I have just spent what feels like weeks looking at 20-something models in tiny, tiny bathing suits. Months, maybe. Seriously. And no, this wasn’t a misguided attempt to motivate myself to get in shape for swimsuit season. I promise. It was work, actually. I had a 20-page swim spread due for My Coast Magazine, and that involved selecting 150-odd suits to submit for the story. So what did I learn from all this swimsuit stalking? Plenty, you guys. Plenty. So before we discuss how to find the best one piece swimsuits for your body type, let me share a little of what I’ve learned with you. Because that’s the kind of friend I am.
- Swimsuit models are young. Seriously young. I just did a shoot a couple of weeks ago and my very sweet models were in high school and brought their mamas with them. Sure, I could use older models, but they don’t model bathing suits, for the most part. It’s sad, but true! Whose skin isn’t tight at dewy at 18? Exactly. When I look back on my 18 year old pictures and think of how critical I was back then, I want to say to my skinny little 18 year old self: “What are you complaining about? I mean, besides your hair, with it’s unfortunate bangs, that you dyed red for that boy, but otherwise, what are you complaining about? Just stop it. And eat a hamburger.”
- Swimsuit models wear makeup. And I don’t mean a little makeup. I mean body makeup and face makeup and contouring, and then they contort themselves into uncomfortable poses and lay beguilingly on beaches and rocks and even in the ocean, and they freeze because bathing suits are always shot in winter. Their hair is tousled just so, which takes hours, and their makeup is applied to perfection, which takes more hours, and before that, for weeks, they don’t eat or even sip water, in some cases. I have watched and directed hair and makeup for swim shoots many, many times, and trust me, it’s a lot of work. So next time I head to the beach with my girls, we are going to take a detour at the MAC counter for full face and body makeup, and then a quick stop at the salon for perfectly tousled hair. I’m sure they won’t mind.
- Swimsuit models don’t really look like that. I know this, of course, because I spent years working at magazines, and have seen art directors and graphic designers erase pounds and pimples with the click of a mouse, but sometimes, when I flip through the pages of the Victoria’s Secret catalog, I forget. While working on this story, though, I got a reminder, when a brand sent me the still-unretouched images from their new swim collection. And here was this beautiful, 20-something model looking, well, normal. Yes she was still curvy and pouty and tousle-haired, but she also had human proportions and a couple of scrapes and bruises and even a tiny bit of cellulite. I was so excited I almost dropped my ice cream bar on my computer.
The only job of a swimsuit model on a shoot is to look good. The only job. I have a bajillion jobs, including running my business, homeschooling my kids and complaining about the ravages of 2 C-sections in 2 years. (Clearly kidding about the last one, but seriously, though, it does take up about 15% of my time). I also spend a lot of time filling water bottles with water that I don’t drink, and running the wash a second time because I forgot about it. So, like I said, I’m really super busy. Anyhow, I told you all of this not to depress you. Oh, I did depress you? Sorry. Seriously, though, there’s a silver lining. And here it is.
God doesn’t expect us to look like swimsuit models. And neither do our husbands. Or our kids. Or our friends. The pressure comes from one place — us. And once we learn to let go of the idea that we are supposed to be 20-and-airbrushed perfect, we can enjoy all of the fun things we can do in our bathing suits, like chasing littles at the beach or stand-up paddleboarding or boating or just sitting, with a good book, for a few quiet moments and letting the sunshine soak into your bones. (But not your skin, of course, because you’re wearing sunscreen!). But first, you have to find that suit.
All week, I will be sharing my tips on how to pick the right bathing suit for your body type, painlessly. But first, a few basics.
3 Rules of Swimsuit Shopping
1. Skip the Store
No offense to swimwear stores, but trying on a suit in a small dressing room with unflattering lighting can be torturous. Instead, find a site with free shipping and returns, like Zappo’s, and order a few suits to try on in the comfort of your own home.
2.Pick the Right Time
Not during your period. Or after that second cheeseburger. The best time is usually in the morning. Next, pick your lighting carefully. I like a dimly lit room. Sometimes, I even try on bathing suits in the dark. To each his own, right?
3. Consider a Coverup
Listen, there’s no good reason to be parading around the pool or the beach half dressed, so remind yourself that, when you’re up and about, you can slip on a super-cute coverup. Plus, if your bathing suit is only viewed when you’re lying down, your tummy will look its flattest.
And now, for the suits.
How to Pick the Best One Piece Swimsuits for Your Body Type
Still don’t know your body type? In the system I use, you probably fall into one of 3 broad categories: Proportional (Style Dial 1), Curvy lower half (Style Dial 2), or Straight (Style Dial 3).
Suits above, top row, left to right: Zaful, Seafolly “Goddess”, Lenny Niemeyer; Bottom row: Topshop (Nordstrom), Araks “Harlow”, Kenneth Cole
The Best Suit for Your Proportional Body Type (Style Dial 1)
Look For: Vertical necklines, consistent pattern, “quiet” bottoms with minimal details for a 1, or interesting details at the bottom for a 1 (3). Check out these catalogs for more Style Dial 1 ideas.
The Best Suit for Your Curvy Body Type (Style Dial 2)
Look For: Horizontal necklines with detail at the top, a quiet bottom with minimal details; empire detail or seam. Keep the top especially bold and interesting if you are a Style Dial 2 (3). Check out my catalog for more Style Dial 2 ideas.
The Best Suit for Your Straight Body Type (Style Dial 3)
Look For: Vertical necklines or horizontal necklines (if your shoulders aren’t wider than your hips), ruching, gathering or draping; detail at the top and at the hip, waist defining details. Check out my catalog for more Style Dial 3 ideas.
That’s all you need to know to start finding the best one piece swimsuits for your body type. In the next few days, we’ll go into detail, starting with Style Dial 1 bathing suits tomorrow, and then Style Dial 2 and Style Dial 3. We’ll also be discussing the finer points of dressing for the hybrid types, like Style Dial 1 (3) and 2 (3). Hopefully, you’ll find a new favorite suit right here!