The Brazilian bikini is a thing of legend, and while the locals still favor revealing styles, the local look is no longer defined by the famous fio dental ("dental floss") model. While this may be bad news for hot-blooded male visitors to Rio de Janeiro, it's good news for those females who want to look good while leaving at least a little to the imagination.
Brazilian beachwear does have its own unique style, and with some of the world's most acclaimed beachwear designers hailing from Rio, it makes sense to wait until you arrive to the city before buying your bikini.
Rio's beaches are the city's social spaces — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
Rio de Janeiro's beaches are the city's social spaces, and – contrary to media images – they're attended by mere mortals as well as golden-limbed supermodels. Cariocas – as locals of Rio de Janeiro are known – head to the beach to eat, drink, play sports and catch up on the gossip as well as to top up their tans. You'll want to feel comfortable in your beachwear if you're going to be spending entire days on the sands.
One curiosity about shopping for bikinis in Rio is that, while the locals tend to be curvy, swimwear cuts rarely reflect this. On street markets and high-street fashion stores, a bikini top labelled "XG" to indicate it's extra large will scarcely contain anything above a C cup. So it's worth heading to more specialized boutiques if you want to find something that will flatter without revealing virtually all.
While it's easy to pick up a cheap bikini right on the beaches – vendors stroll the sands of Ipanema and Copacabana, hawking their sarongs and colorful bikinis – those looking for cuts that flatter and support a curvy frame will find that it's worth investing a little extra and browsing the rails of trend-setting swimwear stores such as Lenny and BumBum Ipanema.
Ladies who are slim but busty should look out for opportunities to monte seu bikini. (This means you can mix and match bikini tops and bottoms to suit your body shape.)
Once you've got the bikini sorted, you'll need a kanga, or sarong. These colorful pieces serve as skirts and dresses as well as beach towels. You can find them in any number of styles and at affordable prices by heading to the downtown shopping area known as Saara, where you can buy in bulk for even better prices.
Now, just summon up all your body confidence and get ready to turn heads on the beaches of Rio.