For most women, trying on bathing suits is about as unpleasant as a visit to the gyno: You’re half-naked — in the most unflattering, clinical-like lighting — and hoping the whole experience is quick and painless.
But swimsuit shopping doesn’t have to be dreadful. The secret to a stress-free, successful experience is to have patience and an open mind, says style expert Gretta Monahan. “Today, women are lucky to have so many great options rather than your basic black suit,” she says. Don’t judge a suit by the way it hangs lifelessly on the hanger: Experiment with various shapes: try on everything from tanks to tankinis — and yes, bikinis too, if you're feeling proud of your weight loss! Take advantage of figure-flattering trends including neon and eye-catching tribal patterns. Here’s what the pros know about picking the right suit — at any stage of your weight-loss journey.
1. Timing is everything.
Try on suits at the end of the day or when you’re feeling bloated, says Kathryn Finney, style expert and founder of TheBudgetFashionista.com. We know, it sounds counterintuitive, but here’s why it works: If you love the suit when you’re not feeling so hot, imagine how amazing you’ll feel when you’re feeling more confident.
2. Ignore the size tag.
You know this already (right? right?) but it bears repeating. “I tell my clients not to get hung up on the size,” says Monahan. “Instead, go for a perfect fit.” It’s an indisputable style fact that you will look slimmer in a size 12 then you will in an ill-fitting 10.
RELATED: Why Clothing Sizes Mean Nothing
3. Use trends strategically.
All eyes will be on details such as beading, embroidery, patterns, and blocks of bold colors — so use them to call attention to your best assets. Proud of you plunging cleavage? Find a swimsuit with neckline detail. Conversely: “If you don’t want people to look at a specific spot, don’t get a swimsuit that has any extras in that area,” says Finney. Another bright idea: Bright, saturated colors can be surprisingly slimming. A bold-hued one-piece that contrasts with your skin tone can visually elongate your body, says Finney. “People will focus on the column of color,” she explains.
4. Get a virtual stylist.
Buying swimwear online has its perks (no three-way mirror, for one), but not being able to try before you buy can make things tricky. The fix: Shop sites that offer fit experts via a live chat or over the phone (check out landsend.com and soma.com). Or utilize interactive tools such as Victoria’s Secret “Swim Style Finder” to pinpoint the right style for your body’s needs.
5. Know what works for your body.
If you hit the racks knowing what will flatter your shape we can almost guarantee that you’ll leave a happy customer. Here are swimsuit solutions to the most common body issues:
- If you’re busty, approach your swim search like you would bra shopping — the goal is comfort, lift, and support, explains Erin McCormack, merchandising director at Land’s End. Look for a suit that has bra-like construction with underwire. Opt for supportive shapes such as a halter or a tank with wide over-the-shoulder straps. To balance out a smaller bottom-half, keep it simple on top and sport bright colors and patterns below the waist.
- If you’re small on top, choose a bathing suit top that has “volumizing” embellishments such as flutter ruffles or contrasting piping, says Monahan. Avoid sports-bra-style tops, which can flatten you out.
- If you have a belly, try a retro-glam one-piece suit with ruching, shirring, and draping. “They instantly hide any lumps and bumps,” says McCormack. Another visual trick: Missoni-like zigzagprints camouflage a tummy, says Monahan.
- If you’re pear-shaped, pick a one-piece suit that has a dark color on the bottom and solid blocks of color on top. Or customize a tankini with mix-and-match separates: Pair a printed or bold-hued top with a dark-colored bottom.
- If you have a long torso, the goal is to elongate your seemingly short legs. Pick a bathing suit with a low-cut neckline and a high-cut leg. Also stick to solid colors. A continuous print can make your long torso look even longer, says Finney.
- If you have a short torso, “expose as much skin as you're comfortable with,” says Monahan. Opt for a two-piece that has a low-rise or a scalloped bottom. Not comfortable in a bikini? Elongate your mini-midsection with a strapless one-piece or a suit that has vertical lines or piping.
- Full-figured: Skip the expected black suit and have fun with prints. “Bold prints have a way of distracting the eye — they hide dips and valleys, so you look slimmer,” says Finney. Another essential: A suit with built-in shapewear (like Miraclesuit).
RELATED: 11 Super-Flattering Swimsuits