Go From Beach to Bar With These Stylish Bathing Suit Cover Ups

Lucy Folk Skyline Long Toweling Robe wins for versatility.

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Best Bathing Suit Cover-Ups
Photo: Courtesy Lucy Folk and Zara

Like all good garments, bathing suit cover-ups come in a dizzying array of styles, from pareos and playsuits to caftans and co-ords. To save you from hours of scrolling, InStyle has sought advice from experts, leaving you to focus on the important things — like where to vacation and what restaurants come with the Stanley Tucci seal of approval.

From swishy sixties-style tunics to crochet cover-ups, we've scoured the internet, read countless reviews, and interviewed buyers, stylists, and travel experts to bring you the best beach cover-ups. So, let's dive in!

These are the best bathing suit cover-ups to buy:

Our Picks

Best Overall: Lucy Folk Skyline Long Toweling Robe

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What We Love: The soft toweling is ultra-absorbent.

What We Don't Love: It can't be machine washed.

Summer 2022 welcomes a new contender into the resort wear arena: the beach robe. Felicity Brand, Head of Buying and Merchandising at Mode Sportif has her eye on the trending item because as she puts it, "You can just throw the robe over a bikini, and they have the right amount of coverage to take you from the beach to the bar."

Woven by local artisans in Morocco, Lucy Folk's robes — one of Brand's top picks — come in an array of colors, lengths, and prints. The shorter version can be elevated with a pair of raffia mules for after hours, while the maxi style exudes a more relaxed attitude and is perfect for snuggling into after a dip in the ocean. As DJ Jyoty Singh says, "Toweling material is the way forward — it can absorb water if it gets wet, so it's a sensible one."

Size: Small/Medium and Medium/Large | Material: Cotton | Color Choices: Mojave, Ginger, Pink, and Blue

Best Splurge: Missoni Mare Striped Metallic Crochet-Knit Cover-Up

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What We Love: It's lightweight, and the open-knit enhances breathability.

What We Don't Love: You'll have to dry clean it.

Missoni has been creating crochet-knit designs since first launching in 1953, so this signature striped dress isn't your average beach piece — it's an investment you'll want to pass down, if you can bring yourself to hand it over.

In a shin-skimming length, this tunic-style cover-up is cut to a breezy shape with split hems for ultimate ease of movement and breathability, while the full-length skirt and sleeves protect you from the sun.. Made in the brand's Italian atelier, the sunset shades and oceanic tones are sure to add "a dopamine hit" to your wardrobe, says Gigi Viera, from fashion rental platform Rotaro. Petite girls might want to opt for the shorter version, which comes in the brand's iconic zig-zag pattern.

Size: Extra Small - Large | Material: Viscose, Cupro, Polyester | Color Choices: Blue

Best Value: Zara Printed Sarong Skirt

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What We Love: It's made from 100% recycled fibers for a lower environmental impact.

What We Don't Love: The knot fastening loosens after a while, so if you're wearing it on a night out, make sure you have sufficient coverage underneath.

Our experts agree that sarongs are the ultimate summer failsafe. "Sarongs are my savior, as you can style them in so many ways — as a halter dress, skirt, or top," says Brand. Distinguished by its offbeat color palette and abstract print, Zara's silk style is crafted from recycled PET plastics (like those found in plastic bottles), creating a full-circle moment by reusing something that could've ended up in the ocean. "I always mix in some pattern", adds Robyn Nicholl, Co-founder of Step Your World, an app that connects travelers. "I'm usually minimal but in the summer, it's nice to be less severe, so if you go for a black top (which is always a safe choice), a colorful scarf brings that summer vibe and softens the look." Stylist's tip: fold the fabric in half and tie it into a bandana top with jeans for the evening.

Size: One size | Material: Recycled PET | Color Choices: Purple, Mustard

Best Plus-Size: ASOS Design Curve Tie-Front Beach Sarong

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What We Love: It's low maintenance and can be machine washed.

What We Don't Love: The chunky-knit means it takes a while for the fabric to dry.

"My best beachwear styling tip is to keep it simple but always bring a light dress or something to throw on in case you meet someone and they invite you to a party or BBQ", says Viera. "Sarongs tend to be my preferred cover-ups. There's something really sexy about them." Sitting high on the waist with a tie-fastening wraparound that echoes the coordinating tie-front top, ASOS's knitted sarong has a flattering fit that extends to size 26.

The cerise and violet tones play to summer's Barbiecore trend —- you can accentuate the mood and pair yours with the matching top and Vanessa Hudgens-approved flatforms. With this mini skirt, you'll be ready for any impromptu post beach plan. "A sarong is your best and most versatile friend, and it takes up literally no space in your bag," adds frequent traveler Nicholl.

Size: 12-26 | Material: Acrylic | Color Choices: Purple

Best Sheer: Louisa Ballou Aura Floral-Print Kaftan

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Also available at Ssense

What We Love: The maximalist print means you can keep styling to a minimum.

What We Don't Love: The thigh-grazing hemline isn't for the faint-hearted.

Do you want to try the 1960s psychedelic prints that have been all the rage recently? Look no further than Louisa Ballou. "She has amazing patterns," says Nicholl, "Her matching bikini and cover-ups are a big summer vibe."

Inspired by surfing and her coastal upbringing, Ballou's vibrant prints and figure-skimming silhouettes offer a cool, modern take on poolside glamor. Spliced at the neckline and fastened with a signature metal O-ring at the centre, this slinky cover-up is part of her debut collection, playfully dubbed 'Sex Wax', after Mr. Zog's iconic surfboard wax.

Size: XS - XL | Material: Cotton, Silk | Color Choices: Black

Best Crochet: Arket Crochet Dress

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What We Love: The halterneck straps can be adjusted, so you can find your perfect fit.

What We Don't Love: The open weave means it's semi-see-through.

"Typically I look for beachwear made of recycled materials," says Viera, a sustainable fashion advocate. "Sustainability is important to me, but it doesn't have to be boring.". Arket's crochet midi dress is far from bland and made from organic cotton, so it avoids any chemical fertilizers and pesticides. . It's cut to an eternally chic A-line silhouette and strung from skimpy tie-fastening straps that you can adjust for full bust coverage. The ribbed fit means it'll enhance your natural curves.

"Cos and Arket are great for simple and chic cover-ups for the beach that don't cost an arm and a leg," says Nicholl. This timeless version from the Nordic retailer exudes the effortless elegance Arket's known for. In fact, it's a near dupe for the neck-turning dress Katie Holmes wore to the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. While Holmes took a risk by wearing the see-through design on the red carpet, the spotty coverage is a clever way to show off your swimsuit underneath.

Size: XS-L | Material: Cotton | Color Choices: Beige

Related: The Best One Piece Swimsuits

Best Printed: Matteau The Silk Sarong

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Also available at Net-a-Porter

What We Love: It can be styled in multiple ways.

What We Don't Love: It's slightly sheer.

Made in Australia from 100% organic silk, this printed pareo is ultra-versatile, you can wear it as a top, dress, or skirt, as well as a headscarf or bandana — the options are almost endless. "I love Matteau, their collections are timeless, I find myself collecting their dresses over the years," says Nicholl. "You can wear them on the beach and then straight to dinner. Just throw on some jewelry and you're good to go." The deep brown is a nice alternative to your usual black, not to mention ultra trendy. If you normally stick to black or neutrals and you want to dip a toe in the color trend, scarves are an easy and affordable way to punctuate your look. "I always mix in some patterns — you can use the sarong as a top or vice versa", adds Nicholl.

Size: One Size (130cm x 110cm) | Material: Organic Silk | Color Choices: Brown

What to Keep in Mind

Fabric

When it comes to packing, our experts recommend sticking to lightweight materials. "Silk, cotton, and linen blends are lightweight in your suitcase and breathable, so you won't sweat in them," says Brand. "Crochet is great if you want more of a fashion statement — I love Albus Lumen's crochet maxi dresses." We also suggest toweling because it's super absorbent and keeps you cool, as does silk, thanks to the fabric's natural properties. Silk and mesh tend to stain easily, though, so you'll want to be mindful of sea salt and sweat marks.

Color

There are no hard and fast rules for color when it comes to beach wear. Hot hues are great for punctuating your outfit, especially if you tend to stick to muted hues. Tropical tones and desert shades are popular this season and tie-dye is a summer failsafe but ultimately, the tip is to choose something true to you, whether you're a minimalist or a maximalist, and consider what will go best with your swimsuit.

That said, vacations are a great opportunity to step away from your everyday uniform, so if you've been wanting to try this season's saccharine shades, a Pepto-Bismol pink scarf that you can double-up as a sarong is an easier way to tackle the trend than a full-length frothy pink dress. Fashion blogger Catherine Mhloyi, who describes herself as "a fat Bratz doll" suggests customizing your beachwear to give it "a little something extra". Tassels are Mhloyi's embellishment of choice but the trick is to try whatever feels good for you.

Your Questions, Answered

How do you tie a bathing suit cover-up?

Despite being based in East London, the aptly-named House of Sunny exudes coastal cool, so it's no surprise they've nailed nine different ways to style a sarong. A quick trip to TikTok offers even more options, thanks to the handy #sarongtiktokchallenge. In short, have fun playing around and seeing which way you find most flattering or interesting. You can also alter the tie fastening depending on how much coverage you want. If you're going on vacation, switching up how you tie your cover-up is a great way of breathing new life into an outfit that saves on packing multiple options. Plus, it helps you avoid dodgy tan lines. Keep your cover-up handy and tie it around your bag or your head (yes, really) when lounging by the pool. And lest we forget Carrie styling her scarf as an arm cuff. Fashion is quick to pitch clothes as 'versatile', but in this case, the moniker rings true.

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