Modest bikinis for young teens?

By Mir
March 28, 2011

As a mom to a young teen, myself, my head couldn’t nod in agreement fast enough when pretty reader Maria emailed me this morning to say:

My current dilemma is about bathing suits for young teenagers. My 13 year old daughter has worn one piece or tankini-style suits. She would like a bikini this year and I’m ok with that, but I cannot find an ‘appropriate style’. The ones we are finding in stores are the string style. I would like more coverage and something that won’t fall off when she actually wants to do some swimming. Any advice on where to buy such a suit?

(I thought it was a nice touch that she added an addendum with a link to this piece about Abercrombie selling padded bikini tops for 2nd graders to highlight exactly what she doesn’t want. Ack.)

The short answer, of course, is that there are viable options at the intersection of “she thinks it’s cool” with “Mom doesn’t think she’s naked.” It’s merely a matter of ferreting those options out. And the first problem is the size issue.

Many young teens are solidly into adult sizes, already—which presents its own set of challenges—but many others are sort of stuck in no-girls-land between Girls’ and Juniors’ sizes. If your 13-year-old is built like mine, most Juniors’ suits are still a little too big, while most size 14/16 suits in Girls’ don’t take into account that a bit of, ah, support is needed. Ahem.

So the first issue is figuring out which department you’ll be shopping, or if you’ll be checking out both Girls’ and Juniors’.

So let’s take Kohls as an example store, because they carry a pretty fair assortment of bathing suits at reasonable prices:

If you can still shop in the Girls’ section, there are things like this watercolor bikini that are available in sizes up to 16. If you need to move up to Juniors’, I like the variety of something like these dot swim separates, although you’ll notice that the pictured suit is already sold out online (you might have better luck in-store). And if you have a teen who can already wear women’s sizes, well, there’s a huge assortment of “sports separates” available in women’s, from cute things like these paisley separates to sportier options like these ZeroXposure separates .

And that’s just Kohls!

Other suggestions: I see several really cute options over at Lands’ End Canvas (I don’t have an affiliate link directly to the Canvas stuff, but you’ll see it in the title bar there), and the sizes run small enough for young teens, I think. (My daughter can wear their XXS without a problem.) And I love the swimwear at Athleta (cute but also totally meant to be worn while active), though they tend to be pricey. For something more affordable, head over to JC Penney and look at their “JC Teen” line; there are some more modest two-piece swimsuit options there at very reasonable prices.

Readers, where else do you look for such things? Hit us with your recommendations!


  1. Lime Ricki. Created by moms who wanted their daughters in modest, yet cute swimwear. Perfect. They now have swimwear for the whole family, too…all the way down to bitty toddler sizes.

  2. My 13 yr. old can wear the largest sizes at Justice, the 16s and 18s. I like the suits because they are fully lined and the bottoms aren’t so skimpy.

    I agree with the Atheta suggestion and be sure to check out the clearance section!! They have suits there that aren’t in the regular swim listings and are much cheaper. Patagonia and Nike also make bikinis that are cute, but because they are sporty, tend to support and cover better.

    I will say, beware the Delia’s suits!! We ordered one online and the top was fine, but the bottom was nearly indecent.

  3. Check out Speedos for a more modest look. My older daughter lives in Speedo competition suits, and my younger one (both adults now) goes for their fashion suits. If you sign up for their email list they will send out discount coupons regularly. Discount coupon + clearance = good prices on swim suits. Which is good when my older daughter goes through 5-6 suits a year. They also have every size possible. LL Bean is also a good place to look for a more conservative look.

  4. JUSTICE!!! They have the best suits, that are decently prices, especially with a 40% off coupon, and they have very good coverage and fit. Tons of different styles too, for every body!

  5. Justice has very cute suits are are cut modestly, but last year, they also had a variety of padded tops. I was stunned. The suit my daughter selected had padding, which we removed, but I still can’t understand why it was there in the first place.

  6. I would have to disagree a bit with the votes for Justice. I have an 8 year old stepdaughter, and the few times we’ve attempted to shop there, I’m appalled by their offereings. Very snug fitting clothes, and the swim suit offerings for her age range are mainly bikinis, many skimpy at that. I know that’s the trend these days for as soon as our kids come out of the womb (sigh) but the skimpyness feeds into their other clothing items as well.

  7. I like a sports bra and board shorts or tennis skirt for a two-piece that you can actually move around in without risking slippage. That’s still what I waterski in. You just have to make sure you get more lycra/spandex and less cotton so it doesn’t take forever to dry.

  8. I think Justice is very variable. My daughter has a cute tankini from there, but like Lori B. we discovered it was padded and just removed the pads. And like Dawn K. I have found that a lot of the time their suits are mostly skimpy.

    If you want to check out this season’s offerings, though, go to Justice and use coupon code 740 for 40% off. That certainly makes the prices reasonable, and I do see a few options I’d let my daughter wear, so to each their own. 🙂

  9. As a little add-on to this, do any of you have advice on where to get a young girl a bathing suit that doesn’t have a triangle top (yes, even the one pieces I am finding do), or a halter style, or an off the shoulder style? My daughter is 6, she wears either a 6 or a 7, and I’m striking out in all the stores around here. She needs a one piece with a tank top style, not the string straps either because she breaks them (sensory issues, constantly pulling on it). Thanks!

  10. Christina, did you look at the options at Kohls? Also, I’d look at sporting goods places that carry Speedo, Tyr, Nike, etc. Target and JC Penney tend to have a fair amount of that style, too. Good luck!

  11. Lands End has some great two-piece options. Reviews are mixed on sizing, though.

  12. What about Old Navy? Their mix-and-match swimwear has a variety of options so you can get something more modest and you can a different size in the bottom and top- always a plus for me.

  13. Y’all know I love Old Navy, but I hate their swimsuits, personally. I find ALL of their options skimpy, with itty-bitty strings, and everything they carry is a halter top. (I am not a fan of halters, myself; I prefer an x-back or tank for actual exercise.) I went and looked before I posted and went, “Yep, same ol’ string options!” Heh.

  14. Thank you SO MUCH! This is definitely a welcome post, as both my daughters (almost 13 and almost 15) insist on bikinis for the beach.

  15. Let me second Athleta, which is great if she swims a lot. Stay away from suits that tie – boys get kick out of giving them a yank, and just getting in the water can loosen the suit enough to be embarrassing.

    Stay away from Old Navy – some are flimsy and see-through.

  16. I have no recommendations because my sons just wear swim trunks, but I am jealous. I want to wear bikinis again!

  17. Christina, one option for you may be This is where we order my daughters training suits and team suits for swim team. They have lots of options, the tank style I think you are requesting, and their prices are really good.

  18. I like the ZeroXposur brand of swimsuits from Kohls. Most of them come with shorts or skirts for more cover up and are good quality. They have more modest bikini’s as well as tank style suits.

  19. Thanks everyone! I have tried Kohls and Target, where I usually shop for my daughter. She has sensory issues so it is really important that we are able to try them on – you never know what is going to bother her about one. Definitely can’t have stringy straps or ride-up. I was actually considering a 2 piece this year, with the tank top style top that still covers the belly and some boy shorts. But again, I keep finding them to be too skimpy or with straps that just won’t work. Guess it’s just another part of having an Aspie with sensory SPD I am going to have to get used to!

  20. And for the moms who want to wear cute, modest swimsuits, you can check out My friend was the photographer for the site, which is how I know about them, and I think the suits are pretty cute. I can’t give them a real recommendation, though, since I’ve never bought one. (Yeah, buying a swimsuit online would never work for me. Apparently I need to go through the hell that is Trying On Swimsuits in Department Stores with Terrible Lighting more often than most.)

    And I should probably point out that the size chart has pretty defined measurements, so you can check and see if the smaller sizes might work for your young teens. Good luck!

    I’m so glad my daughter will only be two this summer.

  21. @Christina I would wait and check Target a little closer to swim season. They seem to get a new crop in closer to summer and they are very basic and very affordable.

  22. Wouldn’t some of the women’s options from Lands’ End work for a teen girl? Some styles are offered in sizes as small as 2, and in my opinion, swim suits tend to run small anyway. They have so many varieties of bikini and tankini tops, and bottoms can go all the way from skimpy bikini-style and #2 leg (more coverage), to swim shorts and minis. I just got their swimwear catalog in the mail today and thought this one would be SO cute on a teenage girl:
    Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have it in the pink and gray combo that caught my eye in the catalog. Even so, the colors on offer are nice, and there’s a cute coordinating rash guard in the Aquaterra collection that the suit comes from.

  23. Thanks Chris, I will do that!

  24. Christina – I have gotten great tank-style kids swimsuits at Land’s End Kids — they can be pricey at regular retail but there are usually some in the overstock section for cheap. The nice thing about Land’s End is that there’s usually a free shipping deal going on with a code and you can return anything you don’t want to Sears. So you could order a bunch of suits, try them all on at home, and return the ones that won’t work. And I find they last better than the Target/Kohls stuff as well – the pool where my daughter swims is super-chlorinated and the water seems to eat through swimsuits in no time flat, but the Lands End ones seem to hang on the longest. Good luck!

  25. Thanks Liska, I’ll check them out too!

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