Back in May, I was flipping through InStyle’s swimsuit guide and thinking to myself, “Man, am I glad I haven’t gotten any reader requests for a suit guide. I know absolutely nothing about swimsuits.”
Then I went to check my e-mail, and found this note from Lydia:
I have a request I’d like you to cover in a blog post – summer swimsuits. Finding a swimsuit, shopping for one, how to find suits that are flattering yet covering, good places to find them, and what trends (color, pattern, and style wise) are popular this summer. I know finding a bathing suit is a challenge most women face each spring, and we’d love some tips on how to know what is flattering, because so often bathing suit shopping is very frustrating!
I know VIRTUALLY NOTHING about swimsuits, and even if I were to cook up some advice for Lydia, I can’t imagine I’d add anything new to the wealth of information that’s already out there. So here’s my plan: I’m gonna point you over to Angie’s general guides to swimwear – parts one and two – if you’re interested in “I carry my weight in the middle, what style suit should I wear?” type guidance. And right here, I’ll share some very general things I keep in mind when I shop for a swimsuit. Which happens about once every ten years.
- DO NOT avoid swimsuits/swimming because of body comparison hang-ups: You don’t look like Heidi Klum in a tankini? And there are a handful of women sunbathing on your local beach who do? SO THE EFF WHAT? You get to swim if you want to swim, just like they do.
- Don’t make swimwear shopping a giant ordeal: You do not live in a Cathy cartoon, so don’t make this activity into a month-ruining catastrophe. You need a new swimsuit. It’s gonna take a while to find one you love, in all likelihood. Block off a chunk of time, pinpoint a few stores, and stay focused.
- No matter what anyone says, if you like the look of a style, try it on: Don’t think you’ve got the abs for that bikini? Worry about how your skin will look in that cutout? You will never know for sure unless you try it on. Even if it’s a style that is “forbidden” for someone your shape or size, if you love the look on the hanger, give it a whirl. You never know what might work.
- Whatever you buy, make sure it sits quiet: Suits that pull, pinch, migrate into your buttcrack, subdivide your person, or otherwise fight your body are going to drive you bananas. Don’t pay attention to sizing and numbers. If the medium gives you major love handles, try the large.
- Whatever you buy, make sure it stays on: If the cups ride up to your neck when you lift your arms, pick a different size. If the halter ties come undone when you do a little dance in the dressing room, find a different style. And yes, I HIGHLY recommend doing a little dance in the dressing room. You need to see how this suit looks after you’ve chased a child across the sand or swum back from afar. Nobody teleports onto the beach in sunbathing position, so move in your potential new suit and see how it reacts.
- You may fear bikinis, but they give you more control: I’ve been a one-piece gal my whole life, but I finally picked up a bikini several years back. Why? Because it didn’t squish my boobs, it didn’t make me look like a grain silo, and I was able to buy a completely separate bottom that actually flattered me. Everyone has their preferences, and the very thought of a bikini may make you feel faint. But if you are considerably heavier on top or bottom, just know that a two-piece will allow you more leeway to fit both halves correctly. Tankinis are similarly flexible.
As for places to look? Well, I got mine on a total whim at Opitz Outlet … but I’d been eyeing the selections at Athleta and Title Nine for YEARS. Tons of darling designs in adorable patterns. However, while Athleta offers a wide selection of cup sizes, both brands only go up to XL in bottoms. So that’s limiting. The suits are also pretty spendy.
Both Land’s End and L.L. Bean have AMAZING variety, some adorable styles, and a greater variety of sizes – Bean goes up to 18, and LE offers regular, petite, plus, tall, and petite plus (!). Prices are a bit lower, though you’ll still probably end up spending around $70 to $100. Also be sure to check out Swimsuits for All, which has a mind-blowing array of size and style options.
Yes, all of these are online retailers and the prospect of buying a suit online must seem akin to buying an orthodontic retainer online. How on EARTH will you know what will look good by seeing a photo of a model who looks nothing like you? Well, you won’t. So you’ve got a few options:
- Pore over the body type recommendations on the websites
- Order three suits and return two
- Try on similar styles in person at Target or a department store so you can get a vague idea of what will work
We’ve got more swimsuit styles, shapes, and sizes than ever. It may take some time and frustration to find your perfect suit, but if you shop smart and patiently your efforts will pay off. Promise.
Image courtesy Swimsuits for All