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Find the Best Bathing Suit for Your Shape

Woman on the beach wearing chunky necklaces
John Huba
Expert advice on how to find the best bathing suits for large chests, straight figures, and other body types.  

Now that designers have finally wised up to the fact that we don’t all hail from Brazil, they’re offering suits that look good on real women with real issues. Real Simple consulted designers, boutique owners, competitive swimmers, and others to compile tips to help you find the best bathing suit for your body type.

Bathing Suits for Large Chests

What to look for: Underwire is key, but wide or adjustable straps, boning, seamed cups, and sturdy linings help lift the chest, too. Other ancillary support features, like high necklines, full coverage at the armholes, or halters with wide bands under the breasts, also help. And embrace the bikini: “In some cases, a two-piece is actually better, because you have a band of support all the way around the back,” says Linda Sassoon, president of Gottex USA.

What to avoid: Skimpy styles that gape open or lack structure, like triangle tops.

Bathing Suits for Full Hips and Thighs

What to look for: A suit with eye-catching details above the waist―a pop of color, a deep neckline, hardware―to lure attention to your upper half. Down below, opt for an arched leg line that hits about an inch south of the hip bone. A skirted bottom also hides hips, says Ilene Sofferman, manager of Canyon Beachwear, in New York City. An A-line cut, a slit, or ruched sides keep the look modern.

What to avoid: Boy shorts, one-pieces with side cutouts, and bottoms with embellishments, especially ring hardware (which can pinch the skin).

Bathing Suits for a Tummy

What to look for: Designs that skim over the middle (think A-line tankinis) or suits that have ruched or textured fabric or built-in control panels to suck in an ample midsection. And, no, you don’t have to shy away from all bikinis, says Kari Rubin, owner of the Sunsplash Swimwear boutique, in San Diego. “Choose styles with high waistbands that are shirred or folded to give you more coverage.”

What to avoid: Tight-fitting tankinis, belt detailing, and low-rise or string bottoms.

Bathing Suits for a Straight Figure

What to look for: Three-dimensional details―ruffles, rings, shirring, padding―and bold prints can make a straight body look more curvaceous, says Pamella Protzel Scott, creative director for the swimwear line Ella Moss Isla: “Bottoms with embellishments bring attention to the hips and create a waistline.”

What to avoid: Designs that reinforce straight lines with vertical stripes or harsh square necklines, or anything completely solid and free of texture or accents.

For the season’s standout suits, see The Best Bathing Suits for All Body Types, The Swimsuits for Summer 2014, and 12 Flattering Plus-Size Bathing Suits.

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