15 Tips for Saner Swimsuit Shopping

Experts offer advice on buying a bathing suit with a minimum of stress.

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on May 12, 2006
5 min read

Bathing suit shopping. The words can strike fear into the heart ofeven the most die-hard shopper.

After a winter of hiding under bulky clothes, the idea of standingalmost-naked in front of a full-length mirror in a strange location … well,it's enough to give you a case of the hives.

But, experts say, there are ways to minimize the pain and maximize thegain.

First off, take comfort in the fact that so many different swimsuit stylesare available today.

"No matter your shape or size, you can find the right suit tofit and flatter," says Michele Weston, editor-in-chief of online fashionmagazine AmaZe.com.

And keeping a positive frame of mind, experts say, is a necessary step insuccessful swimsuit shopping.

"Go shopping on a day when you are feeling confident about yourself, orat least when you are in good spirits," advises Anne-Marie Blondeau,marketing director for Maillot-Baltex swimsuits.

Once you've got your confidence in place, follow this expert advice ongetting through swimsuit shopping season with your sanity intact:

  1. Give your body what it needs. You'll cut down on thenumber of times you cringe when gazing in that full-length mirror if you useyour lingerie as a guide to what to look for in a swimsuit.

    "If, for example, you always wear an underwire bra and you know that yourbustline needs that kind of support, then you should definitely be looking forswimsuits with an underwire bra," says Andy Paige, beauty and style experton the Emmy-nominated NBC show Starting Over.

    The same is true for your bathing suit bottom, Paige says: Look for a cut andstyle that mimics the undies you feel most confident wearing.

    "If you're just not comfortable with your body unless you're wearing somekind of shapewear, if you hate the way your body looks in anything but ahigh-cut panty, then you've got to look for swimsuits with these samefeatures," says Paige.


  2. Prioritize your assets. Do you have a fabulous bustline,but not such a great tummy? Or a terrific waistline, but jiggly thighs?Silhouettes.com merchandising director Fran Kauchner advises making a list ofyour best assets before you hit the stores, then looking for suitfeatures that flatter the top three things on your list.

    "If you know ahead of time what you're looking for, it's going to minimizethe number of 'bad choices' you try on," says Kauchner, "and that, inturn, is going to keep you from getting down on yourself and ending upempty-handed."


  3. Size up. Found a promising suit and can't wait to try iton? Before you hit the dressing room, take two: one in the size you think youare, and one a size larger, Paige says. And, she says, try on the larger onefirst.

    "There is nothing more depressing than trying on that suit we love, only tofind out we have to squish and squirm just to pull it on," saysPaige.

    Swimsuit sizes vary dramatically from line to line, and even style to style.And, says Paige you'll feel a lot better if you have to go down a size than ifyou go up.

    "That first look in the mirror is always less of shock when what you'rewearing is little bit big than a little bit snug," she says.


  4. Bring sandals. No matter what the weather outside, whenyou're shopping for a swimsuit, bring a pair of sandals, Paige advises.

    "Nothing looks worse than a bathing suit paired with winter shoes andsocks," she says. "You won't get a true sense of how the suit looks andyou will shudder in the mirror."


  5. Choose a store where you feel comfortable. If you love thestyles a store carries but find its sales help (or even the other customers)intimidating, you're less likely to come home with a suit you love, saysBlondeau.

    Also important, she says, is to "avoid heavily trafficked shopping periods– with weekdays better than weekends, and mornings better than afternoon orevening." This is particularly important if the dressing rooms arecommunal: The fewer people around, the less likely you are to feel intimated.


  6. Never underestimate the power of mail order. Whetheryou're shopping online or in a catalog, nothing beats having your suitsdelivered right to your door.

    "You can try it on in the privacy of your own home, you can bend andstretch and sit and move and look at yourself from all angles," saysKauchner. "And if you buy at least two or three suits in different sizes,you can find the perfect fit, return the ones you don't like, and do it all onyour own timetable."


  7. Wear a thong. Because nearly all stores require you towear underwear when trying on swimsuits, wear the skimpiest undies possible."There's nothing more distracting that trying on a swimsuit over loose,bagging panties that are going to crumple and bunch under the suit," saysPaige. Wearing a thong, or at least bikini panties, will give you a cleanerline that makes any suit look better.


  8. Get a faux tan. The lighter your complexion, says Paige,the worse you're going to look in that first glance in the full-length mirror."It's all that flesh coming into view all at once that shocks the eye,"she says. The antidote: Slather on some self-tanner the night before you goshopping."Being tan not only makes you look slimmer, it also puts you in akind of summer frame of mind," says Paige. "Plus it allows you to seehow your suit is going to look once you do pick up a little summer color, eventhe kind in a bottle."

"Being tan not only makes you look slimmer, it also puts you in a kindof summer frame of mind," says Paige. "Plus it allows you to see howyour suit is going to look once you do pick up a little summer color, even thekind in a bottle."

Even when the shopping conditions are perfect, let's face it: You're stillgoing to have to sort through dozens of suits to find the one that's right foryou. To save time, here are eight tips to help you zero on styles that willwork:

  • To camouflage bumps and bulges. Look for large bold printsin light and dark combinations, Kauchner says. When possible, pick up a pareoor wrap to match.
  • To hide a tummy. Choose a skirted suit, Paige says, butlook for one with edges that turn up at the sides in a "shirttail"style. "This will make your legs look longer and the skirt look moreflirty," she says.
  • To diminish a full middle. Opt for a one-piece suit with ablouson top, or a long tankini- style top over a bottom that hits at the waist,Weston advises.
  • To create curves in all the right places.Try a deep Vhalter top and high-cut legs to fill out your figure and give you curvesinstead of bumps and lumps, says Weston.
  • To detract from a large waist and hips. Go for a low-cutsuit with a wide neckline to create balance between the upper and lower body,Blondeau says. A solid-color bottom with a printed top will minimize hips.
  • To slim a full chest. Choose a halter top to lift you,cover jiggly areas at the side of the bust, and put all the focus up front,says Paige.
  • To enhance a small bust. Get a suit with a bright orprinted top and an underwire bra or molded cup to enhance cleavage, saysWeston.
  • For the best overall control. Opt for a one-piece suitwith tummy and derriere lift panels, says Paige. Or choose a two-piece with abottom that reaches your belly button and has an interior support panel.