Whatever your shape and style, there’s swimwear out there to suit. Stephanie Smith has tips on what to try and what to avoid.
It’s exhausting, just thinking about becoming holiday ready – all that dieting, toning, exfoliating, depilating, tanning and then, finally, the very worst bit, finding your beach and pool swimwear.
One-piece, bikini, tankini, peplum style, halterneck, bandeau, plunge, wrapover, control… there are plenty of styles to consider and choose from, but which is best for each body shape? And talking of body shape, which body shape are you anyway? Pear shape, inverted trapezoid, hourglass, apple, top heavy, athletic, curvy? It’s all so confusing and stressful, not to mention body shaming, having to hide all these bits and pieces not considered perfect.
Perhaps the whole issue can be simplified by remembering that swimwear is like all clothing, only more so (ironically, because there is less of it). So we can follow the same rules that we might, say, for a dress. The basic idea is that best features are highlighted, less favourite bits are minimised or boosted in some way, and those bits you can’t do anything about, well, you can always tie a sarong round them.
Here is our guide to selecting the best swimsuit for you:
Pear shaped/ample bottom: The good news is, you can go for a bikini, as long as you avoid boy shorts, which widen hips, and high legs and/or string ties, which just look silly. The key is balancing your proportions and getting the coverage you need for your bottom half. Whether swimsuit or bikini, try designs with solid colour bottoms and printed tops, also plunging necklines, ruched and bandeau style tops – anything to draw attention up top, minimising the bottom.
Small bust: To an extent, many of the pear shape rules apply (and indeed you may also be a pear). Finding a bikini or suit with embellishments or ruffles is bust-boosting, while you could also look for padded cups. Triangle tops, athletic scoop tops and bandeaus can all work for you. If you go for bikini tops or swimsuits with a double shell, be very careful in a spa pool bath because the bubbles can get inbetween the layers and make your bust balloon up alarmingly (amusing and/or embarrassing).
Large bust: Avoid string bikinis and spaghetti strap swimsuits and look instead for underwired or sports bra styles that will give proper support. Also look for thicker straps and experiment with halter-necks, which can be surprisingly supportive and flattering. A plain colour top and printed or ruffled bottom half can also be effective in balancing out proportions.
Athletic/slender: The aim is supposed to be to give the illusion of more curves, using ruffles, padding and gathering. Bandeaus, boy-cut briefs or shapeless styles will emphasise your lack of curves, so if that’s what you want to do, go for it. A tankini scoop-neck, vest-style top can look sporty and refreshingly non-glam.
Apple/tummy trouble: A full-piece swimsuit with ruching is the way to go, skimming the stomach. A one-piece with a plunging neckline can also divert attention from the tummy, and patterned swimsuits have a generally more disguising effect. There are lots of suck-it-all-in swimsuits out there to choose from, but make sure you buy a size big enough – anyone who has struggled in and out of a tight-fitting, double-layered, sculpting swimsuit, especially when it’s wet, will know how impossible and uncomfortable they can feel.
Short legs: Look for high or arch- style legs but not if you worry that your thighs are hefty as it will make them worse.
Wide shoulders: Try a one-shoulder style swimsuit as the asymmetric style narrows the lines.
As with all tricky clothing, experiment and try it on. When in doubt, get out that sarong.