We all know the advice — we've seen it on countless magazine covers, heard it preached at us on makeover/fashion shows on TV, and had salespeople, friends, and family espouse its benefits to us. Those four words that make me shudder and run a chill up and down my spine: "Shop for your shape."
The advice is given out year-round for any type of clothing: "Which denim to wear for your shape," "How to pick skirts for your shape," "Here's the purse you should carry for your body shape," "What dog should you get to flatter your shape," "The cutest meal to eat on a date to flatter your body," etc. OK, so maybe I made the last two up, but tell me that you don't half expect them to show up in a magazine next month...
What then follows is usually an attempt to sum up the millions of ways that people have bodies into four or maybe six categories that are usually named after fruits or actual geometric shapes. Neither of these things ever actually end up resembling a real live human woman's body, but rather come with tips to help women with smaller busts "enhance their cleavage" and women with a bit of a tummy to "minimize their problem areas." And oh yeah — these "helpful" little guides are almost always just for women. Being a lady: So fun, right?!
But what's the deal if you wanna show your small bust off to the world or let your belly hang out and enjoy the rays? Well, the conventional swimsuit shopping guide is not for you, I guess. Swimsuit shopping, or shopping for clothes in general, is pretty stressful for most people, but shouldn't there be a way to help you get what you want out of a bathing suit and escape with your body positivity in tact? Uh, yeah. Yeah there should.
From shopping for my own suits to helping customers at the plus-size store I work at find their own perfect suit, I've seen most of the body loathing and different actual problems that people come across when looking for some cute swimwear to splash in. There are so many more things to take into account than just: "What parts of you do you want to hide?" So here are seven tips to help you feel as cute as you look on a beach, at the lake, or when tanning by the pool this summer:
1. Be Realistic
What are you actually going to use your suit for? You're going to be looking for a whole different suit if you're searching for something to SUP in, play beach volleyball in, swim laps, or just lounge by the pool. Figure out what your favorite summer activities are and go from there. Sure, a bandeau top is going to look so cute and prevent visible tan lines — but if you're planning to hit up the water park a bunch of times, you're probably going to end up flashing a bunch of people. Be smart!
2. Think About Your Body Honestly
Sure, wearing a fatkini is a nice goal to have for yourself or wearing a low-rise plus size bikini or a tankini or whatever it is that you've always wanted to rock on the beach. I'm all for pushing our boundaries when it comes to what we feel like we're allowed to wear, but if you're not comfortable and feeling confident in what you're wearing, then you're never going to wear it.
Why buy a cute suit and then have it live in a rumpled ball in your closet? What's going to be the happy medium between those two? What's considered "ideal" or "pretty" by the mainstream shouldn't dictate how we feel about our bodies, but it can and it does. Show me a person who is 100 percent content with how they look at all times and I'll buy you an ice cream cone.
3. Think Outside The (Big) Box
While there are millions of different ways to have a body, there is generally only one particular make of each swimsuit design. Womp womp, sad trombone. This means to find the perfect suit, you're probably going to have to search in more than one place to find something that suits your unique bod.
Some good places that you may have overlooked: Specialty swimwear shops outside the mall, online independent companies like Nettle's Tale's body-positive swimwear, vintage shops (have a seamstress or tailor replace the lining), and sporting goods stores.
4. Know Your Body's Actual Shapes
Understanding your body's curves and edges is beneficial when trying to asses what shape or silhouette of suit you're looking for. When people tell me they're "pear shaped" and can't find a suit, I always ask what being pear shaped means for their body. Often we find the problem is that they can't find something that fits over their hips and thighs without gaping in the waist. See how that's a much easier problem to solve than thinking your whole body is causing you trouble?
5. Embrace Separates
If you're having a hard time with the matching tops and bottoms thing because you can't seem to find something that's just right for your chest that's not just sagging off your butt at the same time, turn to two separate pieces. You don't just have to put things together because a store tells you to or wear two things in the same size, even! Find something that fits and that you think looks great, even if it means having pieces in two different styles, sizes, or from two different stores. Rules? What rules?
6. Don't Be Afraid To Go A Little "Unconventional"
So a pink string bikini's not your thing? You're non into one-pieces? Maybe you prefer an androgynous swim look but can't seem to find one. In an ideal world, we'd all be able to find clothes that make us feel confident and comfortable in our own skin. But that's not always the case in this world we do have, so sometimes you have to get creative!
Maybe some compression shorts and a sports bra are exactly what do it for you. Hey, what about a swim romper?! Perhaps a rash guard and some board shorts suit your needs. Don't feel like you have to wear what immediately pops up when you think of "swimsuit" and wear what makes you feel like you.
7. Have Some Freaking Fun
It's summer and things are warm — what more could you ask for to put a little smile on your face? Seriously, you're shopping for something that's going to let you move your body in a fun way, swim in a lake, surf, and/or hang out with friends on a hot, carefree afternoon. Uh, that sounds pretty great to me!
Keeping in mind why you're buying a suit and looking at it as another chance to add some fierce clothes to your wardrobe can put it all back in perspective. I mean, you wear a suit so infrequently compared with your other clothing: Why not buy something you'd never commit to a whole dress or top in? Look at it as a chance to have fun with your look and experiment a bit with your style. So have some fun, for heaven's sake!