Does shopping for a swimsuit trigger a tidal wave of self-doubt? Here are 7 tips to guide you to shore

Does shopping for a swimsuit trigger a tidal wave of self-doubt? Here are 7 tips to guide you to shore

By Leah McLaren

In my view, every bathing suit shop in the civilized world should be legally obliged to post one of those orange signs you see beside the doors of saunas. WARNING: Exit immediately if uncomfortable, dizzy or sleepy. Avoid if pregnant or in poor medical health. Bikini shopping in conjunction with alcohol or drugs may cause unconsciousness. By the time I found out, it was already too late. I was naked, weeping, red-faced and five-and-a-half-months knocked up, under the fluorescent lights of a fast-fashion change room on Oxford Street in London, England. A discarded pile of solid colour bandeau and triangle bikinis lay in a wilted pile beside me. No, it was not a good look. But then again, what was I thinking? Swimwear shopping is a self-esteem crapshoot at the best of times, let alone with a sore back, swollen tummy and bazooka breasts.

Since then, upon much sober reflection, I have compiled a list of wisdom gleaned from years of swimwear-shopping trauma. Whether you are a gangly tween contemplating your first padded two-piece or a post-partum mum longing to reclaim your inner Gidget, the following advice will help guide you seamlessly from change room to checkout.

#1 Avoid self-flagellation in favour of self-acceptance.

Michael Kors
Michael Kors Spring 2012. Photography by Peter Sigter.

Effective swimwear shopping, in my experience, is all about knowing and accepting your true body type, whatever that may be. For years, I lived in denial of the fact that my generous D cups were simply not cut out for simple string bikinis (imagine a banana split shoved into a tea cup), however much the classic three-triangle look suited my bottom half and minimalist taste. Then I discovered the bathing bra and panty sets at U.K.-based lingerie house Agent Provocateur. The retro Amylee two-piece comes in different colours and prints depending on the season, and supports me like the 34D I am.

Jason Wu
Jason Wu Spring 2012. Photography by Peter Sigter.

#2 It is possible to conceal your wobbly bits whilst retaining your sex appeal.

Less has never been more than when it comes to swimwear. However, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of concealment when it comes to playing up your best assets on the beach (see #6).

Peter Som
Peter Som Spring 2012. Photography by Peter Sigter.

#3 Exercise caution when mixing and matching.

Stripes and solids, yes. Dots and stripes, OK. Paisley and Hawaiian florals? Only if you’re a Japanese art student on holiday in Ibiza.

Tommy Hilfiger
Tommy Hilfiger Spring 2012. Photography by Peter Sigter.

#4 Don’t be afraid to spend some of your hard-earned cash.

I know it’s only a couple of tiny strips of Lycra held together by a flimsy clip, but it’s a well known fact that as much architectural planning goes into a well-made bathing suit as into any great cathedral. (That’s a lie, but you get my point.) It’s worth having fewer, better suits that actually fit you than a plethora of poor quality ones that make you look and feel like a trussed-up Christmas goose. The key here is not being afraid to make an investment when you know the suit is right.

Michael Kors
Michael Kors Spring 2012. Photography by Peter Sigter.

#5 It’s never polite to lie to your friends.

Remember that pal who told you the sequined bandeau G-string bikini with faux-crystal hardware looked awesome on you back in 2006? You’re not friends with her anymore, are you? I rest my case.

Marc by Marc Jacobs
Marc by Marc Jacobs Spring 2012. Photography by Peter Sigter.

#6 Fear not the one-piece, for the one-piece is our friend.

From Marc by Marc Jacobs to Gucci, the one-piece swimsuit is everywhere this summer. This look is not granny-ish, it’s retro-chic, and while it was all over the runways it will still make you stand out at the beach—especially in a bold print or polka dots—where the garden-variety surf bikini still dominates.

Herve Leger
Herve Leger Spring 2012. Photography by Peter Sigter.

#7 Crochet bikinis are no fun on the beach.

It’s important to be on trend, but at what cost? This season, runway fashions dictated lots of beach-friendly ’60s and ’70s looks with retro-inspired high-waist bottoms, ruffles and cutaways. I can get down with that. But as for the knit bikini—a.k.a. swimwear you can’t actually swim in—I’ll take a pass, thanks. Some trends are best left to the pages of glossy magazines.