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Swimsuits: What You Need to Know

Answers to your questions about flattering cover-ups and when to replace a bathing suit.

By Yolanda Wikiel
Malia Mills floral one-piece swimwearGeoffrey Sokol

Q. Why is my suit always riding up in the back?

There are several possible reasons, says Suzanne Bryant, vice president of design at Lands’ End.

  • The bottom is too small (there’s not enough fabric to keep your rear covered).
  • The bottom is too big (the fit isn’t snug enough).
  • The torso is too short (the one-piece doesn’t match the length of your body).
  • The fabric or the elastic is stretched out.
  • The bottom is cut too high.

Do a few lunges to make sure you’re wearing the right size before you leave the store. If the size seems correct but the bottom still rides up, select a style with a lower leg line.

Q. Which styles are good for swimming laps but won’t make me look as if I’m trying out for the Olympics?

The suit should be aero-dynamic. “If it’s cut low in front, fits a little loose, or has padding, it’s going to catch water and slow you down,” warns Jeanne Ensign, a member of U.S. Masters Swimming for 30 years.

  • Thin racerback or cross-back straps look beach-worthy but won’t slide off your shoulders while you’re perfecting your backstroke, says Ensign.
  • A halter can work if it is securely fastened. But be careful not to tie it so tight around the neck that it pulls up.
  • If you swim often, you may want to invest in a suit made from Xtra Life Lycra fiber, a stretch fabric that resists chlorine, allowing garments to keep their shape up to 10 times longer than those made of regular spandex. Brands that offer Xtra Life Lycra fiber in sporty but fashionable cuts include J.Crew, Lands’ End, and Speedo.

Q. Why do some suits cost so much?

That itsy-bitsy bikini leaves little room for error. “It takes an incredible amount of engineering, multiple fittings, detailed construction, and high-quality fabrics to create a good swimsuit,” says designer Malia Mills. When you then factor in all the extras―bra cups, linings, trims, control panels―the price adds up.
“Cheaper-quality fabrics may look and feel nice at first, but they won’t take the punishment of chlorine, sun, and salt water,” says Linda Sassoon of Gottex. Often fabrics are thinned to bring costs down, but that reduces their power of stretch and recovery, says Andrea L. Matousek, marketing manager for swim at Invista Apparel, the company that manufactures Lycra fiber. That means the suit that seemed too good to be true is probably on a fast track to fading and stretching out for good. Basically you have two options: Invest in a high-quality suit to last a few seasons, or buy a cheaper one and be prepared to replace it often.

Q. Which brands sell tops and bottoms separately to match my proportions?

For different cuts in the same prints and colors, try:

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