Many women – me! Hi! – would rank shopping for a new swimsuit somewhere up there with having a smear test and filing a tax return on the scale of Fun Times.
The changing room curtain is always four inches narrower than the doorframe. And oh, the shock of your almost-naked body displayed under supermarket lighting. Don’t even get me started on those sticky plastic gusset shields, eminently sensible yet somehow so depressingly undignified. Put simply, we can’t all be Martha Stewart – relaxed in a swimsuit, on the cover of say, Sports Illustrated.
But you know what’s worse? Not having a swimsuit that works for you. And it is precisely because I don’t much like swimsuit shopping that I am the right person to tell you how to make it easier and – crucially – to end up with the perfect swimsuit for you.
Sure, you could find an 19-year-old influencer who is all over-the-shoulder changing room bum selfies and “this gorgeous neon lime with keyhole cut outs will sure make me stand out on the beach!” but, really, how helpful is that?
First of all, I need you to promise me (and more importantly yourself) that this is not a self-flagellation exercise about your body. Working on having a fit, healthy body is a positive thing; standing in front of a mirror hating on yourself is not. It is almost June and you need a swimsuit that works with the body you have now, not a Sue Gray report into historical cheese-related misdemeanours.
Next, tighten your focus. I only wear black swimsuits, because I have found that it is, counterintuitively perhaps, the most flattering colour for pale skin. Or maybe you love print, in which case look for the fun prints. Next, before you start looking at new stuff, if you have any old swimsuits at home, try them on. No matter if they are old and scraggy – that’s good, in fact, as it will focus your mind on the basic grammar of what does and doesn’t work. Does a scoop or racerback balance your proportions better? Do your boobs sit more comfortably in an adjustable halterneck or wired cups?
Remember that when we see a woman in a swimsuit, what our brain appraises is 85% the woman and 15% the swimsuit. What I’m getting at is: don’t pay extra for what you aren’t actually getting. Many online retailers use a reasonably diverse cast of models nowadays. But I find that I, for one, am still hardwired wrong. Scrolling a page, my eyes lock on to the 20-something rather than the woman who actually looks like me. So real-life shopping in actual shops, despite the hard yards involved, is more efficient for me, because I have to try a swimsuit on me and I’m not distracted by what it looks like on someone else.
You can get swimsuits built like shapewear these days, but more comfortable is a one-piece with fabric gathered at one side or ruched across the midsection, which blurs out your middle bit in a way that can help put self-consciousness at bay – Marks & Spencer have a good selection. Belted swimsuits don’t do you as much of a favour as you might think, I find; but a seam that sits between your waist and boobs will definitely make your legs look longer. Try Boden for this.
If you need a swimsuit that has proper, bra-like boob support, then look for a cup and strap shape that is close to the shape of underwear you find most comfortable. Now is not the time to experiment with strapless balconettes. But you do want a one-piece that feels current, because looking out-dated is instantly ageing. Don’t panic: current doesn’t have to mean key-hole cut outs. A high-cut leg will make a simple one-piece feel more modern than a low, boy-short shape. For this, try Mango.
Finding a swimsuit can feel like hard work but if you have a plan, it needn’t be an ordeal. And actually having a swimsuit you like wearing? That is cheering indeed.