Bathing suit shopping. The words can strike fear into the heart of even the most die-hard shopper.
After a winter of hiding under bulky clothes, the idea of standing almost-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 the gain.
First off, take comfort in the fact that so many different swimsuit styles are available today.
"No matter your shape or size, you can find the right suit to fit and flatter," says Michele Weston, editor-in-chief of online fashion magazine AmaZe.com.
And keeping a positive frame of mind, experts say, is a necessary step in successful swimsuit shopping.
"Go shopping on a day when you are feeling confident about yourself, or at least when you are in good spirits," advises Anne-Marie Blondeau, marketing director for Maillot-Baltex swimsuits.
7 Tips for Shopping Success
Once you've got your confidence in place, follow this expert advice on getting through swimsuit shopping season with your sanity intact:
Give your body what it needs. You'll cut down on the
number of times you cringe when gazing in that full-length mirror if you use
your 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 your bustline needs that kind of support, then you should definitely be looking for swimsuits with an underwire bra," says Andy Paige, beauty and style expert on the Emmy-nominated NBC show Starting Over.
The same is true for your bathing suit bottom, Paige says: Look for a cut and style that mimics the undies you feel most confident wearing.
"If you're just not comfortable with your body unless you're wearing some kind of shapewear, if you hate the way your body looks in anything but a high-cut panty, then you've got to look for swimsuits with these same features," says Paige.
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 of
your best assets before you hit the stores, then looking for suit
features that flatter the top three things on your list.
"If you know ahead of time what you're looking for, it's going to minimize the number of 'bad choices' you try on," says Kauchner, "and that, in turn, is going to keep you from getting down on yourself and ending up empty-handed."
Size up. Found a promising suit and can't wait to try it
on? Before you hit the dressing room, take two: one in the size you think you
are, and one a size larger, Paige says. And, she says, try on the larger one
"There is nothing more depressing than trying on that suit we love, only to find out we have to squish and squirm just to pull it on," says Paige.
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 if you go up.
"That first look in the mirror is always less of shock when what you're wearing is little bit big than a little bit snug," she says.
Bring sandals. No matter what the weather outside, when
you're shopping for a swimsuit, bring a pair of sandals, Paige advises.
"Nothing looks worse than a bathing suit paired with winter shoes and socks," she says. "You won't get a true sense of how the suit looks and you will shudder in the mirror."
Choose a store where you feel comfortable. If you love the
styles 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, says
Also important, she says, is to "avoid heavily trafficked shopping periods – with weekdays better than weekends, and mornings better than afternoon or evening." This is particularly important if the dressing rooms are communal: The fewer people around, the less likely you are to feel intimated.
Never underestimate the power of mail order. Whether
you're shopping online or in a catalog, nothing beats having your suits
delivered right to your door.
"You can try it on in the privacy of your own home, you can bend and stretch and sit and move and look at yourself from all angles," says Kauchner. "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 on your own timetable."
Wear a thong. Because nearly all stores require you to
wear 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," says
Paige. Wearing a thong, or at least bikini panties, will give you a cleaner
line that makes any suit look better.
- 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 go shopping."Being tan not only makes you look slimmer, it also puts you in a kind of summer frame of mind," says Paige. "Plus it allows you to see how your suit is going to look once you do pick up a little summer color, even the kind in a bottle."
"Being tan not only makes you look slimmer, it also puts you in a kind of summer frame of mind," says Paige. "Plus it allows you to see how your suit is going to look once you do pick up a little summer color, even the kind in a bottle."
Find a Suit that Suits You
Even when the shopping conditions are perfect, let's face it: You're still going to have to sort through dozens of suits to find the one that's right for you. To save time, here are eight tips to help you zero on styles that will work:
- To camouflage bumps and bulges. Look for large bold prints in light and dark combinations, Kauchner says. When possible, pick up a pareo or wrap to match.
- To hide a tummy. Choose a skirted suit, Paige says, but look 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 more flirty," she says.
- To diminish a full middle. Opt for a one-piece suit with a blouson 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 V halter top and high-cut legs to fill out your figure and give you curves instead of bumps and lumps, says Weston.
- To detract from a large waist and hips. Go for a low-cut suit 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 or printed top and an underwire bra or molded cup to enhance cleavage, says Weston.
- For the best overall control. Opt for a one-piece suit with tummy and derriere lift panels, says Paige. Or choose a two-piece with a bottom that reaches your belly button and has an interior support panel.