For some of us, the idea of putting on a bathing suit conjures thoughts of summer, the ocean, drinking a cocktail poolside... For others, it commences a cascade of self-scrutiny and dread. If you're in the latter camp, the solution is not to go to the gym twice a day or start some fad diet. The answer, my friend, is to find a swimsuit you actually like.
Whether it's a bikini, one-piece, or tankini, it's out there, it looks good on you, and you're going to find it. Here are eight tips for finding a suit so flattering you can't wait to hit the beach:
KNOW YOUR BODY
You want to buy a suit that plays up the parts of your body you like and either de-emphasizes the parts you're self-conscious about or, better yet, gives them a boost. Love your collarbone? Looking to enhance a smaller bust? Want to direct attention away from your thighs? Worried about how you'll look from behind? Knowing ahead of time what you want your swimsuit to do for you will help you rule out a lot of the selection and zero in possibilities that look and feel great.
TRY ON MULTIPLE SIZES, AND TAKE YOUR TIME
Once you buy the bathing suit and remove those (gross) adhesive liners, you’re stuck with it. That's a good reason to take your time choosing your suit. Before you go shopping, research brands you like and the styles they're selling this year. Then, if at all possible, go to the store to try suits, rather than ordering online. It will ultimately be less of a headache than mailing back suits that don't work.
Once you're at the store, get thee to the dressing room, and take a bunch of different styles in with you. Swimsuits look very different online and on the hanger than they do on your body, and you can't know what's going to work until it's on you. Try each style in two to three sizes to see how they sit on your figure. You may end up feeling most comfortable in a size larger or smaller than you usually wear. And don't feel pressured to find a suit the first time you look. Give yourself a second or third trip to stores to consider all of your options before making a decision.
IF YOU’RE BETWEEN SIZES, LOOK FOR BOTTOMS WITH ADJUSTABLE WAIST BANDS AND TIES
You're trying on bikinis in two sizes. The smaller size bottom makes your skin pucker, and the larger size fits like a diaper. Don't worry, all is not lost. Look for suits with adjustable waist bands and ties like this Heidi Klein Sete Ring Rope triangle bikini. The flexible sizing ensures that the bathing suit will sit well on your body. These suits are an especially good idea if you're buying a more expensive, hopefully timeless investment piece, as the adjustable waist will help the swimsuit adapt to any changes your body may go through. Conquering heavy sea waves or a cliff dive? Tighten the waistband so you don't lose your bottom.
CHOOSE FRILLS, COLOR, AND PRINTS FOR FEATURES YOU WANT TO ACCENTUATE
"Pear body shapes should try to accentuate the bust, so it’s best to go for padded cups or subtle details to create cleavage and draw the eye upward," says Heidi Gosman, co-owner and designer of Heidi Klein swimwear. Tops with padding, rings, and pleats help bring attention to the top. Klein also recommends "bright, colorful pieces" like this blue Saint Lucia bandeau bikini to "liven up a silhouette." De-emphasize areas you like less with a solid dark or neutral color.
GO SEAMLESS TO SMOOTH OUT YOUR FIGURE, WORK WITH TEXTURE TO ADD VOLUME
Try a s bathing suit with minimal seams around the waist or leg opening to help "smooth out" the figure. Think of it like shapewear, without the skin-binding feel. For example, if you're bottom-heavy, a seamless cut bottom will smooth out your curves without adding girth. On the flip side, if you have a petite or square frame, Gosman recommends bandeau tops, embellishments, and tie side bottom to emphasize and "give the illusion of curves." This South Beach crochet bandeau top with a bow center does the trick nicely.
IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BARE IT ALL, GO FOR A TANKINI OR A ONE-PIECE
Good news for those self-conscious about baring it all: the ‘80s obsession with itsy bitsy thong bikinis has mostly dissipated, and a wide range of designers and brands have embraced the one-piece and tankinis. We love the classic shape on this Marilyn Monroe-inspired, Norma Kamali Bill Mio one-piece. According to Nora Morales, stylist and writer who currently serves as Director of Designer Partnership at Target, if you're pear-shaped, a sweetheart neckline with cups and a bra-style strap will balance out your proportions. If you're conscious of your belly region, resist the impulse to hide your middle with a one piece and opt for a tankini instead. On her Become Gorgeous article about the tankini, fashion and style advice writer Roxy Johnson explains that "a well-chosen [style] will do a great job at hiding a bulging tummy." Since a one-piece allows fabric to sit against your torso region, this swim wear will cling to your shape and accentuate the belly.
PLUS-SIZE? FABULOUS AND SEXY SWIMWEAR ARE OUT THERE
Plus-size fashion bloggers deserve a medal for the way they've pushed the fashion industry to recognize that women of all sizes look gorgeous in swimsuits and deserve well-designed pieces worthy of their sensibility. Still, apparel companies have some work to do in the plus-size swimwear department. On her blog Garnerstyle, Chastity Garner Valentine chronicled her two-year journey to find the perfect "fatkini." Since she's a different size on bottom than on top — as are many women, plus-size and not — Valentine shops for the two halves of her two-pieces separately, even buying them from different brands. "The plus-size ... bikini is a new concept for companies, so often time[s] you cannot buy the top and bottom in two different sizes," she writes. The blogger recommends finding a top with underwire and strap, like styles offered in MonifC's current swimwear collection. "It's important to have your bust in the right place for the most flattering look," she notes. For more fashionable fun bikini pieces, Valentine loves Josephine Swim, a brand she says "proves that the swim skirt can be fashionable, youthful, and flattering to women who carry their weight in [their] hips and thighs."
DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE A LITTLE SPLASH IN YOUR WALLET
You found a suit you love, but it's more than you thought you would ever, ever spend on something you're going to wear into a vat of chlorine. If you can possibly afford it, make the purchase. Bathing suits don't wear out easily, and a classic cut will never go out of style, no matter what the trend of the moment may be. Just like the right pair of jeans can make you feel invincible, the right bathing suit will help you stop worrying about your body and focus instead on that big blue waves in front of you. You can't put a price on that.
Image: Heidi Klein