What is a Tankini?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A tankini could be called the more modest sister of the bikini. The tankini is a two-piece swimsuit that features a tank top, instead of the bra top common in bikini styles. The style first began to appear in the mid 1980s and has gradually gained in popularity. This is especially the case when top and bottom may be purchased separately to accommodate different sizing needs for the upper and lower halves of the body.

Woman posing
Woman posing

The tank top of the tankini may still reveal some skin, depending on its style. Some versions end at the waist leaving several inches of skin exposed. Some styles of the tankini fit exactly to the waistband of the bikini bottom, providing greater skin coverage and a more sport swimsuit look. The bottom piece can vary from boy leg, swim short, low-cut bikini, high legs bikini or g-string backs; so the tankini can be variable in the amount of coverage it provides.

This two-piece style can also vary from very simple single color designs with few extras to lots of wonderful colors and styles. For those who like to minimize their waist, a ruched tankini top cinches in at the waist producing a more hourglass appearance. A tankini top may also feature built in shelf or cup bras to give greater breast support.

The tankini has been the boon of women with long torsos who may find that a one-piece swimsuit construction is simply too short. It does give the illusion of a shorter torso and is more comfortable to wear for many women. The tankini also provides more security than the bikini bra top, and leads to fewer accidental exposures because it covers more skin. It is not universally flattering, and those with shorter torsos may find that the tankini’s break between tank top bottom and the bikini bottom top is not the most attractive look for them.

For curvy women who want to choose the tankini, it’s a good idea to look for the type where skin coverage between the two pieces is at its maximum. This can be best achieved by finding tank top styles that are slightly longer, or bottoms that reach the waist. With a shorter tank top or bottom, extra skin or fat around the middle may unattractively bulge out and create an unflattering look. If you are looking for a skin revealing suit, a newer version of the tankini called the camikini features a low-cut camisole type top, and is often paired with a string bikini bottom.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Did you ladies know that there are pregnancy tankini swim wear now?

I just saw some at the mall the other day and they look so cute! They left so much room for the belly, it's perfect for pregnancy. I bought a pair for my daughter because I know she likes going to the pool and she's five months pregnant. It'll definitely come in handy.


@donasmrs-- Yes, there are tankinis that cover the thighs. You might have to look around a bit, but you will find them.

I wear a regular tankini with a tank top and bikini bottom. I had surgery recently and have a big scar on my stomach, so that's what I'm hiding. I actually don't care about showing my scar but it gets annoying to keep explaining it to curious. So I'm just going to wear a tankini and not deal with it!


I gained some weight and I don't feel comfortable wearing a bikini anymore. Are there tankinis that have a tank top and a shorts type bottom?

I don't want a tankini with a bikini bottom, I'm trying to hide my thighs.


There are some really cute bikinis out there that kind of go the opposite route from this and make the bottom part of the bikini higher instead of making the top part lower (as with the tankini).

It's just as good at nipping in the waist and gives a little bit more support to the tummy, if that is the area that someone wants to cover.

They aren't easy to find in stores, but there are a few people on online marketplaces, like Etsy, who sell these kinds of things and will make it to your size if you have a look for them.


@pleonasm - I'm a big woman and I prefer it to either a one piece or a bikini just because it seems to give me the best shape. I guess because it isn't attached to the bottom, so it can fit more snugly in at the waist. And I know what you mean about extra support as well. Although I find that it doesn't have the range of styles you can find with a bikini.

I don't usually wear it with bikini bottoms though, that would make me too nervous. I just get the top and match it with board shorts or boy shorts if I'm feeling a bit daring. There's no need to stick to women's bathing suits for the bottoms, as I find the men's can have more variety sometimes.


A tankini can look really fabulous if you're careful to pick the right one. You really need to try on bathing suits and walk around in them a bit before you can make a decision.

For me, it's the best because they almost always have much more support for the bust and I need more support than the average bikini offers. Every time I wore a bikini I would end up feeling embarrassed and wouldn't want to really go into the water or anything, for fear that I would end up flashing the whole beach.

Tankinis don't always have support, but they are much more likely to have it if you need it. And they are popular enough now that you don't have to settle for basic black if that's not your thing. There are plenty of different styles and colors to choose from.

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