Argh! Summertime! It’s so darn bare! Keeping myself put together is definitely more of a challenge during the naked months of summer. Bathing suits and cover-ups can reduce me to tears though I’m somewhat comforted to know that every woman of every shape and every size feels that same “urgh!” reaction to bathing-suit season. We all drive ourselves crazy trying on forty-seven bathing suits to find that perfect suit that suits perfectly—a suit that makes us feel good about ourselves. Well, the bathing suit can only do so much, ladies. Feeling good needs to come from within. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Know yourself and love yourself.
Know what compliments your curves. Recognizing which swimsuit style is most flattering for your shape is really half the battle. Loving a certain bathing suit style does not always mean it’ll love you back. I’ve learned this through trial and error. Being a woman with “more in the middle” meant that the cute two-piece tankini might not be the best bet for me if it shows off my midriff when I lay down in a lounge chair. And I want to lay down in a lounge chair!
I love the ever-glamorous Hollywood swim-dress in the trendy polka dot pattern. I chose the Miraclesuit (yes, it’s $150), as it has the best tummy control panel for extra smoothness and a side gathered wrap-style in the midsection. I found it among Nordstrom’s fabulous plus-size choices. I accessorize my suit when poolside with a great heeled strappy platform sandal and super chic Jackie O’ sunglasses in white.
Not too long ago, plus size women were limited to less than flattering maillots with matronly thick straps, long skirts, and billowing pregnancy style tops. Today, there’s no shortage of choices out there for the curvy woman. You can choose from sexy bikinis, flattering tankinis, classic one-piece suits, boy shorts, and one-shoulder styles. I’ve come up with a few things to keep in mind when swimsuit shopping so that you can spend more time on the beach looking hot and less time in the stores feeling hot and bothered.
Get what you pay for.
Swimwear in a plus size can be expensive (even in missy sizes) and a good quality suit can set you back $80 to $150. Yes, you can still find cheap swimwear for less than $40, but an inexpensive suit might not fit as well or be as well made. If you will be wearing a bathing suit more than three or four times (and I hope you will), invest in one that is made to last. Think chic not cheap! Get inspired by the very chic suits at Fig leaves.
Shop with your style and shape in mind, not what you think might be hot or not this summer.
- The higher leg brief is a great choice to lengthen your torso if you have a fuller thigh and bootie area. Also, look for the drawstring versions to choose how high you want to go up on your leg.
- Floral patterns are great for diminishing a fuller figure, just look for a darker background. You can go lighter on the area you want to play up, i.e., the bustline.
- Wrap styles creates curves. Enough said.
- Choose navy or chocolate brown instead of black for a solid swimsuit. It’s so much kinder to most skintones and a nice change.
- Make sure you have a brief that covers your bootie sufficiently—you really don’t need an atomic wedgie at the beach. Think about buying separates so that you can mix and match your style. A solid bottom with a print top works well.
- Bandeau strapless styles are tricky. Being a small-chested gal, I love them with my good strong shoulder line. But those with a fuller bust should look for side straps in the Hollywood style, so you don’t have accidental spillage.
- Don’t be afraid to try on different styles and shades to find what works best for your beach bod. Have you checked out Queen Latifah’s new Curvation clothing line? Latifah has a brilliant gold one-shoulder asymmetrical bathing suit that blasts every other suit out of the water. If you don’t feel like bringing bling to the beach, you can opt for the side-sheared black all-in-one.
- If you’ll be doing a lot of swimming (and I like to come up from a great dive wearing what I went in with!), you may want to choose a one piece with ample support and coverage. Lands End has petite and tall torso styles, as well as the most divine new “custom” swimsuits that let you pick your style, color, shape, and support. If sunbathing’s more your speed, try the cute bikinis at London’s curvy retail company Evans. This is the number one resource for fashion—daring contemporary modern fashion at that—for real women. Remember to check the size charts, as these are European sizes.
Choose your curvy coverage.
Every woman has something about her body that she doesn’t want to celebrate. Don’t dwell on the differences between you and Halle Berry! Instead, look for a style that plays up your A-list features. I love the directory for finding your fit and with great suggestions on swim shapes at Swimsuits For All. If you’re fair skinned (or an accessory freak like me!), you may want to pick up some very stylish cover-up options here too.
Consider virtual dressing rooms.
If you detest the fluorescent lights in the department store dressing rooms and the pesky saleswomen who are not especially helpful, you may want to shop for swimwear from the privacy of your own home. There are numerous online swimwear retailers that carry a wide range of styles and sizes. Most online stores have great customer service, but make sure you understand the return policy before you buy. I love the Shop By Shape program at Just My Size.
You are your own worst enemy.
Give yourself a break when trying on swimwear. Not every suit is going to look perfect, or even fit. Remember to find a suit that makes you feel comfortable. The last thing you want to be doing on the beach is tugging on your bottoms, or sucking in your tummy, or hiding under the umbrella. Go ahead and strut your stuff with confidence. Feel good about yourself and everyone else will think you look great. You do!
One last thought: Give yourself permission to try on suits larger than you normally wear. They usually fit better—no pulling or pinching—and that number on the tag is just that, a number. You are so much more than a number. Get over it!
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Photographer: Attilo Carpi for Elena Miro 2000 Calendar
Related Story: Tips on Trends with Curves: Learning Curves