How to choose a swimsuit

How to choose a swimsuit

Nikki ParkinsonFashion, How to 46 Comments

I used to write about this very topic every year as part of my former life as a fashion editor.

Every year I would preface the how-to with an acknowledgement about just how awful the whole swimsuit-buying process was.

And every year, a major swimsuit retailer (also an advertiser with the paper I worked at) would write to me to say that the process didn’t have to be awful.

He was right.

The process didn’t have to be awful and in fact his independent chain of swimwear stores did – and still does – a very good job of making it not so awful.

His buyers know how to buy and stock a range of swimwear for all body shapes and ages.

And his staff are trained to help people find a swimsuit they look and feel comfortable in.

But what he didn’t understand – and most probably because he is a male – is that most women, are highly issue-sensitive about our bodies … at the best of times.

Let alone when confined to a change cubicle, under bright lights and stripped down to our knickers trying on skimpy bits of fabric.

Yep, stab me now.

From my experience of styling women of all ages, shapes and sizes, it doesn’t matter if a woman is a size 6 or 26 … we simply never seem to be 100% happy with our bodies.

… but that’s a whole other blog post … or a self development series 😉 And one I should probably subscribe to 😉

How to choose a swimsuit

For the purposes of this post, the aim is to get you into a swimsuit this summer because should you have any desire to hang pool or beachside as the temperature hits melting point, it will become a necessity.

Me? I’ve lived at the beach for 22 years now. That’s 22 years of annual swimsuit buying.

Over the years I’ve built a very large bridge over the fact that I’ll never look like a swimsuit model. Never have and never will.

But I’m not going to let my non Miranda-Kerr attributes get in the way of swimming in the ocean with my family. And show me a swim up cocktail bar … I’m there quicker than the bar tender could whack a paper umbrella in a frozen daiquiri.

How to choose a swimsuit

I get very matter of fact about the whole process and consider three things:

  1. Do I feel comfortable in this swimsuit?
  2. Has it got an element of fashion to it?
  3. Will it withstand a dumping wave so I can keep my dignity (and boosies) contained.

In recent years, I’ve actually taken to buying my swimwear online.

Now, you might initially baulk at this – as I did at first – but think about it.


Hello. Tell me that isn’t a better proposition than gazing at yourself from close range in a tiny change cubicle?

Less is more

Another important thing I’ve learned over recent years is that the more you try to cover up your body in attempt to make it look smaller in a swimsuit, the bigger you actually look.

Less, really is more. I’m not necessarily suggesting you whip on a teeny, string bikini, particularly if, like me, there’s a fair chance said string could become lost under some womanly curves … but before you cover up with a pair of boardies, check whether those shorts are actually doing something for your shape.

I went through a stage of thinking that the boardies trick was a good idea before it dawned on me that wearing a pair of boardies was akin to placing a neon “I look big in this swimsuit” sign on my butt and thighs.

Shopping suggestions

Here are 15 of my favourite swimsuits available this season. I love the retro styling that’s dominating … particularly the higher cut of pant. Don’t be afraid of patterns, either. They really are your friend when it comes to camouflaging the bits we like to, well, camouflage. I’ve included options to suit all shapes and sizes. Click on the caption below each image for a link to buy.


A little note on the Jets You Can collection pieces includes above. Sony Foundation Australia is aiming to raise $15million to build youth cancer centres in Australia. The Jets You Can collection – available exclusively at Katies – aims to raise awareness about the cause. Head in store and donate your old mobile phone to help the fundraising effort.

What kind of swimsuit do you like to wear? What tips do you have to offer other Styling You readers?

Next week … why flowy cover ups are your swimsuit’s best buddies.

Comments 46

  1. Ugh. Totally agree Nikki. Buying swimsuits is the worst! Where else do you shop online for them? And have you tried Sue Rice swimwear? (Apologies if you have mentioned this before). My tummy is not what it used to be, so I love those support ones and even found a pretty good one piece at Target last year that looks like a two piece tankini but has a firm mesh bit attaching both sections secretly underneath. OK, sorry for long comment! 🙂

  2. I love a tankini, but the best tip I would offer is to visit one of those swimwear specialist shops at least once. I thought they were just for slim young bikini wearers, but I had a swimsuit emergency on holiday and visited one of these stores in small town by the beach.The girls in the store really knew what suits different body types as well as the fit of their stock. Once they saw me in one thing they were able to pull out heaps of different options to get the perfect styles- for once in my life I had choices when buying a swimsuit!
    Since then I haven’t looked back and have found the service in several of these stores to be exceptional.

  3. Is there a (truthful) general consensus on how big is “too big” for a swimsuit? I’m 93kg and about 168cm and there’s no way I could personally entertain wearing a swimsuit of any kind (I admire anyone who can wear one!) though I would desperately love to. Don’t want to spend another year on the sand while my kids are in the water but at the same time the thought of a swimsuit is panicking! Would love some feedback.

    1. No there’s not JLB. What you might think is too big, another may be hoping to be that weight one day. I Heart My Body Day today – something that all women struggle with, no matter what their size. I’ve struggled with body issues all my life … it’s only recently that I’m working on dealing with the conversations in my head and actually being grateful for what my body has done and what it can do. xx

    2. JLB, there is definitely no such thing as ‘too big’ for a swim suit! It’s all about finding one that is most flattering on your body type (hour glass, pear etc). Like Nikki said, we all struggle with body love and one person’s ‘too big’ might be someone else’s ‘goal weight’. Someone on the beach might be looking at you and be envious of your body, so go out there and rock it this Summer! 😀

  4. My tummy is no longer fit to be seen in public yet I’ve been whipping out a bikini every season for the last couple of years. Why? Well, I found the perfect bikini bottoms. I bought some Seafolly high waisted ruched bikini pants in navy and black. They cover most of the tummy, make me look like I’ve a waist and have retro cute styling in spades. They’re very similar to the red pants in picture 3.

    The other reason? Well, I spent most of my 20s and quite a few years of my 30s not wearing bikinis because I thought I was too fat or something. I’m never going to look better than I do now – gravity will not be kind to 10G boosies – so why not? Plus, a little (faux) confidence can go a looong long way. Fake it til you make it.

    So much easier to go to the loo in a bikini and much less hot too.

    Mind you, I still have tankini tops and one pieces that I love, but every now and then, my bikini comes out for a play.

    Sonia, I have a boosie issue too. 10 back (even though the rest of me is now a 12) and G for Gods what are those things? boosies. I found halter neck bikinis with structure and hidden underwires work best for me. Best brands I’ve found are Isola by Megan Gale and Seafolly.

    Nikki – I so agree with online tog shopping. Every year, I buy up big from the Ezibuy catalogue. Don’t laugh – they have some good swimmers in there every year. I try them on and send back all the ones I don’t want. Perfect! x

  5. I recently bought my first swim suit without trying it on. I bought it online through Birdsnest and you know what? I love it. It has a few ruffles on the top to enhance my somewhat lacking cleavage and the bottoms are full enough to cover my but without looking like I’m trying to hide it. It’s nice bright tropical colours and I can’t wait to wear it, probably with a sarong though 😉

  6. When I was 20 and the owner of two pert breasts, I went to visit a guy I had been dating in Newcastle. We went to the beach and I got dumped and my swimsuit did not withstand that force of nature. He laughed and laughed at me and all I wanted to do was be cool. Woe was I!

  7. I’m a large lass, as you know, and white and flimsy as a sheet flapping in a stiff breeze, so swim suits are not my favourite. Then, after years of swimming only in my backyard pool, I discovered the little swim skirt. Just a little bit of extra black lycra that I can wear over my usual swimsuits and it has made all the difference in the world to me. I may look like a complete dork, I certainly look like a ‘Mum’, but it’s got me back on the sand again, swimming with the best of them.

    Whatever it takes, I think. x

  8. I love swimsuits! In fact, on really hot days the kids and I wear our swimsuits around the house.

    My shopping tip would be not to worry about it too much! Pick a swimsuit that you like and that fits properly and rock it with confidence. x

      1. Besides, we are all usually too worried about what WE look like in our swimsuit to notice how other women look in theirs!

        1. Couldn’t agree more. There will be always be someone who looks better and worse (according to your own view) in their togs than you when you’re out. Those same people look around and see other people and have the same view. I always figure there will be someone who will think “I wouldn’t mind looking like her” and someone who will think “dear gods, I’m never having kids if that’s what happens”. 😉

  9. I bought a Nancy Ganz swim dress this year too. For the first time in a long time, I can’t wait to be able to wear it. It feels fantastic on.

  10. I have spent 2 years looking for the perfect suit – I ended up buying from Qld Swimmwear Company and they had a really good range and even better they are made here in Qld .. The boardies comment had me giggling because it was sooo true

    1. LOL. Yes, that would be an issue. I’m very glad I got laser treatment on mine! Boy leg shorts are not flattering unless you have an athletic shaped body – ie, no hips. If, like me, your hips are child bearing (even though I’m no longer bearing children!) then that style only emphasises that area.

  11. Goodness, I’m feeling all nervy just reading this post! However I am now determined to just suck it up (and indeed IN!) , find a swimsuit I love, accept the fact my body has carried and delivered 3 gorgeous kids,will never be the same again but it’s healthy and deserves a little acceptance. And a pretty new swimsuit. Deep breaths……xx ps thanks for the katies tip off Nikki, I’m in the process of changing phones so will drop off my old one to them…x

  12. I think all those swimsuits are gorgeous. It’s been a few years since buying a swimsuit as I have been pregnant or new baby over the last 2 summers and this summer it’s time to go buying. I think the problem sometimes is what you like and whàt suits you are to completely different things. I love strapless bikinis but really feel a one piece is more suitable for bending over and picking up babies as they crawl around on the floor. You have inspired me not to consider the board shorts though.

  13. I have started buying swimwear online too. It is a small price to pay being able to try them on in my own home too. Btw, I just checked out that Katies/Jets link. Great cause! I was also surprised at how nice the Katies range is.

  14. I like both a one piece and a bikini for different reasons. I think Jets do beautiful pieces, as does Megan Gale with her Isola range. I would love to get a new gorgeous swimsuit, and this really does look like the best season to buy – so many great options. The one swimsuit I do have trouble finding is a strapless style that you can tie up at the back. I have a tiny back but…err…a rather fulsome bust, so I need the larger cup size but often the back isn’t tight enough. A swimsuit hunting I will go!

    1. Sonia, have you seen the Seafolly

      Matt Underwire Booster Bra – it ties at the back, and with the halter and underwire gives a really nice shape and support.

    2. Jets and Isola are great – agree that the strapless style and a large bust often does not work. Large busts and small backs are being better accommodated in other styles but the strapless is a nice one for not getting any strap marks!

  15. Thank-You Nikki for this blog post,yes it is hard to find a swimsuit you look and feel good in and you have some nice suggestions there,I like a tankini myself as my bikini days are long over and I can never find a one piece that fits me properly,I have a long body I think,I saw a lovely Zimmerman one peice last year but didn’t look for it because of that problem,but might give it a try on.
    My problem areas ,well what I think are problems are my stomach mainly little bit of a belly and stretch marks from having children and I don’t much like my legs and My butt is so flat,and looking at my mother is going to get flatter as I age.
    I agree we should not be so hard on ourselves we did nuture babies in our bodies and that is an amzazing thing for our body to do ,we cannot expect to look the same after.

  16. I have a tankini that I absolutely *love*. The top is basically shapewear, so it sucks me in and holds up my boobs, and has some ruching around the middle to disguise belly flab. Down below I usually just wear a standard bikini bottom but I also have boy leg shorts that match too.

  17. My favourite swimsuit is a nancy ganz one that can actually be a dress as well ( which would be hideously short on me!) , you can pull up the sides and tie the dress bit and the one piece is underneath. then I have a black pair of board shorts, with a 3 way stretch(i think) and the ruched up dress bit can sit over the top looking lke a singlet top. My other fave is miracle suit, I have a few of those, one pieces and tops and bottoms. Being a pool owner and living in an area with despicable unrelentless heat, and having a husband who loves to throw a pool party at the drop of a hat- I just may have a few too many, waiting to live that poolside life!

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