5 steps to picking a bikini or swimsuit to suit your body shape
Ladies, it's almost Summer. I know you wouldn't think it looking out the window right now, but the Sun is out there somewhere, and at some point in the coming months, you may be forced to wear swimwear in public.
I know. It's time to go bikini shopping!
This isn't fun for any of us. Even when you find the one you want, the chances of the retailer having it in your size - and that size actually fitting you and looking the way you imagined in your head - are pretty slim. But there is hope. Ranges are bigger than ever, and trends broader than they've ever been before, meaning lots of choice away from the obvious. More brands are offering a wider range of sizes and more bikinis are sold as separated for mix-and-match options.
If you think about a few simple things before you start your swimwear hunt, and if you learn to work with your body instead of against it, you too can look as confident in your string bikini as Courtney Stodden.
But, I'll preface all of this with one very big caveat:
If you find a swimsuit or a bikini that you love, and you try it on and it fits you, then buy it, wear it and love it, regardless of whether it's supposed to suit your body shape! The biggest trick to finding swimwear that works is being confident when you're wearing it. These guidelines might help those who struggle to know where to start, but rules are made to be broken!
Step One: Start at the top
Let's forget your height or weight for a moment and concentrate on one key thing - your bust, and how much support it needs. Too many people think of a bikini or swimsuit purely as a fashion item, and forget that it is actually replacing your underwear so needs to fulfil a similar purpose. If you know that you need a specific bra size or a particular type of brief to be comfortable, this is a good place to start when you buy swimwear. If you have a larger bust, you will probably find swimwear sold by cup size to have the best fit. If you have a smaller chest, there are more options - triangle bikinis, modern 'crop top' styles, bandeaus...the world is your B-cup sized oyster!
Step Two: Aim to show off your best bit
Stop thinking about what you need to 'hide' when buying your swimwear, and start by putting yourself in a more positive headspace. What is the bit of you that you'd most like to show off? A great waist? A pert bum? Toned shoulders? Great abs? Long legs? Killer curves? Christina Hendricks-esque cleavage? Choose your swimwear to accentuate the bits you love, don't immediately start thinking about how you can conceal the bits you might be less confident about. Here are a few quick things to look out for to flatter all those fabulous bits:
Small bust - You can pull off volume around the top, so try a frilled bikini top, or something with fringing or texture. You can also wear bandeas without worry of sagging! Above bikinis from Forever 21, Miss Selfridge and River Island.
Large bust - If you can wear it comfortably, try a plunge top, and always look for styles sold by cup size to give you support that'll do your boobs justice. Halter necks are great for a 'lift' and stop the top from looking too much like a bra. If you find the ties hurt your neck, loosen them up a bit or rethink your band size - this should take the strain, not the straps. Above swimwear by Cleo, Miss Mandalay and Curvy Kate.
Great bum - High waisted bottoms will make sure everyone notices your Nicki Minaj curves! Ruching at the sides makes these more wearable. For something a bit less obvious, try a skirted bottom that'll skim over and give you an hourglass shape, or a retro style with ruching and back seams to hug your behind! Styles above from Very, Topshop and Pinup Girl Clothing.
Long legs - You can wear just about anything you want, but you can make your legs look even longer with high cut briefs. A pair with a metal link, tie or chain detail at the sides can be adjusted for optimum leg-lengthening potential! Above styles from Heidi Klein, Figleaves and Vix.
Good waist - cutout swimsuits with revealing panels around the middle will show off that waspy waist brilliantly, just beware of odd tanlines. You should also look out for belted styles (especially swimsuits) and anything with panels along the sides that will emphasise that incredible hourglass shape! Plus, you can rock a high waist, just like your bum-blessed friends. Styles above by ASOS, New Look and Esther Williams at ModCloth.
Toned shoulders - Draw attention upwards - pick a bandeau style or one with lots of detail around the straps and decolettage, or a light coloured or embellished top with a plain brief. Wear an SPF with a bit of shimmer in it, and put your hair up in a topknot to show off the shoulders as much as possible! Swimwear above by ASOS, Next and River Island.
Skin that tans easily - Choose a colour that'll show that darker skintone off - white, yellow or gold are the classics. But don't forget, even skin that doesn't burn needs an SPF lotion to protect you from premature ageing and skin cancer. SPF 25+ will allow you to tan safely and slowly, and if you use plenty of aftersun every night, it'll last longer than a 'flash tan' that fries the skin and peels off within days. Even better - fake it, then stay in the shade. Bikinis above from Marks & Spencer, By Caprice and Cheap Monday.
If you love your whole body, then all of the above can be starting points (also, high five!).
Step Three: Pick the right briefs
There's never been more choice when it comes to bikini bottoms. A few years ago most of us wouldn't have dreamed of wearing a mumsy high-waisted style, but now they're all over the high street and loads of retro reproduction brands are bringing us cool 1950s style full-coverage options. There are benefits - they stay on better in the water, they hide stretchmarks at the top of the thighs and they're great if you don't like flashing too much flesh. But the truth is, those high-waisted styles aren't as easy to wear as they may look. If you have a short torso they can cut you off in just the wrong place, and those of us with tummies may find they accentuate that roundness if they're not well-made (or hiding a sneaky shapewear panel). Give them a go and see if they work for you, but don't be afraid to give this trend a miss if you're unsure - it's hard to pull off without confidence. The best fit for most people is the classic mid-rise brief - it's a classic for a reason! Tie-side designs are the perfect option for anyone who has weight that's known to go up and down a bit as you can adjust the ties to suit. Shorts offer a full-coverage alternative to high-waisted styles, but beware of the dreaded camel-toe which can be a problem with thin, cheap fabrics. Skirted briefs will work well if you're pear-shaped, if you're conscious of your bum, or just if you just want something fun and girly. Thong / g-string briefs are best left to the very, very brave - rather you than me!
Step Four: Accessorize
Your beach buys don't have to stop at a bikini or swimsuit, so if you have body hang-ups that a one-piece can't fix, think about the whole look. Most high street swimwear ranges now come with matching cover-ups and separates. Particularly easy to find this year are slouchy, sheer maxi dresses that are great for popping over your swimwear when you go for lunch, but you're never too far from a flimsy playsuit or achingly loud bejewelled kaftan, either. Make the most of these beachwear buys and turn your swimwear into just part of an amazing outfit.
Step Five: Recover with Grace
Bikini misshap? No biggie.