Let’s face it: Shopping for a swimsuit can be a daunting endeavor. Aside from trying to track down the perfect slimming style, the dressing room’s fluorescent lights and skinny mirrors can trigger all new body complexes. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Real Simple tapped the fit mavens at Everything But Water to uncover their little-known tips and tricks for getting you from the changing room to the beach with little drama in between.

By Allison Chesky
Updated May 13, 2015
PilyQ Bikini, yellow
Credit: everythingbutwater.com

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PilyQ Bikini, yellow
Credit: everythingbutwater.com

1 Highlight your assets.

It may seem obvious, but let the pattern, color and embellishment adorn your best feature, and downplay problem areas with dark solids, says Sabra Krock, Creative Director at Everything But Water. When shopping, look for one-pieces with color-blocking, or separates that have interchangeable pieces. For example, dark solid tops or bottoms to correspond with the prints.

2 Create an illusion.

Design details like ruching or shirring can be deceptively slimming on the body. Shirring refers to tightly woven gathers in the fabric, and it not only holds you in, but it is so-called “figure flattery magic,” according to Krock. It hides any traces of bulging, while hugging the waist and curves. Ruching, characterized by draped and gathered fabric, is another secret weapon to rely on, and it doesn’t have to be allover either. If you have a tummy, look for ruching across the midsection. Princess seams will also provide structure to a suit, giving you an hourglass figure, while concealing imperfections. A small, allover print can also help to camouflage a full bust or tummy.

3 Try stepping outside your comfort zone.

Just because a black maillot always works for you, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other swimsuits out there that could work just as well or even better. Experiment with a new style, even if it seems daring, and you could be pleasantly surprised. For instance, Krock says one-shoulder suits are almost always flattering no matter your body type, since they highlight the neck, narrow the shoulders and draw attention to the feminine collarbone.

4 Work with your body type.

Keep in mind: Since swimsuits expand when wet, it’s best to skew on the smaller side when in doubt to ensure a snug fit with no gapping or drooping, says Krock. And, suits are often tied too loosely, so one small fix that can add up to a better fit is tightening the straps on side ties and halter tops.

  • If you have a boyish figure: Try a monokini suit to help create the appearance of curves. Styles that feature bold colors and embellishment like ruffles along the top, help to play up your feminine side and enhance curves.
  • If you’re petite: For the illusion of mile-long legs, choose bottoms that are dark and cut higher on the leg.
  • If you have a tummy and/or full hips and thighs: It’s important to opt for bikini bottoms with adjustable side ties or banded bottoms that lay flat across the stomach to prevent a muffin top. For one-pieces, opt for a loose wrap style to conceal or a suit with princess seams, which provides structure. If you find yourself pulling at the bottom of your suit, it is not providing enough coverage for your comfort, Krock says. Rather than going up a size, ask the sales associate for a suit that provides more coverage in the rear.​
  • If you have a large bust: Look for the same elements that you would in a bra: wide, supportive straps and an underwire. Not only will these styles be more comfortable, but they also have a minimizing effect, since there won’t be any spillover underneath, above, or under the arm.

5 Take your time.

And last, but certainly not least, try to carve out enough time for swimsuit shopping. If you go in with the mindset that you will be investing time in finding the right style for you, you are far less likely to make decisions in haste.