You’re placed in a small, windowless room. Your skin is clammy, your heart races. You develop a twitch. Awkwardly, you begin to undress, eyes averted.
No, this isn’t a remake of Stephen King’s Carrie — this is bathing suit shopping. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Researchers in Australia recently published a study and found that even thinking about trying on swimsuits in a dressing room can worsen a woman’s mood. According to Marika Tiggemann, a psychologist at Flinders University and author of the study, “… the dressing room of a clothing store contains a number of potentially objectifying features: (often several) mirrors, bright lighting, and the virtual demand that women engage in close evaluation of their body in evaluating how the clothes appear and fit.”
Until swimsuit shops start providing glasses of wine and spray tans upon entering the changing room, I’ll be making my swimsuit purchases from the comfort of my couch, bottle of chardonnay close at hand. It doesn’t have to be sink or swim, either. Here’s a roundup of the best way to “surf” the Internet for all things Lycra:
Head to the mall
This may sound counterproductive, but start in-store and try on as many different styles, cuts, and fits as possible. This will give you a better understanding of what type of suit is most comfortable (two-piece, one-piece, halter, boy shorts, etc.) without the pressure of having to walk out of the store with a shopping bag.
Read all about it
You may not want to spend too much time searching through the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, but spend a bit of time researching best cuts for your body type. We like the information (and inspirational swimwear makeovers) at CyberSwim. Real Simple and Glamour also have great guides on figuring out what details can enhance your shape for a flattering fit.
Before you dive in
Google can be a scary place. Combine it with lycra and swimsuit shopping online can become downright overwhelming. Here’s a quick round-up of sites with a reliable selection of swimsuits to get you started:
- Lands’ End: Take advantage of Lands’ End’s mix-and-match options, perfect whether you’re looking for a trendy or classic suit. Styles range from girly to sporty, and sizes are offered in petite, long, and plus. If you’re unsure about sizes, the company offers free return shipping on reorders, meaning you can send back the wrong size for free to order the same item in a different size or color. Be sure to take advantage of their “swim experts,” online chats, and shoppers’ reviews.
- Malia Mills: This company’s mission, according to their website, is to “inspire women, no matter what brand of swimwear they have on, to look in the mirror and smile at what they see.” Smiling comes easy on this site, with their practical by-bra sizing from A- to E-cup and stunning selection. Bottoms range in size from 2 16. From their natural models, empowering messages, and multiple views available for swimsuits, this site is a favorite!
- Pinup Girl Clothing: For the sassy side of swimsuit shopping, try this retro-inspired brand. Their unique “shop by body type” (apple, pear, etc.) feature eases the uncertainty about how certain styles may look on your shape. Be sure to check out the models’ measurements too, which are listed along with the products — the variety of body types and sizes used here can offer a better perspective than just going by photos.
- L.L. Bean: This brand just does it right. They offer front/back views of all their suits to give you a clear idea of the cut, as well as a customer review rating/comment section. They have a nice selection of one- and two-piece suits, and refreshingly, an extensive selection of swim dresses, too. Bonus? Shipping is free on all orders.
Look for moveable parts
Janna Zittrer, Canadian fashion magazine FLARE‘s Montreal correspondent and founder of Montreal Shopping Tours, says you should look for adjustable straps and ties to ensure the best possible fit. Removable cups and embellishments (such as a belt or pin) will also allow you to customize your swimwear to better suit your evolving shape and style. The more moveable parts, the better your chances for a proper fit.
Measure up properly
According to Erin McCormick, swimwear merchandise manager for Lands’ End, one of the biggest mistakes women make when it comes to choosing a swimsuit to fit and flatter isn’t necessarily the style. “The key to looking great and feeling confident in a swimsuit is finding your correct size,” she said. With the right measurements, it’s easy to find the perfect fit. A common mistake, McCormick said, is not positioning the measuring tape correctly when taking measurements. To get started, here’s a measuring guide from Lands’ End:
- Torso: Run a tape measure down the back from where the shoulder meets the neck, through the legs, and back up the front. (In other words, make a loop.)
- Bust: With arms relaxed at the sides of the body, measure the fullest part of the bust, keeping the tape measure parallel to the floor.
- Waist: Measure around the waist at the narrowest point. Add ½ an inch to the measurement for comfort.
- Hips: Stand with heels together and measure around the fullest part of the hips, keeping the tape measure parallel to the floor.
Find sites that post peer product reviews. Read as many comments as possible, paying particular attention to women with similar concerns and body types. Don’t forget about Facebook and Twitter, where customers may have posted about a company’s product. Remember, most sites have additional information about their suits as well as associates available for live chats.
Set the mood
It’s sink or swim time. When your suit(s) arrive, take a minute to prep. Shave or wax beforehand. Slather on some self tanner for a quick confidence boost. Take a deep breath and dive in!
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