Tips for finding a bathing suit 

Shopping for a bathing suit is never easy or fun. The lighting in dressing rooms is designed to make your winter-pale skin look even more sallow than usual, and the mirror highlights every imperfection in bright, halogenic glory (they do this on purpose, and you can’t convince me otherwise!) Online shopping on phoneYou can avoid these painful visual reminders of the toll this world takes on our bodies by shopping online, but that’s a whole ‘nother hellscape to battle through, with difficult returns, shipping errors, and the oodles of junk emails that start flooding your inbox.

Whichever you choose between the depressing options of shopping in person or battling the postal service, there is still the matter of picking a bathing suit that won’t make you miserable or embarrassed. As we age our bodies change, and that’s normal, even though it can be a tough reality to embrace. And since choosing to go whole-hog on the body positivity movement can take some time (and probably a fair amount of therapy), we’re here to help you find a suit that you can wear to the beach or pool with confidence.

Start at the beginning

The best bathing suit for you is one that will allow you to pursue the activity levels that you prefer, will hold up to washing and general wear-and-tear, and will hopefully do all of this while allowing you to feel confident and comfortable. So the first step is to decide what you like to do when wearing a bathing suit. Are you swimming laps in the local pool? Splashing around with the grandkids in heavy surf? Or are you one of the lucky ones who plans on wearing the suit poolside while waiters dressed in white deliver fruity cocktails into your waiting hand?

Woman sits on the beach in a rashguard topNext, you’ll want to find a suit that fits your general style while allowing for your desired activity level. There are so many options for cuts and fits, so it helps if you know how to narrow down your search to the type of cut that you prefer. For example, one-piece suits can be difficult for those with a long torso, so if you want tummy coverage but don’t enjoy a frontal wedgie, start looking at tankinis and even rash guard two-pieces, which are designed for coverage with a wide range of motion. If you’re not the sporty type, you can go for the more fashion-forward styles, like suits with flounces, or more daring cut-outs and straps. Either way, it’s important to remain true to your style. Don’t trick yourself into thinking, “This year, I’ll be brave enough to show my stomach” and then spend the rest of the summer crouched protectively over your pale torso, or regretfully pulling on last year’s suit in resignation. On the other hand, don’t let yourself succumb to society’s ageism, either. If you don’t care that your tummy isn’t perfectly flat, then get that bikini and strut it. 

Analyze Your Strengths

You probably already know which shapes best flatter particular body types, but if you don’t, here are some general tricks of the trade:

  • If you have a smaller chest and a larger bottom (aka pear shape) go for styles that have embellishments over the bust, such as frills, beading, or patterns. These will draw the eyes upwards and visually balance out the body. Conversely, if you have a large bust then you might want to avoid all the embellishments up there, as it can make you seem a bit top-heavy.
  • If you have a long or short torso, it’s probably best to go for a two-piece of some kind to avoid an awkward fit. Here’s a great tankini that’s flattering for almost all body types.
  • Cute floral bikiniBottom coverage is key, and plenty of options exist to keep you covered. You can pick from teeny-tiny strings, high-cut, low-cut, cheeky, full coverage, high-waist, boy short, and even flattering skirt bottoms that won’t make you look like your grandma. They’ve even come out with board shorts for women, which are designed to dry quickly but fit like men’s suits, only shorter (because the patriarchy will only concede so much). Nothing is really “out of style”, so it’s important to find the fit that leaves you feeling the most comfortable.
  • Worried about sun exposure? Sleeved suits are all the rage, with a wide variety of lengths to choose from.
  • Can’t find the perfect suit? Mix and match! Designers are making tops and bottoms in different colors all the time, and no one will know if you do the mixing and matching yourself. If all else fails, a black bottom in whatever cut you prefer will go with just about any top you find.
  • Cut-out one piece on modelIf you are worried about loose skin (hey, we can’t be 20 years old forever) then avoid skinny straps, as they are more likely to emphasize what you aren’t fond of. 
  • Want to be sexy without baring your midriff? The latest trend has been cut-outs along the side of the torso, and it’s remarkably sexy without being too revealing. (Author’s note: I own the suit from the link and I LOVE it.) There are also great styles with mesh or netting that can provide supportive coverage without being dowdy.

Rock What You’ve Got

No one cares as much about what you look like in a bathing suit as you do. It’s a simple truth that is really, really hard to internalize. So while it’s important to find a bathing suit that you will be able to wear with confidence, it’s also okay to admit that you might never find the perfect one. The best you can do is find a suit that allows you to enjoy the water, and try to find a voice in your head that says “whatever” when those feelings of insecurity try to creep in.

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