Bathing Suits: the good, the bad, the ugly

Ladies. I feel like I have to take a deep breath before I start writing this because the subject of bathing suits is so fraught with … I can’t even find the right word. Tension, emotion, danger, fear? All of the above? Regardless, it’s not pretty. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but since a New York Times article got me thinking about it, I finally sat down to reflect upon the sad relationship between women and their bathing suits.

I recently went on a beach vacation with my family. It was wonderful. The bathing suit situation was not. They were, to a tee, ill-fitting. Your bathing suit should never give you a muffin top.

As I stared into the recesses of dimpled cellulite, I thought about some basic rules for bathing suit use. Or at least my rules. And they are:

(1) Your bathing suit should not make any part of your body feel like sausage being encased in Saran wrap. Since they run mind-numbingly small, buy your suit a size bigger than your dress size. The fit is more important than the size. Look, I love it when my clothing tags say ‘2’ as opposed to ‘8,’ and most of the time you can fudge it with a good pair of spanx. Do not, I repeat, do not attempt it with bathing suits. Just take my word on it. If you need to use the word ‘bulge’ to describe any part of your body in a swimsuit, it’s too small.

(2) Buy separates. Chances are your bottom half is bigger than your top half or vice versa. I, for one, know that while a size small bikini top will fit me, size small bottoms will most certainly not. Both top and bottom should fit.

(3) Throw it away once it starts to: sag, lose elasticity, become sheer in spots, decompose or remind you of Saved by the Bell. This seems self-evident, but I can tell you from avid beach people watching that it is not.

(4) Really complex one pieces should be left to Sports Illustrated models or ill-considered Vegas trips. It seems like a good idea on the model, but trust me, side cut-outs look good on very, very few people.

(5) White is a good idea as long as it is double lined and you don’t plan on actually wearing it in water. Beyond that, a white swim suit will make you look tan no matter how pasty your office tanned skin. But it is always, always see-through when wet. Even if it’s double lined. Sorry.

(6) Boy short bottoms are not the most flattering thing for women with hips on the curvier side. This annoys me to no end. The last thing you want to do to take attention away from your hips is swatch them in masses of fabric. Go with a classic string bikini bottom and the lack of material on your hips will move the eye up.

(7) Two words: FULL COVERAGE. Unless you are a 14 year old cheerleader or Gisele, you want full coverage on your derrière.

(8) Find a solid black bottom and then just get cute colorful or black and white tops to match. Like this one.

So where does one go to find suitable suits? I prefer buying online and trying them on in the comfort of my own home. Something about poor neon lighting makes me want to get liposuction, so I try to avoid that.

There are a handful of places to go and things you can do to tackle the swim suit challenge. The standards:

I hate to be boring, but J. Crew has really great suits, that you can buy in separates, and that fit fairly well. I find that I’m a size larger in their swimwear than regular, but not by much. The bad news: I have not been able to order their stupid tulle bikini in the year I have been trying because they are always out of my size. Not that I’m bitter about that. Another good standard: American Eagle. They don’t have the same deep selection as J. Crew, but they have solid basics.

I hate to say it, but Victoria’s Secret. This can be dicey as they really want you to break rule #4 (A LOT), but when it comes to cheap, good standards, they are hard to beat. Order a generous size (or maybe two) up and, whatever you do, don’t order the ‘cheeky’ bottom. No one wants to see that.

no offense, but you’re ass doesn’t look like this.

One of my favorites is Bluefly, because they have free return shipping. I’ll order five or six knowing that I’ll keep only two. And they have great deals on otherwise pricey suits. They have one of my favorites, Lisa Curran, whose suits I would not be able to buy full price.

LL Bean. Go ahead and laugh, but if you only buy one bathing suit, it should be a simple black one piece from LL Bean. I have a long torso, which makes one-pieces almost impossible, but LL Bean has several in long sizes, as well as a host of other non-standard sizes.

When I’m feeling like I need to be younger and cooler, Swell does the trick. You feel Hawaii chic, but beware the bottoms. Many of them are emphatically small.

And finally, Asos. They just have great product, including bathing suits. Good hunting!




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