hair and all the other beauties’ hair would simply go back to normal (sandy, but normal) while mine would become wild kingdom! 😎 Good times!


  2. lori ! lori ! lori ! i too am soooo frustrated at not finding pics or mentions of that awesome bikini style. top had long strings that wrapped around across your back, looped through the sides on the bottoms then tied in a bow on your tummy. i’m also a great online researcher and can’t find them anywhere!!! aarrgghh! i lived in so. calif. in redondo beach – they were pretty common in the late ’70’s-midway through the 80’s. the most casually sexy suits EVER! they were high-cut bottoms to begin with, then hiked the sides up more (!) and flattered everyone’s shape perfectly. made your legs look longer, which i appreciated since i was short. i have spent ALOT of time looking for this suit. if i found one for sale i would buy it no matter the size, just to have in my possession. to add to my beloved collection of retro stuff like Dittos and Chemin de Fer pants, Sbicca rope platform slides, Candies slides and lots of other primo stuff from a golden time in my early teens. thanks for your thoughts on this subject – it might seem trivial but some things really bring back old times!


    1. Sharon,

      I’m so glad you can validate my memory of that suit! (I’m short, too, so that’s probably why I remember it so fondly.) It’s been interesting to see which trends the people here in Portland did/didn’t have from the 70’s and 80’s. Nobody here understands Chemin de Fer pants and their two-button front and back! My coworker still has her very same Scibba rope slides, though, and they still look perfect. I was recently thinking about double belts – remember those? – and the super-narrow metallic gold stretchy belts we wore, too. Ah, the gold old days!

      Thanks for reading and commenting! it made my day.


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