ESC: Why Swimsuits Cost So Much

Real talk, though: Why are swimsuits so expensive?

Sure, you're practically living in your water-friendly duds. (Selena Gomez is, at least.) However, if at any point you felt like you may have overpaid for those two triangles held together by a string, you're not alone.

It's pretty customary for luxury-designer anything to cost an arm and a leg, but even indie-label bathing suits can set you back a pretty penny. Considering how little fabric, need for embellishments and wear you'll get from swimwear (compared to, say, handbags or shoes), do we really need to shell out the big bucks to be water-bound? We found out.

Quality Will Cost You: Apparently, the best swimwear fabric comes out of Western Europe, which means a higher cost of materials for brands and, therefore, a higher price tag for you. "We work with high-end mills, many in Italy and France, that have perfected the technology in swimwear fabric," said Shoshanna Gruss, founder of her namesake label, which is worn by the likes of Jessica Alba and Sasha Obama.

The cost of labor will also play a deciding factor. While affordable fast-fashion retailers, like H&M and Forever21, outsource production to oftentimes economically struggling countries to cut costs, a reason why your bathing suit costs more may be because it was made right here in America, where labor laws dictate a wage standard for workers. #ethicalfashion!

Swimwear Is More Complicated Than You Think: "The process to make a swimsuit actually takes much longer than most garments," said Michelle Copelman, design director of Solid & Striped, a brand beloved by stars like Taylor Swift, Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne. "Essentially, the fabric has to relax between steps, and every machine has to be set for each new style."

"After our final pattern is perfected, we add any special trims, and make sure the prints are placed in the most flattering way on the body," added Shoshanna. However, adding those details aren't cheap. "Eyelets, jacquards and textures come from mills with specialized machinery that can produce these novelty swimwear fabrics."

How to Spot a Quality Suit: "It should not ‘pop' at the seams when you stretch it," advised Shoshanna. "It should maintain its shape, and the fabric should feel durable yet luxurious." Does your suit feel like a diaper once you hit the water? It may be lacking in design. "In our bandeau styles, for example, we have underwire, gripper elastic and, in many cases, cups to add the necessary support."

Also, look for two-way stretch fabric, which is also more expensive, "so that styles keep their form," added Michelle. "There is nothing worse than going to put on a swimsuit and realizing it's worn through or too baggy."

There Are Affordable Alternatives: If you can't afford a Mara Hoffman geometric stunner or a Lisa Marie Fernandez denim two-piece like Selena. Big-box retailers often collaborate with swimwear lines to create similar trendy pieces in a diverse array of styles and sizes—something you often can't find with luxury brands.

"Target's swimwear selection has something for everyone with literally hundreds of cuts, styles, colors and prints in prices that range from $15-$70 in sizes to fit everybody," said Target spokesperson Jessica Carlson. "We think everyone, regardless of their budget or size, should be able to rock a stylish, quality swimsuit this season. This season we've doubled our assortment to make sure guests can easily find the style and size they need."

While these affordable options may not feature quality toggles from Italy, you can find the infrastructure (stretch fabric, underwire, cups, etc.) of a good suit. It's just up to you, the savvy shopper, to look for it.

Target Xhilaration Women's Midi Bandeau Bikini Top, $17.99-$19.99; Target Xhilaration Women's Bikini Bottom, $14.99; Bonded Bikini Top By Kendall + Kylie at Topshop, $58, Bonded Bikini Pant By Kendall + Kylie at Topshop, $35; Solid & Striped The Anne-Marie in Americana Stripe; $168; Mara Hoffman Cutout Printed Swimsuit, $254; Lisa Marie Fernandez Genevieve Denim Bikini, $385

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