For most women, the default rule for buying a new swimsuit seems to be “find one you don’t hate.”
Countless swimsuit buying guides have been written and a quick Google search will tell you whether you need a bust minimizing suit to flatter your apple shape or a ruffled top to maximize your not-so-large chest. In fact, the body shape advice doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last decade.
Fashion gurus tell women to identify their “problem spots” and hide, minimize, or distract from those areas by choosing one suit or another. However, if changing room chatter is any guide, most women have more than one area of their bodies they want to “fix” and quickly learn that swimwear is not made of magic.
It might be so that high cut leg openings elongate short gams and that ruched waists camouflage tummy bulges, but the truth is that no one suit can—or should—manage your body image issues.
Take a radical new approach: Find a suit that makes you happy instead of one that makes you feel ashamed. The idea that all women should find swimwear that aims to make us look like we have the same body shape is outdated and unrealistic.
Here are some practical tips that incorporate old body-shape advice with self-loving wisdom:
Comfort First. Don’t force yourself into the suit you think is right for your shape if it also means an entire day at the beach spent adjusting, repositioning and picking at your clothes. If you plan to swim, do watersports, or otherwise be more active than the average sunbather, get a suit that suits your movement.
Grin Factor. Why agonize over finding a suit cut for your shape when your eyes keep drifting to the brightly colored or beautifully patterned suit one rack over? Try on every bathing suit that makes you smile. Some might not be right once you hit the dressing room, but that’s why you’re trying things on. Keep at it until the fit matches your smile.
Quality Matters. For all but the most lithe of us, the skimpy, $20 string bikini is not going to make it through the parking lot, never mind the entire summer. Skip the bargain and pay for a suit with lining, support where you need it—such as tummy panels or underwire—and double stitching or wide straps where the suit will have the most strain.
Asset Management. Try this: Ignore your flaws. Your body is not a collection of mistakes; it’s an amazing machine that enables you to live life to the fullest. Whether you’ll be sitting in the sand making sandcastles or hitting the lake for some waterskiing, give your body the credit it deserves. Pick a suit that highlights your feel-good parts. Got gorgeous décolletage? Show it off! Has a winter of pilates and planking given you killer abs? Bare that midsection!
Shopping for a bathing suit can be an emotional and physical workout, with all the on and off dressing under fluorescent lights. But missing out on fun pool- and beachside moments with friends and family won’t make you any happier. This season, find the suit that allows you to feel as good as you look.