How to choose the right swimsuit for your body
~ By Donna Kato.
“It’s brutal, the process of finding a suit,” says Lynn Werner, the designer behind swim separates company Lynnina in Corte Madera.
There’s only so much a bathing suit can camouflage, but modern design and fabrics can enhance assets and take attention away from trouble spots.
What helps is expert design and fabrics with spandex, lycra and other combinations of high-tech fibers that work to slim and sculpt, visually taking off pounds and inches. The MiracleSuit was one of the first to brand itself as a slimming suit, firming bulges and flattening stomachs with a hidden tightening panel. Now there are a number of swimwear labels offering suits that help disguise imperfections. Spanx, the modern girdle ubiquitous in virtually every lingerie drawer, makes swimwear with the same body-shrinking technology used in its intimate wear.
We asked Werner and Michelle Byrnes of Saga Swimwear in San Francisco for help on finding the best suit for your body.
Werner was vacationing with her family in Hawaii in 2007 when the idea of designing board shorts came to her. Unlike most board shorts, Lynnina shorts are cut to flatter women’s figures. They come in two lengths, have an inner built-in brief and are meant to be paired with Lynnina’s coordinating bikini tops and tankinis, which have underwire and shirring for a better fit.
Byrnes names her pieces after international airports in cities where she found inspiration for her designs. She notes that her suits “have versatility so they can work in other ways” beyond sitting by the water. A suit from this year’s collection, featured on Page 32, has cap sleeves, making it work as resortwear when paired with a long skirt.
Unfortunately, there is no better way to find your best-fitting suit than surrendering to the indignities of the dressing room and a full-length mirror. But both Werner and Byrnes advise doing what you can to make the search less of a horror: Don’t gorge on carbs the night before shopping, wear a little makeup and selftanner, even try on suits while wearing heels. Anything to give yourself a boost of confidence.
Go to a store with a large selection and try on a variety of styles. Fight the urge to immediately tear off an ill-fitting suit. Instead, figure out what makes it look bad on you. Determine your problem areas as well as your best assets.
To tame a tummy:
- If the rest of your torso is in pretty good shape, consider a two-piece with bottoms that rise high on the waistline. It was a look sported by Betty Grable, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, and it’s right on trend this summer. Another option is board shorts.
- One-piece suits hide the middle, but have a tendency to look mature. Look for built-in bras, shaped bustlines, V-plunges (not too deep!) and touches such as piping and color blocking. Shirring and draping help disguise bulges. Legs cut high on the outer thighs make a one-piece more youthful.
- Colors such as sapphire blue, garnet, purple and emerald work for most women. Pastels do not. If you’re drawn to a print, check yourself from all angles to make sure the pattern doesn’t highlight your body in a place you’d rather not.
- Consider one-shoulder suits, lace insets and halter styles, all details that take cues from the runway and current trends.
- Tankinis tend to be shapeless and flare out at the hip. Because they are rarely made with molded cups and have skinny straps, they work best for women with small bustlines. (Lynnina is one company that make tankinis with slenderizing shirring and underwire.)
Nothing ages you faster than a sagging bustline. A good swimsuit should lift and shape your chest with a built-in padded bra or boning and seamed construction.
- To minimize a full bust, look for wide straps and halter styles that offer coverage plus solid support. Darker colors, especially on top, give a leaner look. Racerback styles and tank suits are not for you.
- Small-busted women can get extra shaping and fullness with padding, gel inserts and underwire. Bandeau and halter styles in bright colors and prints can give the illusion of curves.
Slim the hips
If you’re bottom-heavy, try a contrasting dark bottom and light-colored top. Make sure your bikini bottom hits your hips where they start to curve inward to meet your waistline, and leg openings are cut high. Don’t go near string bikini bottoms.
Thoughts on thighs
Choose a suit with leg openings that are cut to flatter your figure. While a sexy sarong or pareo can veil upper legs, do not be tempted by a suit with a ruffle around the legs or an attached skirt. They’re for toddlers.
Skip horizontal tripes, cutouts, shiny and whites
These look great on hangers and models. But if you’re reading this, you’re neither, and trying on these options might send you screaming from the store.
- Strategic cutouts call attention to the wearer – isn’t that what you’re trying to avoid? Cutout suits are generally designed for young women, but if you find one that features a peek-a-boo detail that’s becoming – and you’re very sure – then go for it.
- Shimmery, glittery, sparkly. Metallics reflect light, which means you’ll not only look bigger under the sun, but also really, really bright. Resist embellishments such as crystals and sequins unless you’re genetically blessed and can stand toe-to-toe with Cameron Diaz or Helen Mirren.
- Strike horizontal stripes – even though they’re in again this season, in kicky nautical themes and ombre rainbow hues (this includes tiger and zebra patterns). An acceptable option: suits designed with stripes going in different directions, which can be a slimming illusion.
- Nearly nude. Wear a white suit or one without a built-in bra, and you might as well be naked.