At last, it’s summer in Portland, the rain has stopped, the sun is out, the mercury is rising (this weekend should bring the year’s first temperatures above 90 degrees) and you definitely need a new swimsuit.
Absolutely, you could browse the sure-to-be-picked-over racks at Target, or roll the dice on one of the suits in the Summersalt catalogue that looks so good on the model. But much better to shop local, especially with a growing number of Portland retailers that will custom-make a suit to your precise specifications, so you can feel your most fabulous at the pool, the coast, the lake and your favorite local swimming hole until the rain rolls back in this fall. (Just be careful out there—thanks to our soggy spring, rivers are running high, fast and cold.)
Here's a look at our favorite local places for swimsuits that’ll see you through all summer long.
Decorated in what designer and co-owner Pamela “Lulu” Levenson calls “Gilligan’s Island chic,” this NE Fremont Street boutique is a year-round tropical paradise. Levenson’s designs draw on classic Hollywood glam (one pattern is named for Grace Kelly) and carry a timelessness to match. We’ve never gone to Popina and not found something: maybe a Sylene one-piece with ties for a custom fit or, out of the sale bin, some wildly colored boy-short bottoms with a draw cord up the sides. Popina suits are built to last, which can be a downside as it might be hard to justify getting that new one you just fell in love with.
A retro halter suit I bought at the old NE 42nd & Alberta location in the mid-2000s (when the shop was called Poppi Swim—there were prepandemic locations in Hollywood and the Pearl, too, before the business condensed to the Fremont shop in 2021) has lost a little elasticity in the stitching and doesn’t hug like it used to, but the suit is so cute that I don’t mind a little side boob. The house line is my favorite, but the dense selection includes Gottex, Maxine, Anne Cole, Tommy Bahama, and more, plus trunks from Rip Curl and Billabong, cover-ups, Havaianas flip-flops, goggles, sunglasses, and hats. 2393 NE Fremont St —MS
Buckman/Central Eastside Industrial District
Cassie Ridgway, the owner of this smart, eco-aware women’s clothing store tucked inside of home goods mecca Cargo, is also the designer of the in-house line called, pragmatically, Altar Houseline. She added swimwear to the mix because she was finding that other options felt either “too ornate or too sporty.” (We’ve all been there. Maybe you don’t want to go quite so practical as a Speedo, or quite so outre as a fringed thong? Us too.) “I wanted something that was elegant and chic, yet sensible and comfortable,” Ridgway says.
Enter the Selka, her leading design, which is inspired by yoga and activewear—think wrap tops with plenty of support, and high-waisted bottoms which nod to the days of Betty Grable and Esther Williams. From Ridgway, we learned that the stretchy Lycra from which most swimsuits are made is a “particularly problematic textile” given its environmental impacts (not to mention that many swimsuits only last for a season or two before losing their elasticity.) That’s why she uses so-called “deadstock” for her made-in-Portland suits—zero-waste options made from remnants and bolts that would otherwise be destined for the landfill. And that’s why so many suits in her line are color-blocked; each one is unique (so no one else at the pool will be your awkward swimsuit twin.) There’s more to love here: sizes run from extra-small to 6XL, and are built to be supportive to larger and smaller bust alike. Best of all: You can try them on IRL before you buy; a range of sizes are available in the shop. 81 SE Yamhill St, inside of Cargo —JS
Hanna Salzberg, the force behind this Portland-based bespoke label, grew up in Hawaii and spent every second she could outside, preferably at the beach. Now that she’s an Oregonian, she’s a fan of summers spent at the river, and her designs reflect both places, with an emphasis on nature, flowers, and plenty of color. She makes each swimsuit to order (follow her on Instagram at @mahina.luna to see what’s new, including this summer’s collabs with local artist Jacky Boehm, who created a series of fresh, Marimekko-inspired printed fabrics for Salzberg and Hood River-based Michelle Cox, who whipped up a host of wild, eye-catching prints.) Fabrics are sourced and printed in Portland and Los Angeles, and this fall, Salzberg says she’ll be branching out into activewear too.
The name of the game for Salzberg is bikinis, and she admits it: A lot of them are itty-bitty and teeny-weeny (if not yellow and polka-dotted). “I love to encourage people to be a little daring, but I believe all bodies are beautiful, and I make suits for all sizes,” she says. Do note that she’s three or four weeks out for custom suits right now, given that she’s also busy filling orders for bikinis to sell in multiple strip clubs. You can also catch her in person at Supermarket, the monthly night flea market hosted for the summer by the venerable vintage outlet OURStore.
“I really love what I do,” Salzberg says,. “Working for yourself is exhausting because you are always on the clock, but it makes it all worth it when a customer is overjoyed and feels confident in the items they get from me.”
This dreamy little boutique sells a little bit of everything, including a well-chosen selection of swimwear from designers in the United States, Australia, and Bali. We’re fans of the jade-colored one piece from Mollusk in crinkle-stretch fabric that they have in stock right now for $130; this is also a safe bet for those who are looking for string bikinis and other revealing silhouettes, though a few more modest choices are on offer too. 3638 SE Division St —JS
Does it still count as local if the designer is from Portland but now living in Barcelona? We think so, especially since Aniela Parys is selling her Euro-chic suits at the righteously adorable Banshee, a well-curated women’s clothing, jewelry, vintage and beauty shop perched on a happening block of Burnside. We’re eyeing the Marina, a tasteful, two-toned one-piece with a cut-out that shows just the right amount of skin; find it at the store for $138. 2410 E Burnside St —JS