If you’re anything like me, it’s taken you years to find a great swimsuit that looks great and supports your fuller bust. Even today, after finding a handful of swimsuits I love, I get anxious at the thought of bathing suit shopping. For anyone who is curvy, well-endowed, or both, it often feels like we are made to settle for frumpy swimwear if we want support, or else we have to go for a stylish option that lacks support or doesn’t fit quite right.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade thanks to the many hours I’ve spent online shopping and going into brick and mortar stores in search of my dream suit. It all comes down to knowing your size and the most supportive styles that also fit your personal style aesthetic. And while the fashion industry has a long, long way to go in offering more styles for us curvy and plus-size girls, it’s gotten easier over the years to find a great swimsuit.
Finding the swimsuit for you boils down to three things, according to Emma-Jane Hughes, the founder of D-cup-and-up swimwear line Lily and Lime: support, comfort, and fit.
How to find the right level of support in your swimsuit
If you’re shopping in person, try this two-finger test to see if the bathing suit’s band is as supportive as it should be (much like the way you would test for a supportive sports bra). If you can fit more than two fingers under the band, it’s not offering the support you need and you may be relying on your straps to compensate, which can lead to neck strain and an uncomfortable feel.
“Straps do add extra support, but they shouldn’t be digging into your shoulders or your neck,” says Hughes. “If you feel you have to have tighten them then it probably means your back band is too big.”
Finding comfort through style
Hughes also says style is a great way to determine the type of suit that is most comfortable and supportive for your body.
“One pieces are great if you are looking for more coverage around your stomach, but if you’re bigger busted it’s important to have built in underwire and support so your bust is defined,” she explains.
Pop quiz: do you REALLY know your bra size?
“For years I thought I was a 34C when I was actually a 32E,” Hughes notes. So before you even head to the shops or browse the internet, get out your measuring tape and take your bust and underbust (or rib cage) measurements down. Here’s a quick guide to measuring your bra size.
Now that you have the basics of swimwear shopping for your body, it’s time for a little inspiration. I’ve spent lots of money on swimsuits I love, but I have also found bargains, like my current go-to swimsuit from Forever 21. The one piece (below) doesn’t have any underwire, which I find is actually fine for my DD breasts, so long as I get the right size (a bit tighter, like a bodysuit would be). Then, I take out any extra padding, like cups, since I feel like it adds awkward bulk to my shape.
(Similar suits available on Forever21.com)
As for bikinis, I love a high-waisted bottom. Lily and Lime offers some amazing, fashion-forward prints at a time when stylish items that aren’t overly cutesy are available for plus size gals. I love the tropical vibe and slightly high-waisted cut of the briefs. They fold over as well, so you can get two looks in one.
Like its name suggests, Swimsuits for All is another great online destination for curvy-girl beach wear. They have options from model Ashley Graham and curvy influencer Gabi Gregg, and they definitely don’t skimp on style. The site also has sales often, so check back if you are on a budget because you can score some great, high quality pieces.
I got this one piece on sale from Swimsuits for All two summers ago and it’s still one I reach for.
Lastly, check out ASOS. The online retailer has so many options for every personal taste and size, so you’re bound to come across something if you do a bit of browsing. This red one piece with a twist-front detail was the first swimsuit I found as a curvy girl that actually made me feel spectacular and not out-of-place in my body:
And when it comes to swimsuit shopping, ignore the numbers
However you decide to shop and no matter what style you prefer, the best advice I can give is that size doesn’t matter most — fit does. It’s easier said than done, but don’t get discouraged if the size you thought you were doesn’t fit. Sizing can vary and be deceiving from brand to brand, so the process is trial and error. If you have to go up a size, it doesn’t mean you’re less worthy to be in a bathing suit than the next person.
Swimsuit shopping isn’t the easiest experience, but when you find the one, it can change your whole outlook on beach season. Happy shopping!