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5 Types of Maillot Swimsuits Every Lady Should Own

Updated on April 27, 2017

A Swimsuit by Any Other Name...

A Maillot (or as I incorrectly called it for YEARS: "malliot" ... oy) is a fancy schmancy word for a one-piece swimsuit or bathing suit. I love 'em and am so excited that they have come back into style in recent years.

In this article, I'm covering the history of the maillot swimsuit, but more importantly, I'll be including a selection of adorable one pieces hand picked - and coveted - by yours truly. I've also got a breakdown of the best one-piece swimsuit brands and designers in each category (retro, patterns, black, slimming, and fitness).

Let's dive right in, shall we?

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Maillot = French One Piece?
Maillot = French One Piece? | Source

No Really, What is a Maillot?

I'm not kidding: A Maillot is really just a fancy term for a one piece swimsuit. There are a lot of retailers out there that will use the term to describe a swimsuit, but it's really no different from any other one piece. Can you blame them? "One-Piece" is more appropriate a name for a person who can only eat one piece of pizza. As in Mary "One-Piece" Larson. MAN. That chick can't handle a supreme, pepperoni, Hawaiian, nothin'.

But, Maillot on the other hand. May-lot. It just rolls of the tongue, doesn't it? ooo-la-la. It almost sounds French.*

*Actually, maillot is a French word. It's the French word for jersey or swimsuit (No freakin' way!) and is also a commune just south-east of Paris. Porte Maillot is a major metro station near the Arc de Triomphe.

1. Retro / Vintage

For that Vintage Look, Without that Vintage Smell

What I love about all the one piece maillots that are out there right now is how much they look like vintage style swimwear of the 1940s and 1950s. These are among my favorites. Retro style suits tend to be more figure flattering for a range of body types, and are great modest alternatives to a lot of the skimpy suits out there. Let us embrace this trend and do our best to block out the "string bikini" outbreak of the 1990s.

Favorite Brands: Esther Williams, Sheridyn Swim, Seafolly, Mod Cloth (Mod Cloth is an online shop; their selection of retro-style suits is tough to beat)

Esther Williams Women's 50s Pin Up One Piece Swimsuit-Emerald-16
Esther Williams Women's 50s Pin Up One Piece Swimsuit-Emerald-16

Esther Williams makes gorgeous, classic "pin-up" style one pieces look super chic and modern. The "retro look" is achieved with a modest, low boy leg, ruching, panelling, a sweetheart neckline, and a thick halter strap. This particular style is super popular, pretty inexpensive, and comes in a ton of colors and patterns. I own the green one pictured here (purchased on Amazon for very very cheap) -- it's one of my favorite one-pieces.


2. Prints

Prints Glorious Prints!

I'm really loving how adorable so many one piece swimsuits are now. I feel like there was a period of time when swimsuit makers were like "eh, less is more, yes?" and we all had to suffer. The maillots that are out today seem to have such cuter details, cuts and fabrics. They're like outfits you can wear in water, or beside water, or relatively near water.

Favorite Brands: Gottex, J Crew, Nanette Lepore, Mara Hoffman

Mara Hoffman Women's Vela Cut-Out Side One Piece Swimsuit, Rainbow Multi, S
Mara Hoffman Women's Vela Cut-Out Side One Piece Swimsuit, Rainbow Multi, S

Mara Hoffman makes some gorgeous printed swimsuits in bright summery colors. It makes sense because these intricate prints are exactly what the designer is known for (she also makes linens, home decor, and clothing). I saw this particular swimsuit at Madewell and fell in love with it. It bares a bit more skin than a lot of one pieces without being too revealing.


3. Classic Black

Black is the new black
Black is the new black | Source

The Little Black Dress of the Swimwear World

Navy is the new black? No, that's not right. Leopard is the new black? No way. Orange is the new black? Okay sometimes, but really, NO.

Black is the new black, of course. Nothing is more classic than black. It's universally flattering on all skin tones and body types and will never ever never go out of style.

If you're new to the world of one-piece swimwear or just getting back into it, know that the black maillot is the gateway maillot. Every swim-wardrobe is lost without it. You can build up to the more adventurous colors and patterns with time.

I bought my very first black one piece last year, and I hope to have it for many years to come.

Recommended Brands: J Crew, Seafolly, La Blanca, Miraclesuit


History of The Swimsuit

Don't worry. I'm not going to ramble off a boring history lesson here. What I've learned is that people like lists and bullet points, so I'm gonna give you the history of the swimsuit as an easy to follow chronology, with bullet points.

  • Pre 1700s - Typically, a "swimsuit" was either whatever clothing you had on and didn't mind getting wet, or nothing at all. Bare butt swimmin'.
  • 1737 - Ladies were told to cover their bare butts if they were going to go swimmin'.
  • 1700s-1800s - A swimsuit-like garment evolved from a long "bathing gown" with weights in the hem into a more scandalous "two piece" which consisted of a knee length gown with a separate pair of trousers that extend to the ankle.
  • 1860 - Bare butt swimmin' was officially banned in the UK, much to many bare butt swimmers' dismay.
  • 1907 - Annette Kellerman, an Australian Synchronized Swimmer, put everyone's feathers in a ruffle when she debut a form fitting suit.
  • Early 1900s - 1930 - Women's gown-like suits grew shorter, arms became exposed (gasp!) and men wore a one piece situation reminiscent of a tank top with biker shorts. Swimsuits transitioned from wool to elastic like fabrics.
  • 1946 - A Parisian designer, Louis Reard, debut the precursor to our modern day two piece, the "bikini."
  • 1956 - After a decade, scandalized beach goers finally accepted this "bikini" style swimsuit.
  • 1964 - The "monokini" was invented. A monokini is a bikini, but without a top. (So, basically, a pair of waterproof underwear?).
  • 1974 - The thong, or as I like to call it "butt floss" bikini was invented.
  • 2010-present - Ladies of the world decided ENOUGH. I want a swimsuit that looks good on me without all my bits hanging out. The one-piece - aka maillot - swimesuit makes a comeback.

Sources:, Wikipedia, Vintage Fashion Guild

4. Slimming

Slimming Maillots

The great thing about the mighty maillot is that unless you're getting one of those crazy crochet suits, or one with all the cut-outs (Hello, weird tan lines? It's me Margaret.), or (WHY) one of those pretzel maillots (... go ahead and Google it, but don't say I didn't warn you. Oy), virtually any maillot you pick will be more slimming than a bikini. Here are some features to be on the look out for:

  • If you're looking for a maillot that flatters your stomach area, look for for suits with ruching, shirring, or control panels built in.
  • If you've are concerned about your top half, opt for a maillot with a built in underwire or bra, and find one that has thicker straps.
  • If the junk in your trunk has got you in a funk (I'm really sorry about that... that was an awful betrayal of the English language). Okay, if your bottom half has got you're panties in a twist (that wasn't much better, was it?). FINE. If you're want to make your butt look good, opt for a more conservatively cut leg opening or a skirted suit. They make super adorable ones now!

Favorite Brands: Miraclesuit, Mod Cloth, Jantzen

Miraclesuit Women's Zip Drive Temptress Sweetheart One Piece Swimsuit Black 12
Miraclesuit Women's Zip Drive Temptress Sweetheart One Piece Swimsuit Black 12

Miraclesuit is a trusted name when it comes to figure flattering one piece swim suits. All Miraclesuits are made with some kind of proprietary "super spandex" that holds everything in amazingly.

This one is unique due to the clever use of pattern mixed with classic black. Reviewers state that it's super flattering; the "missoni-esque" patterns on the sides create a very slimming profile.


5. Fitness

Tank Maillots for Fitness

If you spend a lot of time in a pool, do water aerobics, or like to swim laps, a tank maillot for fitness is right up your alley (or lane, as it were). These suits are able to withstand chlorine better than their "fashion" counterparts - they will keep their shape and elasticity longer and resist fading into a pale stretched out sack of fabric. They are also constructed with movement in mind so all your parts stay in their proper places.

Fitness swimsuits come in a range of cuts, ranging from conservative to moderate to regular cut. This "cut" is often in reference to how high up the leg goes (the conservative cut suits have an almost boy cut leg opening). I prefer the more conservative styles because of their retro look.

Favorite Brands: Speedo, TYR, Reebok, Dolfin, Nike

Speedo Women's Conservative Ultraback with Princess Seam - PowerFLEX Black 4
Speedo Women's Conservative Ultraback with Princess Seam - PowerFLEX Black 4

This Speedo suit has a conservative cut and paneling/seaming like a lot of the fashion maillots out there. I think it gives this Speedo a cool retro/vintage look and it's the one I'd personally choose as a fitness suit. It comes in black and navy.


© 2013 Shay Marie


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    • shay-marie profile image

      Shay Marie 8 months ago from Southern California

      @Magicality LM -- Good to know!

    • Magicality LM profile image

      Magicality LM 8 months ago

      "Maillot de bain" is the french word for bathing suit ... Which actually covers both the one and two piece.

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 4 years ago

      My goal is to get back into a 2-piece... but I'm quite comfy in the maillot! (Like @CosmeticMom, below, I never knew they were called a maillot either!) :)

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      I just never have been comfortable in a 2-piece swimsuit and love one-piece bathing suits. Never knew they were called a maillot!

    • howards522 profile image

      howards522 4 years ago

      Love these suits!

    • Jogalog profile image

      Jogalog 4 years ago

      Very nice selection. I love the vintage styles.

    • shay-marie profile image

      Shay Marie 4 years ago from Southern California

      @WriterJanis2: Thank you Janis!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      Love the print suits. Pinned.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      I love the way you write, you've made me laugh and nod my head even though I don't even like one-piece suits :) You have great taste, and I hope to read more from you soon.