Is there any shopping trip that strikes more fear and frustration into the heart of the shopper, than the journey to find a new bathing suit? Whether we feel prepared to hit the dressing room with our dream picks, or dive into it on a whim, anxiety often abounds, not only about fit and appear-ance, but also about utility and freedom from the threat of ... well, wardrobe malfunctions.
“Will it fit?” “Will this top stay on if I...?” “How does it look?” “Is it supposed to fit this way?”
As you venture toward the dressing rooms in search of your next perfect suit, our goal is to equip you with some tips that will quiet the voices in your head that often make this such a difficult choice.
Above All Things, Keep Hope Alive
Let’s get the icky part out of the way first: Relatively few of us enjoy that trip to the dressing room, turning tentatively in front of trios of mirrors, in lighting that seems to trick us. We can’t see everything, it’s hard to know how it’ll look outside, and what are you supposed to wear un-derneath when you try it on? (One answer to that last bit: If you know you’ll be trying on bathing suits, wear––or bring along––thong underwear. That’ll be the closest you can get to how you’ll wear it naturally.)
Why does this process stress people out this way? Well, much of the anxiety in finding a suit comes from the social pressure that accompanies being so exposed. Even though it has been proven women worry far more about themselves than others do, fears of judgment and negative perception persist, and far more people than you know––yes, no matter how fit, toned, or perfect-looking they might seem to you––worry at least a little about these things. This anxiety means you should be all the more determined to find something that you really like.
SwimsuitsDirect agrees; their number one commandment for finding a bathing suit you love? Don’t settle. “Settling for a suit that’s all right will make you look all right. Get a swimsuit that you love that flatters your body, and you’ll look and feel your best. A swimsuit that’s too small will look terrible on you. Same with one that’s too big. Even if you don’t find anything that day, keep looking until you find something that you do fall in love with.”
To that end, we were also heartened to hear this advisory note from Audrey Jimenez of Every-thing But Water: “Swimsuit sizing does not strictly correlate to dress size. You will likely wear a size larger than your typical dress size.”
To quote a great example of confidence and go-for-it-ness, Amy Poehler: “No one looks stupid when they’re having fun.” The best accessory for any outfit, whether you’re wearing it while re-laxing on the sand, or atop a board riding the perfect wave, is an awesome attitude and a mind set on excitement. As long as you’re committed to having fun and enjoying the warm weather in whatever suit you pick, there’s no stopping you!
So, even with all these tips in mind, how do you find that suit that feels just right, the one that you can confidently hit the beach or the pool in without fear or worry?
Mix and Match Pieces
Those of us who have shopped for a suit in the “era of separates” have had this moment: You find a top you love and it fits perfectly ... but you are forced to leave it at the store because the corresponding bottom is nowhere to be found.
Thankfully, fashion has smiled on us, giving us a loophole by which to bypass such crushing de-feats. The time of having to hunt through your store’s racks for a top that perfectly matches a bottom is done, if you’re bold enough to mix it up. A blend of solids with prints or patterns can help you decide which areas you’d like to highlight or distract from.
For those who are particularly confident in their arms, bust, or upper body, we’d recommend printed or bright tops to draw the eye upward. Others may want to pull attention downward, away from problem areas or toward toned legs and hips; patterned or bold bottom pieces can achieve this.
As a bonus: Not needing to match suit pieces can make your bathing suit collection seem far bigger! A patterned top and solid bottom can be reversed the following day or week with a dif-ferent look. If you’re anticipating a summer where you’ll be wearing suits often, the mix-and-match strategy can be an effective way to “stretch” both your budget and imagination during swim season.
Embrace More Coverage as Desired
We have already lived through the time when suits that provided more coverage, suffered migh-tily in the aesthetics and fashion department, but no longer! Designers and manufacturers have pivoted to provide fashionable pieces that can also cover areas that we may not be willing or ready to share with our acquaintances near the water. High-waisted suit bottoms can provide coverage and tummy control for those seeking it; additionally, these suits will accentuate the waist and make legs look longer. They are great for balancing shape and pulling attention away from a fuller bust.
Conversely, longer tops––be they tankinis, or flounced tops with ruffles that extend into the mid-section area––can cover the midsection, while also providing additional visual interest through the draping and ruching of fabric. Should you decide to take this route when selecting swimwear, truly embrace it as a chance to find out which designer techniques and fabric choices feel and look best on you.
Don’t Forget One Pieces
Here again, the fashion gods have smiled brightly on those who are more comfortable in, or would prefer the functionality of, one-piece swimsuits. What up until recently was highly specia-lized, or decidedly matronly, has graduated to the upper echelon of fashion. These suits are de-sirable for those wishing to show off an hourglass figure, wanting to hide a tummy, or simply seeking more coverage in their swimwear.
We love this tip from Eye for Elegance when seeking out a staple of the one-piece collection, the “little black suit”: “Look for one with textural interest and a cut that flatters your body sil-houette.” If you’ve not shopped in this area of the swimwear section in a while, it might surprise you how many options a one piece suit can present––or how sexy, feminine, and fashionable they can be!
Keep Function in Mind
As the discussion of one-piece suits comes up, it’s worth mentioning: Pick a suit that fits what you’ll be doing in it. While thin-strapped or elaborate suits may serve you well from your beach chair or towel by the pool, those seeking to be more active in their suits should shop accordingly. Even the newest surfer, paddleboarder, or water skier will want a suit that can stand up to the considerable movement these pursuits require.
Christine of Love Life Surf shared her struggles in this area as she sought to find a suit that fit her body and her active lifestyle:
“For the longest time, I would opt for a larger size suit because then it wouldn’t hug my body too tightly and I thought that this would minimize any curves and lumps and bumps. However, once I got into the water, this tendency to size up didn’t help. I learned that if I wanted to be active in the water, I needed a suit that fit properly and fit snuggly [sic].”
If you know you’ll be taking to the water with extra ferocity this summer, look for halter tops that provide a bit of extra coverage that bikinis or strapless suits don’t, and ensure that the bot-tom is snug. Brands like Roxy and Seafolly, anticipating this need, have created suits that bal-ance a need for function with an eye for fashion. Consider investing in a rash guard as well, both to prevent salt burn and scrapes, and to ensure that tops stay on and in place.
Incorporate Cover-Ups into the Look
If you’re a cover-up wearer (no shame, lots of people are!), make them a part of the look you’re cultivating and not just an afterthought. A benefit of the mix and match strategy is the ability to find a color palette to work within when selecting your cover-up. Think, also, about the material they’re made of––how will they react to the moisture and other elements (think salt or chlorine) that they may need to stand up to? Depending on the fabric, a black cover up could be okay for the beach but tougher to keep pristine if exposed to chlorine often.
Cover-ups can also include shorts or even a billowy Bohemian pant; the former have come a long way since the crinkly, Bermuda-length early releases that continue to dominate men’s swim fashion. Rip Curl, in particular, is giving a new face to board shorts, making a pair something that is as fun to wear for comfort as it is for cover.
Don’t stop there, either. Are there sunglasses that go well with your cultivated beach look? Per-haps a hat that you feel confident and relaxed in? Incorporate them into the ensemble. Most of the time, the places we’re headed in a bathing suit are designed to relax and decompress us. Any additional pieces you can add to the ensemble that make you feel confident and carefree, are al-ways a welcome addition.
Launder Them Carefully
Our bathing suits serve a far different purpose than most of our wardrobes, and their makeup–– stretchy fabrics and tight stitching––is different because of it, but the downside of that flexibility. It’s far more delicate than clothing designed to be worn often and under less harsh conditions.
Swimwear takes a beating, and should be treated with enough care between uses to counteract the near-abuse it takes when we wear it. Between the repetitive motion we subject it to through swimming, surfing, or other water sports, and the elements it gets exposed to (sun, salt, pool chemicals, sunscreen, etc.), it needs to be laundered carefully. “Dry clean only” it is not, but the care you put into your suit will directly affect how long it fits well and for how long you can keep it.
Some of our favorite tips for protecting your hard-earned swimsuits include hand-washing with a combination of cold water, detergent, and white vinegar, letting them dry indoors rather than out in the sun or the dryer (as the sun can cause damage to the fabric), ensuring that they get a wash even if you don’t get wet (sunscreen can cause damage too, so make sure any traces are washed away), and avoiding metal rods when letting them dry (too long on these rods could create rust marks, which are incredibly difficult to remove from an already delicate fabric).
Ready? Now Go Get Yours
We love this time of year––with swimsuit shopping season comes the first whisper of a fun, ac-tive summer peeking around the corner. It’s our hope that it isn’t a time that comes with the dread and anxiety that you normally take with you to stores and dressing rooms. Have fun with the many options that swimwear designers have created; use this time to play around with prints, cuts, accessories, and the other items that will have you looking forward to a fun few months blanketed in sun and surf.