I think women love shoes because they’re a relative delight to shop for. Your size will fit whether you’re at your ideal weight or 50 pounds overweight, and you don’t have to haul them into a dressing room and peel off half your clothes just to try them on.
They’re the opposite of swimsuits – which make us confront our bodily imperfections and can be a pain to shop for. Maybe that’s why a recent poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 61 percent of women do their swimsuit shopping alone.
Depressing, right? It doesn’t have to be. ShopSmart magazine, from the same publisher as Consumer Reports, is so exciting about all the swimsuit-shopping advice in their July issue that they issued not one but two press releases about it.
“We all know bathing suit shopping can be a nightmare,” says ShopSmart editor-in-chief Lisa Lee Freeman. “But we learned that if you do your research and know what works for you – it might actually be enjoyable.”
Their website has no more than a summary of the article, but I’ve gathered up their tips here. So if you’re ready to actually enjoy your next swimsuit shopping trip – and save on your next swimsuit – here’s how…
Don’t settle for poor quality
Between salt water, chlorine, and sunshine, swimsuits take a beating that our ordinary clothes don’t, so it’s critical that you find a well-made suit and take care of it. ShopSmart says a quality suit should last up to two years if you rotate it with others, and that you can get even more life out of it if you always rinse it after wearing it and hand wash it. (As someone who lives in South Florida and frequents the beach, I think that’s actually a conservative number – I’ve been wearing my favorite swimsuit for years.)
And if that’s not enough reason for you to bother to find a well-made suit, consider ShopSmart’s second point about quality: “A cheaply made swimsuit or one that’s poorly designed can make you look bigger or older than you really are.” So keep an eye out for…
- Zig-zag stitching: You need it to stretch! Chain stitching will more easily unravel and indicates subpar quality.
- Straps that don’t dig: Your straps should never cut into your shoulders or back.
- Nylon and spandex fabric: These are the types of fabrics to go for. Avoid polyester blends and any suit that is flimsy or sheer.
- Four-way stretch: This test will help you see if the suit will withstand the damage that pool chemicals can cause. Stretch the fabric in one direction; if you see a lot of white fibers, the fabric will probably deteriorate quickly.
- Full lining: The lining should be attached around the whole perimeter of the suit, not hanging loose in places.
- Seemingly seamless structure: Good-quality suits are intricately constructed within while appearing seamless on the outside. Avoid loose threads, lining, and pads, and sloppy stitching.
- A good built-in bra: It should fit as well as a real bra.
- Sturdy hardware: Plastic accents are more likely to break than metal ones. And watch out! Metal rings and buckles can get hot in the sun.
Flatter your body type
Like clothing, certain swimsuit cuts and styles, well, suit certain body shapes better than others. For the most flattering fit, ShopSmart suggests…
- Apple/inverted triangle (broad shoulders, undefined waist): Look for a suit with wide straps, as this will help to narrow your upper body.
- Pear (narrow chest and shoulders, wider lower half): Make your upper body stand out with ruffles, patterns, or unique necklines. You can also minimize hips and thighs by wearing a modest boy short or high-wasted brief. Also, higher-cut leg openings will make your legs appear longer.
- Hourglass (equal size bust and hips, narrow waste): Find a suit that shows off your proportions. This could be a triangle-top bikini or a bandeau top and hipster bottoms.
- Straight (narrow from top to bottom): Look for a two-piece with a halter, V-neck, or scoop neck. If it’s a one-piece you’re after, try one with large blocks of color to break up a long torso.
Ensure a great fit
Swimsuit shopping can be a pain, but if you want to love how you look at the pool or beach, it’s worth taking your time at the store…
- Take your measurements. To make sure you get the right size, measure your bust, waist, and hips. Then check the swimsuits’ size charts. Measure your torso length, too; some styles are longer.
- Try it on. Sizing is rarely consistent among brands, so try on every suit before you buy it . When you’re trying on a one-piece, the rear shouldn’t ride up and the top shouldn’t squish your chest – those are signs that the suit is too short. If your cheeks pop out of the rear, the suit is too small. If material bunches around your backside, the suit is too big. Move and bend to be sure you’re comfy and the suit stays put.
- Don’t settle. If a suit pulls or you bulge out of it, put it back on the rack! If you need a specialty suit, plenty are available. If you’re pregnant, shop retailers such as Asos and Figleaves. If you’ve had a mastectomy, look at Gottex, Jamu, Anita, and Cyell. And if you’re a serious swimmer, check out Jantzen and Zoggs.
Find the best deal
Swimsuit season may be half over, but that makes mid-summer a great time to find a deal on swimsuits. Stores don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of summer staples when the season ends, which is probably why swimsuits are currently on sale at…
- Athleta: Select women’s suits are up to 73 percent off.
- Eddie Bauer: All men’s and women’s suits are up to 66 percent off.
- Figleaves (online-only retailer): Select women’s suits are up to 70 percent off.
- JCPenney department store: All men’s, women’s, and juniors suits are 50-60 percent off.
- Land’s End: Men’s, women’s, and kids’ suits are up to 60 percent off.
- Nordstrom department store: Women’s suits are up to 35 percent off.
- Speedo: Select men’s, women’s, and kids’ suits are up to 60 percent off.
- Victoria’s Secret: Sale- and clearance-price suits are 25-50 percent off.
The Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 27 percent of women have tried to shop online. But if you prefer to shop in stores, just remember that not all online sales are available in stores (and vice versa), so call ahead to your local store before you waste gas. Click on any of these store names for a link to their store locators.