Autostraddle’s 2016 Swimsuit Issue: Secret Gay Beach Party for Lots of Gender Presentations

Welcome to Autostraddle’s swimsuit and summer guide! We’ve been hard at work putting together looks that we hope will make all your queer dreams come true. Really, we think this is going to be your best summer yet. But we’re burning daylight, so let’s dive in!

Instead of focusing on the entire season – which can sometimes feel overwhelming and unrealistic – we’ve cultivated our looks, tips and affirmations around The Secret Queer Beach Party. To us it combines everything that’s great about summer and being queer: sunshine, friends, and a space all our own. And with looks ranging from Bratty Femme, to Gender Non-Conforming Haus Boi, to Fat Femme, to MOC #1 Dad, we hope this guide will be a helpful jumping off point for a whole spectrum of presentations that we know aren’t always reflected by our current state of fashion. These looks work in a range of sizes for a variety of body types, and feel free to mix and match to your heart’s content! Let’s keep this live in the comments with your tips and links!

Utility Femme – Erin


1. Black Mesh Short Sleeve Two Piece ($22), 2. White/Black Short Sleeved Two Piece ($27), 3. Vintage Metallic One Piece ($33), 4. Black Low Back One Piece ($22), 5. Orange Sleeveless Two Piece ($20), 6. Dark Sole Chelsea Boot ($145), 7. Hoop Earrings ($10), 8. Vintage Scuba Style One Piece ($89), 9. Denim Baseball Hat ($10), 10. Palladium Pampa Hi Boot ($55)

To me Utility Femme is a dedication to aesthetic without a commitment to a lifestyle. It’s about containing multitudes! Which means at this party I’m probably going to be made up but still getting in the water/moving around/possibly playing A Sport but also doing some heavy lounging, so I want suits and shoes that’ll allow for that. With that in mind I typed a mix of keywords into Google like short sleeved, scuba-style, mesh, simple one piece, and ankle boots with rubber soles. I found some great stuff from Lollie Couture, and Etsy is another great resource for minimal vintage pieces you can easily accessorize. The best part about these items? I know every on of them can be thrifted. The short sleeved bathing suit top might be hard to find in that form, but guess what! Go to the athletic or swim section and look for a top with material that’s thick and taut enough that you can craft your own out of. No rules!

Gender Nonconforming – Alaina, self-identified Haus Boi


1. DARE Fanny Pack ($20), 2. American Rag Tropical-Print Shirt ($25), 3. In Tune with the Tides Swimsuit Top ($31), 4. In Tune with the Tides Swimsuit Bottom ($40), 5. Round Sunglasses With Blue Flash Lens ($23), 6. Birkenstock Suede Sandal ($135), 7. Twill Baseball Cap ($30)

My go-to look for the beach is part dad on a Disney vacation, and part “2 güd 4 u”. That means comfy, oversized shirts that protect my delicate shoulders from getting too much sun, a fanny pack for fruit snacks, bandaids, aloe vera gel, and other beach appropriate accouterments and a punny two-piece that shows off my favorite assets. I always go for the two-piece; more opportunities for working on my tan and easy removal is always a plus. I’d finish off the look with a baseball cap I stole from my best friend’s ex—she didn’t need it— some mirrored sunnies to scope out the cuties, and my favorite, most walkable sandals. A fancy-free fun frolic for all.

Androgynous – Danielle Owens Reid


1. Swimmee ($48), 2. Nike Roshe One ($76), 3. ASOS Sunglasses ($13), 4. Football Porthole Practice Jersey ($18) 5. Tomboiers ($30)

I’ve had make shift sports bra / shorts combos for a couple of years and before that I just never went to the beach / pool / etc. I probably spent at least a decade not even trying.

I like this suit [from Outplay] because it’s not particularly feminine and it’s not particularly masculine. I realized very recently that something I dislike is how feminine I look when I’m naked. I ALSO don’t want to look hyper masculine, so it’s a confusing spot to be. I love my body and I feel really comfortable in my body when I have complete control over how my body is presented to the world. If I have the clothes, underwear, shoes, swimsuits – whatever – then I feel really good and love how confident I feel. I’ve had to work super hard to get to this place where I have a shitload of confidence and it was even more difficult because I (still) haven’t seen anyone on TV or in movies that dresses exactly how I would like to dress. The clothes (especially swimwear) have been really difficult to find, but always worth it. On top of the confidence and feeling good about myself parts, Outplay also had great customer service, responding to emails super quickly and being perfectly candid with me. I like how tight it is because, I’m used to being worried that my boobs will fall out or my shorts will fall down.

[See Dannielle talk more about why she loves Outplay’s androgynous swimwear here.]

Fat Femme – Bevin, AKA QueerFatFemme


1. The Queen E/F Underwire Bikini ($69), 2. Diet Industry Drop Out Tee ($19), 3. Stealth Muscle Tank ($10), 4. White Beaded Collar ($39), 5. Pearl Cluster Necklace ($10), 6. Vintage Swim Shorts ($20), 7. Gay Pride swim trunks ($23), 8. Unicorn Trucker Hat ($14), 9. Goorin Bros. Trumpet Straw Fedora Hat ($50), 10. Large Brimmed Straw Hat ($6), 11. Detachable Beaded Collar ($38)

I don’t know about you but when I go to queer events I like to really doll up. My Femme identity is very important to me and I love to perform with and for other Femmes and other queers. Whatever dolling up means for your gender performance(s), I’ve compiled some ideas of how to fancy up your bathing suit!

In terms of clothing options, I love supporting small businesses and repping identities! Original Plumbing’s Stealth muscle tank is hot, especially when paired with a set of really wacky swim trunks. My Diet Industry Drop Out crop top is amazing and I love wearing it to queer events! It looks amazing as a beach cover up or over a pair of bikini bottoms. For plus size swimmers, I love GabiFresh for Swim Sexy. The whole line is wildly hot. And why not finish off an outfit with some Gay Pride swim trunks?

Accessories are great for every size and gender and vault an outfit to the next level. Around the neckline the white beaded collar/shawl over something like a teal bikini would be incredible look, you could do some amazing gender blending using the detachable collar, and of course no mermaid is complete without layers and layers of pearls. Hats tend to be less fatphobic than standard clothing, so whether you want to dapper up in a straw fedora, get flamboyant with a unicorn trucker hat, or make a bold statement in a big, floppy hat, you really can’t go wrong.

I leave you with this – your body is already secret queer beach party ready. You and your body are worthy of love and style exactly as it is right now, today. Dolling up and wearing a special outfit is a confidence booster!

[Bevin’s tip for late night beach parties: LED hair extensions, shoelaces and glasses!]

Masculine of Center – Abby, #1 Dad


1. Patterend Button-Up from Wildfang ($48), 2. Floaty Trunks from Wildfang ($56), 3. #1 Dad Hat ($15), 4. Teva Sandals ($34), 5. Nike Sports Bra ($25), 6. Crewcut Nike Socks ($20)

Put on some Jimmy Buffet, because you’re a #raddad ready for a #radsummer. Showing up at the queer beach party, we’re talking clashing patterns, pastels, and everything just a tad larger than it needs to be. Even though you’re the one who is going to take beach volleyball just a little too seriously, you’ll also keep up the beach puns and grill going all day. Being so multi-faceted, you’re going to need some sweat-ready socks with those decade-old sandals. For actual swim action, the ol’ trunks and sports bra combo is always a solid choice, and luckily fashion is catching up with that option! Top the ‘fit with the backwards hat you gifted yourself, and you’re ready to roll! Be the dad you want to see in the world. I’m already proud of ya, pal.

Bratty Femme – Cecelia


1. Paneled Crop Bikini Top ($59), 2. Paneled Crop Bikini Bottom ($49), 3. Rainbow Cloud Print Swimsuit ($65), 4. ‘Weird’ Swimsuit ($94), 5. Pink Heart Choker ($22), 6. Peach Hat ($32), 7. Pom Pom Earrings ($23), 8. Rainbow Zip Backpack ($73), 9. Pink Cat Eye Sunglasses ($30), 10. Jelly Sandals ($20), 11. Fur Slide Sandals ($40), 12. Chunky Platform Sandals ($49), 13. ‘Bondage’ Themed Nail Wraps ($11), 14. Unicorn Trim Sunglasses ($25)

It’s queer party season for this Bratty Femme, and you know what that means! I’m not getting in the water, and you can’t make me. Do you think I spend an hour every day working on a perfect contour and highlight combo so that it can wash down my face in public? No. This is my personal Bratty Femme nightmare. Luckily, there are so many other fun things I can do in proximity, including: looking cute, taking selfies, playing tunes as the queer party DJ, dancing, drinking, doing my nails, kissing mega babes, etc. I do about 90% of my shopping at thrift stores, but when I do splurge on good quality, unique pieces I only shop for three brands: Jaded London, Lazy Oaf, and Monki. These are European and London-based (aka Femme Heaven) brands that, luckily, carry a large amount of their collections online through ASOS. They aren’t cheap, but if you splurge on a piece it will reward you in a lifetime supply of “you are my femmespiration” compliments. Remember, Bratty Femme: you’re so cute it hurts. Use your beach side lounging to put that charm on display.

Dapper –  Andi

dap1. Pride Tank Top ($34), 2. Work It Out Tank ($30), 3. Color Block Swim Tank ($25), 4. Tailored Fit Board Shorts ($46), 5. Zip Front Swim Top ($64), 6. Flex Deck Shoe ($75), 7. Silver Plated Cuff Bracelet ($19), 8. Original Boat Shoe ($65), 9. Cabana Stripe Swim Trunks ($145), 10. Reader Sunglasses ($8)

A queer beach party means I need make sure every part of my outfit should stands out. I need tailored shorts, shirts that’ll make people want to take selfies with me, sunglasses that are going to make me look great in those selfies, and crisp shoes. Then if it gets too hot, (ahem) relief is a zip away.

Tomboy Femme – Riese


Look #1: Classic / Comfy / Shiny

1. Sweetheart Bralette Bikini Top ($78), 2. Adidas Slider Sandals ($35), 3. Raw Edge Short ($23), 4. Metallic Contrast Bikini Top ($25), 5. Relaxed Short Roll Hem With Rips ($57), 6. Vita Tank ($17), 7. Metallic Bum Bag ($19), 8. Cropped Hoodie ($28), 9. Adidas Trefoil Hat ($16), 10. Stitch & Pieces Tie Front ($24)

This is just me doing your feet a favor by building an entire look around Adidas sandals because they’re really comfortable and I’d like to do everything I can to bring them back into style.


Look #2: Black / White / Sexy

1. South Beach Boy Short and Top ($19, $24), 2. The Wild Tank ($40), 3. Drop Armhole Playsuit ($32), 4. Curve Control Swimsuit ($52), 5. Mesh Bikini Top and Bottom ($42, $35), 6. Raw Hem Denim High Waist Shorts ($49), 7. Vintage Cowboy Boots ($300), 8. Plunge Bandage Bikini Set ($45)

You wanna look sexy but not if it involves uncomfortable shoes or aggressive bikini waxes.


Look #3: Cool For The Summer

1. Curve Underwire Bikini Top and Ruched Bikini Bottoms ($26, $23), 2. Tomboy Femme Shirt  ($22), 3. Glitter Print Romper ($49), 4. Power Lounge Shorts ($47), 5. Metallic Silver Sneakers ($47), 6. High Waist Roll Hem Shorts ($44), 7. Nautical Stripe Bandeau Bikini Top ($57)  8. Scissoring Tank ($22) 9. Scuba Bikini Top ($86), 10. Scuba Swimsuit ($49)

This is for the lady who wants to be sure she doesn’t get hit by a car on the way to her secret party.

Classic Butch – Angie


1. Y’all Tee ($18), 2. Easy Swim Tee ($34), 3. Running Tank ($35), 4. Short Sleeve Running ($34), 5. Tropical Microfiber Trunks ($20), 6. Solid Swim Trunks ($20), 7. Havoc Sunglasses ($45), 8. Merrell Flip Flop ($41)

If I’m going to a party on the beach I’m going comfy! I like Nike DriFit shirts and rash guard tops because they feel secure and are great for the heat, plus they dry easily. Throw in some board shorts and some sturdy sandals and I’m ready to go.

Alright, party starts at 3, see everyone out there!

Los Angeles based writer. Let's keep it clean out there!

Erin has written 208 articles for us.


  1. i love this thank you…i’ve 99% never ever been able to find a swimsuit in a store that i feel comfortable in (the last time i bought one i was 13, it was mandatory for p.e. class, and my older sister chose it for me), but the moment i saw the first utility femme section i felt like it would be something that i would wear and still feel like myself. it’s so helpful to see such a large spectrum of examples

  2. In some fit of…I don’t know…I tried to find rashguard shirts to match each of the above presentations and after managing to find an item fit for a Fat Femme that went to 3x and was not shit I need a break, plus one of the sportswear sites is under going maintenance at the moment. The search for the perfect amount of dadness in a rash shirt is put on hold.

    BUT who the fuck decides on making a “plus size” a rashguard in some gad awful print that looks like fucking cow print? I want answers and knuckles to rap.
    Baby Jesus is probably very disappointed and about to cry at that person because pre-cry induces more guilt.

  3. “Utility femme” – I feel like this is exactly my gender presentation! Can we have 1000 utility femme articles? Could we get some kind of practical item in the shop with utility femme emblazoned on it, like a swiss army knife, bottle opener, fanny pack or multipurpose giant scarf / beach wrap / one-person picnic blanket?

    Anyone else want to share your current swimwear situations? I feel like I’ve finally gotten it figured out this year, as I decided to replace my five-year-old black bikini with some pieces that actually fit me and make some kind of statement beyond “whatever”. I have these polka-dot bikini separates from Monki: for public pools and other situations that require me to wear a top, and these high-waisted briefs from Weekday: for topless beaches and more private places, where I can wear the ultimate utility top, nothing. I LOVE the seams on my Weekday briefs, and high-waisted everything just feels right.

    Basically @cecelia is right, Monki is great and if you like its selection, definitely try out its sister shops / fellow members of the H&M conglomerate, Weekday, COS, and & Other Stories. I’ve been so spoiled to live in Europe and have all these stores at my fingertips. And also topless beaches.


    I especially love the obnoxious pride trunks and even though I don’t have the money I’m probably going to buy them, which I’m justifying to myself as needing because I lost enough weight this winter that a couple of my old pairs of trunks no longer fit (thanks, illnesses) and I need trunks for work, if I’m ever able to work this summer. (Not that I’d wear those ones at work, yikes, I don’t think they’d go over well, but I still need another pair if only so I’m not changing into wet boardshorts at work because that’s like the worst feeling ever and I will do many things to limit the times I will ever need to put on wet gear).

    And if people are looking for sports bras to serve as swim tops, I can’t recommend under armor bras for it. They dry suuuuuper fast and come in a variety of colors like black as your soul, boring/neutral gray, and bright purple and turquoise, so you can live up to your #aesthetic goals.

    I also need to invest in a few obnoxious hawaiian print shirts because for some reason they’re A Thing for raft guides? I’ve been guiding for almost 6 seasons and I’ve never owned one and I’m starting to feel like I need to bow to that pressure and pick up some eye-hurting bright patterns for work. (I mean, I make up for it with my bright patterned shorts and tie-dye off the river, but y’know, I just need to be one of the cool kids).

  5. Inspired by this and a few other things in my life, I have decided to make this the year I invest in Swimsuits I Don’t Hate.
    And my destination has been…. don’t laugh… Hot Topic.
    I know… nothing says “I’m a sophisticated adult lady” like buying a swimsuit from Hot Topic. But LOOK HOW CUTE (and reasonably non-ostentatious as fandom-themed clothes go) this Poison Ivy themed swimsuit is!
    Of course, if you like more ostentatiously fandom-themed swimsuits, you ALSO cannot go wrong here!

  6. @Danielle I see you! Thanks for your selection. I’m right there with those same andro feels and woes. I’m mostly vibing Androgynous and Utility Femme. If that first set in Utility Femme did anything for minimising boobage, I’d be set for life.


    I started this real late or early in the morning a couple of days ago so…some of choices might be a bit dubious

    Utility femme

    Serious, no nonsense, feminine cut close to the body

    Gender Nonconforming was attempted but Alain-ness answered, I think o_O


    Not cut too close to the body, could totally be from the men’s department maybe, whatev it’s cool and dudely
    Yes the Caviar and Shadow one, snerk SHADOW

    Fat Femme

    Essentially something cute that says fuck you I ain’t hiding, but I am protecting my tender dermis from UV rays while having fun in the sun and sand
    Sadly this beautiful shirt is only available from Old Navy in size 1x because it’s probably sold out.

    It goes to 3x and has tunic styled rounded v-neckline (It’s Torrid, one of 2 rash guards from they have that only go to 2x)

    Masculine of center, but I aimed for parrot head dadness

    I think I succeeded, but some alternatives

    Bratty Femme
    Not pastel but I could see a Bratz doll wearing it so I think it works with the aesthetic alternatives that are closer to a pastel palette

    Dapper- is the most foreign of things to me so I just went looking for something that made me think of nice sweater type things
    or marinas
    or golf

    Tomboy Femme
    sporty and cute
    would match an addias sandal

    Classic butch
    just bit more color and goes to XXL,3xl&viewall=no

    In men’s rashguards the XXXL has a lot of variety, but women’s tends to cut off at XXL and reduce in variety rather sharply in the 3 primary sites I did my gathering from :(

    Lands End is only place I found femme-y XXL

    In “tunic style” that I rather like, but I’m a medium sized person (at current) who likes being rather covered in public because the sun. But I can still remember when I wasn’t as medium sized and among idiots the burning sting of being told to cover up, of feeling hideous like I needed to cover my self in the biggest loosest layers as possible.
    Got the Gabi Fresh bikinis, but like where are the rashguards? Or is that too “sporty” an item to be made for fat girls stupid mainstream swimwear companies.

  8. Great write-up. I guess I’m tomboy/utility lez but with chacos sandals.

    Also good to note that I was totally a utility/tomboy lesbian before I knew myself–sewing practical swimwear as a young baby dyke. Fun times in my rural hometown.

  9. So I went into the men’s section of a department store today, a first for me. I talked to an employee, something I was pretty nervous about doing. I tried on a bunch of swim trunks, mainly trying to figure out sizes. I had measured myself, and expected to be two sizes bigger than what I finally found comfortable. I grabbed a nice 30$ pair, and just ordered a more expensive pair online.

    When I got out of the changing room for the first time, I looked around for that rack they have for you to put your clothes that you’re not taking on. I didn’t see one, so I asked the employee. He laughed, and told me that no one had ever asked him that before, they usually just give him the things they aren’t taking. Which was… Weird? I also asked for the ‘dressing room’, and then blushed and corrected myself to ‘fitting room’.

    But tops… Swim tops. I think I’m going to go the rash guard route. I realised yesterday that the most comfortable I’ve ever been in a bathing suit was when I could wear a t-shirt over top of it, so a rash guard is an obvious move. Unfortunately the ones in the Men’s section hang like a sack on me, even the small ones. So I guess I’ll try to find a ladies one that isn’t pink, and doesn’t have a huge logo on the front?

    I also bought sports bras for the first time ever, since I was reading online that people typically wear a bathing suit top under the rash guard, in case it rides up and to provide support. I looked for a really simple swim top, but everything was just too much.

    Looking through the bathing suit section though… I can’t tell you how excited I was to realise that I could just wear some nice long swim trunks and a t-shirt. Thanks for the article, this was a great eye opener for me. I definitely turned down spending time at the beach a few weeks ago because I was embarrassed by my (oh god) 7 year old bathing suit.

    And that ends my chatting about how I FINALLY bought some mens clothes. I’ve wanted to for months and months, but I’m just embarrassed by the idea of standing out in any way? It’s silly, and I’m trying to move past it. I wanted to thank this site for helping!

    • Go you!

      I’ve just been down online shopping rabbit hole and I must say if your local shops only carry the close fitting ladies’ rashguards in pink alternatives do exist in great variety be you under XXL.
      Also that close fitting (athletic/slim) as well as looser fit exist in the men’s and women’s departments just it seems loose fit is the most common in a men’s department that isn’t like a high performance sports gear type of shop.
      Women’s is a mixed bag or sliding scale of ‘fit’ but in my local preferred sports store the looser fit reigns supreme. The one I own clings at the shoulder and edge of the waist. The goal seems to be anti-floatation device rather than ATTN-Thar May Be Boobs Here.

  10. I mean it would be cool to have positive representation of fat queer women who *aren’t* femme just for once. Don’t get me started on how hard it is to find fat clothes that aren’t frilly and sequined. Also, since when is being fat an entirely different category of femme than a thin femme? Meh.

  11. Fat utility femme here, desperately seeking a source for a cropped short sleeve “rash guard” esque swimsuit top ala #s 1 and 2 of Utility Femme section. Lolliculture does not appear to cater to plus sizes. Is anyone making these in larger sizes? I can’t find anything.

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