Ever since Ursula Andress stepped out of the water in the first James Bond movie, "Dr. No," bikinis have seemed de rigueur, as though they're required attire at the beach or by the pool. Yet most women prefer a one-piece bathing suit, according to a study conducted last year by CouponCodes4u.com. The reason is obvious: A one-piece is more forgiving, and that's a strong selling point for those of us who've been around longer than Kate Upton. But a maillot — the classic one-piece — is also a chic swimwear choice. What the Little Black Dress is to evening, a maillot is to summer: a wardrobe essential that's always in style.
When you shop for a maillot, it's best to go simple — the fewer bells and whistles, the better. Dark colors tend to be more flattering than lighter shades. (Aubergine, or eggplant, is especially appealing, since it looks good against just about every skin color.) Some new suits offer compression (à la Spanx) for an added measure of slimming. Still, settling on a swimsuit is like choosing a perfume: You need to try many of them on. In doing so, don't forget to bend over and sit down to make sure the suit doesn't rise too much.
To get you started, here are four styles with the elegant simplicity you should look for. ANTHROPOLOGIE: The Seafolly Boyleg Maillot combines a vintage look with a "boy-cut" leg, a contemporary touch that gives the tops of the thighs a little extra coverage. The sheering on the bust and front panel adds visual interest while disguising flaws. LANDS' END: Also designed with sheering around the bodice, the Sweetheart One-Piece Swimsuit uses "exclusive technology" to firm the abdomen and hips. ERES SWIMWEAR: The Arnaque Swimsuit is an investment piece, and is priced accordingly. But it's a true classic designed to adapt to all body types, and if you can handle the luxury-level price tag, you'll be wearing it for many years to come. J. CREW: Available in eight colors, the Scoopback Tank was a favorite in the '90s. Now it's making a comeback, thanks to popular demand and a timeless, no-nonsense design. —Lola Ehrlich