Swimwear is clothing designed for participating in different manners of water based events and/or to be worn as light clothing in hot conditions, such as those at a beach.
Skin-tight costumes generally designed to be practical and often fashionable. They are usually less revealing than bikinis while still offering maximum manoeuvrability as the wearer's arms and legs are completely free.
A swimsuit worn by female students during swimming classes in Japan.
Bikinis are two-piece swimsuits for women. The top piece covers and supports the breasts while the bottom piece covers the crotch area and some portion of the buttocks, depending on the style. This leaves the arms, legs, stomach and back exposed, comparable to women's underwear.
Two-piece swimsuits are nothing new, but the modern bikini wasn't invented until 1946 by French engineer Louis Réard. He named the bikini after Bikini Atoll, a nuclear weapons test site. There are many different variants of the bikini, listed below are some of the major ones.
Swimsuits have become very common in modern anime and manga. They are usually worn by characters when they are at the beach, are swimming, or when the weather simply allows for it.
Some characters like Yoko Littner wear a bikini casually, though often only as part of an outfit, accompanied by shorts, a jacket, or other items of clothing.
Occasionally bikinis and other swimsuits are used as a form of censorship. Characters wear them during bathing/shower scenes to avoid showing their lady-parts, these bikinis are sometimes called "digital bikinis" because they were edited over the top of the original scene featuring nudity. More often though, a towel is used for this purpose.
It's inadvisable (if not downright stupid) to wear a bikini during cold weather, particularly when it's raining or snowing, yet some characters completely disregard this. Luckily however, scantily-clad women in anime and manga are often inexplicably unaffected by the cold.
The sight of swimwear (particularly bikinis) in anime and manga often indicates an oncoming onslaught of fan service.
Bikinis and other swimmsuits are usually featured in "beach episodes" which more often than not offer very little in terms of meaningful plot progression or character development, instead focusing mostly on the fact that anime women are running around with extra skin on show. Adversely, some anime and manga series like Squid Girl take place almost entirely at the beach. In these cases bikinis are generally given less focus.
Regarding female characters, bikinis typically expose more of the body than one-piece swimsuits, thus allowing for a fuller tan and providing more eye-candy for onlookers. However, bikinis are far more prone to slipping or being pulled off, which is often used in anime and manga both for fan service and comic relief. Provided the wearer has big boobs, bikinis also provide excellent opportunities for the Gainax Bounce or "Gainaxing" to occur.
Swimsuit cosplay isn't seen very often, mostly because of the simple fact that excluding characters like Yoko Littner and characters from anime or manga that focus on swimming, swimsuits aren't part of a character's usual outfit. Those who do choose to wear swimsuits have to be considerably bold and more dedicated than the average cosplayer. Generally you will find more professional cosplay "idols" posing in swimsuits than regular anime fanatics and convention attendees.
Popular examples of cosplay involving swimwear are listed below:
Swimsuit figures are among the most popular kinds of anime figures. Many female characters who appeared in swimwear at some point or another receive a detailed rendition in plastic. An example of such a figure is the Kirino Kousaka 1/8th Scale Figure produced by Ques Q. Usually these figures are based on appearances in anime or manga, but sometimes they're based on promotional artwork.
Wave's line of Beach Queens figures are particularly popular, featuring characters from various franchises.
Some figures come with interchangeable outfits that may include swimwear, "ero" figures sometimes features removable swimwear.