Pick a swimsuit with all the right moves
So much trauma is associated with swimsuits, starting with you appearing in public with large expanses of your body uncovered. • But beyond that — what if you actually want to move around in your suit? How do you find one that works for lap swimming vs. one that's good for a day at the water park vs. another you'll be comfortable in for a day of kayaking? • Unfortunately for our psyches (and our clothing budgets), one suit doesn't fit all occasions. • But having a basic idea of what to look for in construction, fit and style can help lessen the pain. Here are examples of activities on our suit-buying list and shopping tips for finding the best match for each.
A DAY AT THE WATER PARK:
“Wear a suit that fits well and does not need a lot of readjusting,” says David Hacker, vice president of trend and color for Kohl’s department stores. “To make sure this suit stays put, you want it to fit close to the body and not have many dangling strings that may get caught.”
Nike Painterly Striped Tankini Top, $40; Nike Athletic Boyshort Bottoms, $40
BEACH SPORTS, VOLLEYBALL, RUNNING:
“Wear a suit that is sporty, supportive and comfortable for lots of beach activity,” Hacker says. The suit should allow for easy movement and fit close to the body to keep out as much sand as possible.
Pop Art Shorebreak Top, $54; Pop Art Oceanside Short, $49
SURFING, WINDSURFING, SAILBOARDING:
More activities for a suit that is sporty, supportive and comfortable, Hacker says. Also, make sure it stands up to a lot of salt water. You want something made of high-tech synthetic fabrics from companies that specialize in sports apparel.
Nike Retro Racerback Bikini Top, $40; Nike Athletic Boyshort Bottoms, $40
A FUN DAY ON A BOAT:
“A vintage-inspired halter one-piece or tankini suit is great because it’s chic, sporty and just a little bit glam,” Hacker says. To up the glam factor, add a big-brimmed hat and big-framed sunglasses.
Lands’ End Beach Living Paradise Floral Adjustable Halter Tunic Swim Top, $58.50; Beach Living No. 2 Leg Wide Waistband Tummy Control Swim Bottom, $32.50
SWIMMING FOR EXERCISE:
“A racerback one-piece that fits close to the body will give swimmers a full range of motion and will limit drag,” Hacker says. Look also for high-tech fabrics such as Xtra Life Lycra, which gives a more lasting fit that resists bagging, sagging and the effects of chlorine.
Lands’ End Colorblock X-back Butterfly Tank, $59.50
POOL PARTY, CRUISE, RESORT:
Depending on the occasion, wear a suit that fits your body type and personal style, Hacker says. For more coverage, wear a pareo to dress up the suit or shorts to keep the look casual, and a brimmed hat for sun protection and a little more style.
Lands’ End Batik Squares Enhancing V-neck SwimShape Tank, $99.50
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What's your body type?
The world is overflowing with books, magazine articles, Web sites, "personal trainers to the stars" and reality TV shows telling us how to determine our body type, which is a key element to buying a swimsuit. Some systems preach four types; one has 48. Body-type descriptions are based on fruit ("pear shaped"), geometry ("upside-down triangle") and garage sales ("cello, bowling pin and vase"). Pick a source you trust or a system you can relate to. And it never hurts to ask a friend whose opinion you respect to help you navigate and assess.
• The Body Shape Bible, Susannah Constantine and Trinny Woodall (the hosts of TV's original What Not to Wear, from Britain), amazon.com
• The Science of Sexy: Dress to Fit Your Unique Figure with the Style System that Works for Every Shape and Size, Bradley Bayou, amazon.com
• Dress Your Best, Clinton Kelly and Stacy London (hosts of the U.S. version of What Not to Wear), amazon.com
• My Virtual Model, Web site that allows you to create a figure that looks like you so you can have an idea what a suit will look like on you. Visit www.mvm.com to try it.
• A trusted sales person or personal shopper
General fit tips
• Start your suit search by measuring your chest, hips and torso. Don't do this yourself. You'll get the most accurate numbers by having someone else do it. If you have a regular tailor or a place that does alterations for you, have them do it. Or go to a store like Victoria's Secret or the intimates section of a department store.
• There never have been more options for getting a good-fitting suit. Retailers such as Lands' End offer several coverage options for one- and two-piece suits, along with plus sizes, petites and talls. For two pieces, many catalogs and Web sites and some stores, like Target and Everything But Water in Tampa's International Plaza, let you mix and match individual pieces. Buy the pieces separately in whatever sizes you need. Don't stay stuck in the thinking that if you wear a medium top, you must wear a medium bottom, too, even when you know the medium is too snug.
• When trying on a suit, especially for sports, don't just walk around in it. Bend over, twist, jump up and down to see how it moves on your body — and if anything pops out. If you think you'll feel silly doing this in a dressing room or in your bedroom, remember this: It's better to find out this stuff now rather than later, in a more public place.