Ways to Wear Your Swimsuit, Inspired by 1990s Ad Campaigns

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Chanel (1990)

Stuck for swimspiration this summer? Look no further than our guide to styling your bikini à la Naomi Campbell

Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a climate in which you change your bikini as often as you change your underwear, when it comes to popping off on holiday or taking a dip down the local lido in the summer months the thought of pulling on swimwear can be daunting, to say the least.

For starters, the options are seemingly infinite; from the quintessential stringy set, with its triangular top and risky tie-on bottoms, to the modest one-piece, that infallible classic. So, we looked to 1990s swimwear campaigns to get some inspiration on how to make swimwear work for us this summer. Take note. 

1. With an abundance of jewellery, inspired by Helena Christensen for Chanel (1990) (above)

Counteract the simplicity of the black one-piece by adorning yourself with an eleganza of costume jewellery. We wouldn’t recommend swimming in this get-up, as you’d be sure to sink straight to the bottom of the pool, but for lying around on a sun lounger like a fabulous millionairess, it works a charm. 

2. With a multicoloured kaftan, inspired by Christy Turlington for Versace (1991)

No matter what style of swimsuit you choose, covering up in the heat of the midday sun is vital. Whether suncream or sarong, protecting your delicate skin from harmful rays is an essential component of summer dressing. Take note from the late, great, Gianni Versace, who matched this swimming costume with a multicoloured kaftan printed with the pages of Vogue for a look which is simultaneously chic and safe. 

3. With a sporty edge, inspired by Naomi Campbell for Ralph Lauren (1997)

This was the decade in which techy sportswear came into its own. To summon such era-perfect athleisure, offset skimpy airtex bottoms with a pair of baggy lifeguard shorts, for the ultimate in sportswear for the sun. Neoprene zip-up tops are a must, but they must be unzipped to the belly button. Branding is key: complement your zip tie with a logo’ed waterproof watch.  

4. With a cowgirl hat inspired by Claudia Schiffer for GUESS (1989)

This sultry shot may hail from 1989, but Ellen Von Unwerth’s first GUESS campaign with Schiffer set the blueprint for the minimal-meets-sex-bomb kitsch of fashion’s new favourite decade. As one might expect, a choker is elemental, but we suggest you accessorise with a nonchalant slip of ribbon as opposed to a ready-made number. The cowboy hat ensures an air of Malibu Barbie-beauty but it’s this low-side, high-leg streamlined black swimsuit that’s got us yearning for simpler days of design.      

5. With a scuba diving mask, inspired by Ingrid Seynhaeve for Victoria’s Secret (1996)

Ingrid Seynhaeve works the triangle twinset in a fresh and fruity palette. Take note of this swimsuit’s silhouette: a softly curved triangle cup and a super-high, V-shaped waistband all serve to enhance the 90s sexiness that internet culture is revisiting with vigour. Accessorise with colour-pop accoutrements: a scuba mask and flippers in a tan-enhancing yellow come highly recommended. 

6. With enthusiasm for minimalism inspired by Christy Turlington for Calvin Klein (1996)

There are few things that scream ‘1990s!’ more than Calvin Klein’s signature minimalism, especially when it is worn by Christy Turlington. An uncomplicated bandeau top and high-cut bottoms in block colours are the way to make this work for you, accessorised with nothing but a caramel tan and skinny eyebrow. 

7. Topless, inspired by Rebecca Romijn for Tommy Hilfiger (1998)

The only surefire way to avoid troublesome tanlines: the topless bikini. These Tommy Hilfiger briefs are the last word in branding, making one’s derrière a walking (or bathing) billboard for this all-American 90s favourite. This ultra-high, super-thick waistband has come full circle and wouldn't look out of place on your Instagram feed.