One reader wrote: Swim tops and sports bras look the same. At least to me. Although each serves a different purpose, I wonder if I can substitute the one for the other. That is to ask, can I wear a sports bra for swimming and not look off at the beach? My place is 30 minutes away from the beach and I’d love to be able to go for a proper run with my dog and take a dip at the end without changing for a bikini top.
So can you wear a sports bra as a bikini top? Technically, yes. After all, sports bras and bikini tops ultimately serve the same purpose—to support the breasts. However, there’s a reason why they’re considered different. Before substituting a swim top for a sports bra, do consider the following.
Why wear a sports bra for swimming
Although there are reasons to reconsider wearing a sports bra for swimming, let’s start with the reason why sports bras are a good substitute for bikini tops.
- Sports bras are supportive.
If you’re a large breasted woman, finding a bikini top that offers reliable support isn’t impossible but can be challenging at times. If you’ll be moving a lot in the water and need all the support you can get, count on sports bras to meet that need for you.
- They’re super comfy.
In terms of comfort, sports bras are top notch. Unlike most underwired bikini tops that promises support but fails on comfort (digging underwires), most sports bras are constructed without the hard irritating metal wires. Instead, they’re made with boning usually made of flexible plastic—enough to provide shape and support minus the pain.
- Sports bras now offer a wide variety of designs.
Gone are the days when you’re stuck with the classic and sometimes unflattering sports bra design. Now, brands create designs that can even pass as bikini tops.
You can wear them sporty.
Or with extra details like crisscrosses at the back.
Why not wear a sports bra for swimming
Sports bras may be supportive and comfortable, however, they don’t come without weaknesses when they function as bikini tops. If these factors are enough deal-breakers for you, you might be better off sticking to tops designed for swimming.
- Most sports bras are more vulnerable to damage.
Sports bras are specifically designed to absorb sweat but not chlorine and saltwater. Therefore, they’re not necessarily as resistant as bikini tops when exposed to pool and seawater.
Solution: You can, however, slow down their wear and tear by handwashing them with freshwater right after use. Do not put them in the dryer or washing machine. Exposure to heat will only speed up its aging process.
- Sports bras dry slower than bikini tops.
Bikini tops are designed to be hydrophobic and quick-drying while sports bras are absorbent. This makes sports bras slow to dry while heavy and dragging when wet, at times.
Solution: Buy one with at least 70% polyester. Polyester fabric is extremely strong, highly resistant— to chlorine, saltwater, shrinking, stretching, wrinkling, and abrasion— and most of all hydrophobic and quick-drying. It also retains its shape well which is great for outdoor clothing like sports bras/ bikini top.
If you’re allergic to high amounts of polyester, go for a 50% PBT and 50% polyester. It’s what Speedo usually use for their Endurance+ pieces. The PBT will even out the potential irritation that polyester might cause to the skin. Hence it’s more comfortable but highly durable.
Remember before wearing a sports bra for swimming
- Don’t buy it white or light-colored. White tends to be see-through when wet. To err on the safe side, buy any color except the light-colored ones.
- If you really must wear a light colored one, get it soaking wet now, stand in front of a mirror, and see if it’s showing your skin underneath.
- Pay very close attention to the care instruction. If it says “no bleach” then you can’t wear it in pools as the chlorine will destroy the elastics and fade the colors. Probably not during the first or even 5th time but count on its quality to eventually degrade faster than it should.
- Regardless of the care instruction (in exception of dry cleaning which is unlikely), always rinse your sports bra with freshwater after use as soon as possible.
- To avoid an uncomfortable fit, weigh your sports bra or try it on while soaking wet. Assess its weight and see if it’s something you can easily carry while swimming.
- Don’t wear sports bras that have more than 20% cotton. Cotton is the most absorbent of all fabric. It’s also very sensitive to chlorine and saltwater.
- If all else fail, just wear a bikini top and be done with it. 🙂
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