+ Tips and Tricks

Belle's Swimwear Tips

Every May, I go through the same thing.  I flip through a dozen catalogs and visit a dozen stores trying to decide which swimsuit I want to buy most.  And every year, I carefully select my chosen poolside lounging attire, only to discover that most women at my building’s pool don’t have a clue how to buy a swimsuit.

Polyvore Set Here.

Tip One: Know what looks good on you.  Large chested women can’t wear strapless styles.  Boy shorts only look good on those with small rears.  Need more tips? Cosmo has one of the better how tos that I’ve seen.

Tip Two: Try the swimsuit on.  This seems like an obvious tip, but I meet a lot of women who didn’t try on the suit before they bought it.  “Trying on swimwear is torture,” my neighbor told me last summer as she adjusted her too small bra top for the ninth time.

Yes, trying on swimwear is about as much fun as spending the afternoon on the rack.  But that doesn’t mean you can just skip it. 

Tip Three:  If you don’t like the swimsuit in the store, you will never wear it.  So don’t buy the swimsuit that will look good when you lose five pounds or the suit that will look better when you have a tan.  

In my experience, you almost never lose the five pounds and unless you start fake baking, people who work in an office never get really tan.

So try on different styles, colors and patterns and find the one that you love.  Love it in the store, love it on the beach.

Tip Four: Don’t ever spend more than $75 on a swimsuit.  I learned this lesson the hard way.  Five years ago, I bought a one-piece with cutouts that cost more than I care to admit.  I wore it a dozen times or more, but I never felt like I wore it enough to justify the cost.

There are so many companies (H&M, Forever 21, Wal-Mart) producing affordable, trendy swimwear that there is no money to spend a lot of money on a suit.  And wouldn’t you rather have a few cute, inexpensive suits than one really pricey one?

Tip Five: Buy a cover up.  Even a woman with an amazing body shouldn’t stroll down the streets of Chinatown in a swimsuit and flip flops.  (Oh yes, I’ve seen it.)  So whether you like a long tunic, a jersey dress or a pair of shorts and a tank, dear Lord, cover up.

Personally, I have a white button down shirt that I stole from an old boyfriend.  I wear it with an old J.Crew belt for shape and a metallic sandal.  That way I can run some post pool errands without drawing confused stares from passersby.



  1. BB says:

    I'm with Zoe – those of us who are very busty need to pay up just to get a suit that will fit. I bought a freya bathing suit a few years ago from figleaves and haven't regretted it. I'll pay the extra $$ for fit, support, and confidence.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  2. Half-Pint says:

    As a die-hard bargain shopper, I can't believe I'm going to say this but….sometimes it can be worth it to spend more than $75 on a bikini. I bought a Vix bikini in college that is still in amazing shape, is still in style, and I still love. The comfort and quality of this bathing suit was worth the $85 I spent on it (nowadays, the Vix suits seem to cost more though). Other than this one expensive swim suit, I get all of my others at Filene's Basement, Marshalls, Macys (with coupons!) or other discount stores.

    P.S. I tried on a bunch of H and M's bikinis this spring, and as a small-chested girl, found that a lot of them were too small for my chest! While that may have boosted my ego, I did not buy any of them.

    May 11, 2011/Reply
  3. Kate says:

    Your cosmo how to guide link is not correct.. i'd love to read it, please update!

    May 11, 2011/Reply
  4. Belle says:

    Adventures with copy & paste, the link is fixed now.

    May 11, 2011/Reply
  5. Charleigh says:

    After buying one too many expensive swimsuits at specialty swimsuit shops (Body Glove and Victoria's Secret), I finally got it together and two summers ago bought a super cute bikini from Target, of all places, that I got tons of compliments on. Repeated the experience last summer and this spring, and I always get a ton of questions of people wondering where I got my suits. They're great quality, and have been loved over and over again for a third to a quarter of the price I would have paid somewhere else. They are also frequently on sale as they bring in new selections.

    What I do though is mix and match bottoms and tops because even when I bought suits from Victoria's Secret, I would sometimes see people wearing the same one at the beach, or pool, which is never appreciated. Now, with mixing and matching (I currently have a great suit that is black top, and a separate piece that is subtle gold on bottom), it will make sure no one has the same combination.

    Also, I absolutely swear by underwire, and I wish more people would. It adds shape, and security that you're not going to pop out. With underwire you can also get the push-up swim tops for those of us that are less endowed, so it makes you feel more sexy and confident which is always a good thing when you're bearing all.

    May 11, 2011/Reply
  6. Charleigh says:

    oops, that's *baring

    May 11, 2011/Reply
  7. VA says:

    Agree with Belle on not investing a ton of money in a swimsuit. I want a new one every summer anyway, whether I “need” it or not!

    May 11, 2011/Reply
  8. CS says:

    I swear by J Crew for durability, a good quality ling (essential), and the options for matching tops and bottoms. I usually stock up at the end of season sales, though, and rarely pay more than $25-$30 for a suit.

    May 11, 2011/Reply
  9. Zoe says:

    As a large chested woman I urge other large chested women to spend more than $75 on a perfect fit. Expensive ones have the support you need to feel comfortable and you look a thousand times better. Worth it!

    May 11, 2011/Reply
  10. VA Gal says:

    I'm with Zoe. For the large-chested, it can really be worth it to spend more than $75 on a suit that fits correctly and gives you the support you need. Also, if you have an hourglass shape, it really looks best in a suit with support for your chest and a defined or nipped-in waist of some sort(one-piece) or a two-piece with a top that has good support. Cheaper suits tend not to have either of these.

    May 11, 2011/Reply
  11. Belle says:

    On that point, I am willing to capitulate. If you have a specific fit issue, then an expensive suit might be worth the $$$.

    May 11, 2011/Reply
  12. MM says:

    I spent the money ($65- or $75, i think) on a Land's End suit a few years ago, and I haven't regretted it. It's high quality, will probably last 5 more years (granted, I only swim a few times a month, and only during the summer), and gives me all the coverage and support I need to feel fine in front of my family (when I wouldn't be cought dead wearing a bikini), but it's not frumpy – my boyfriend actually likes it a little more than my other suit, a cheap-o bikini from H&M. (Sadly, they don't make it any more, but it's something like this:https://www.landsend.com/pp/HalterOnePieceSwimsuitwithTummyControl~216175_593.html?bcc=y&action=order_more&sku_0=::ZTU&CM_MERCH=IDX_Swimwear-_-Women-_-ShopbySilhouette-_-OnepieceSwimsuits-_-Tank&origin=index), If you're looking for trendy, and planning to buy a new one every year, than I totally agree with your advice, but I think there's definitly an argument for investing in a more exepnsive one that will last a long time.

    May 11, 2011/Reply
  13. BB says:

    I'm with Zoe – those of us who are very busty need to pay up just to get a suit that will fit. I bought a freya bathing suit a few years ago from figleaves and haven't regretted it. I'll pay the extra $$ for fit, support, and confidence.

    May 12, 2011/Reply
  14. Victoria says:

    For anyone looking at this post, I just wanted to say that I bought that red one-piece swimsuit and I LOVE it … it looks so awesome and retro-ish, I love the color, and it flatters my body very well (for $30ish at Walmart!). So thanks for featuring it, Belle!

    May 18, 2011/Reply