Monday, March 12, 2012

Swimsuit Shopping doesn't have to Suck

In a couple weeks I'm going to Mexico with 45 people. Our group is comprised of a dozen high school senior boys along with parents and a few younger siblings. The boys are tight, but the rest of us don't know each other as well. Being in a bathing suit in front of so many people (including some super-fit moms) is stressing me out. I want to look my best, or at least feel comfortable.

So Friday, feeling unexpectedly brave, I went swimsuit shopping. I came home with a great suit, but it wasn't easy. Since I'm fresh from the dressing room, I thought I'd share some tips on how to make the whole potentially traumatic experience more pleasant for you.

Before you leave home:
  • Be single-minded. Finding a good bathing suit is a big deal. Give yourself plenty of time for this mission and don't convolute it with other errands or shopping needs. 
  • Set goals for your suit. My priorities were coverage, comfort and cuteness. I also wanted to play up my boobs while distracting from my wide hips.  I was leaning toward  a tankini, because the bikini bottom makes it easier to pee in public restrooms, while the longer top covers the tummy, but can be rolled up for tanning. You'll have your own criteria. 
  • If you have no idea what styles look best for your figure, do some online research.
  • Wear appropriate attire. I recommend you wear tiny undies - stuffing my boyshort briefs into bikini bottoms was not fun - big jewelry, and beachy shoes with a heel (shove 'em in your purse if it's not sandal weather.)
My pick: La Blanca Tankini
Image via Lord and Taylor
At the Mall:
  • Find a store with a pleasing environment and a BIG selection of swimsuits. You need lots of options! I had found some suits I liked on Bloomingdale's website, but their in-store selection was disappointingly thin. Macy's had a huge assortment, but the department was messy, loud and chaotic - and seemed geared to 13 year-olds. I ended up at Lord &Taylor, which had a nice selection of chic styles and large, clean dressing rooms.
  • Plan to try on many, many suits. Grab anything that you think might meet your criteria in a size at least one size bigger than your dress size. If you are normally an 8, start with a 10 and go from there. If you're trying on separates, you may need to mix and match. My bottom is a size bigger than my top!
In the Dressing Room
  • Trust me on this - do not look in the mirror until the suit is fully on! Watching yourself squirm into a suit in bad lighting is not good for your self image. 
  • Go easy on yourself. You are bound to try some suits that look simply terrible. I tried on a Miraclesuit that sucked in my waist like a corset, but squished my boobs as well. The last time I saw my breasts that flat, I was getting a mammogram. Remember - if you look awful, it's the suit's fault, not yours. 
  • As you try everything on, be honest about what styles really flatter you, and readjust. For example, I thought I wanted a strapless bandeau or halter top, but those suits didn't give the lift my bust requires  to look perky. Well... perky-ish.
  • When you find a suit that looks good, hang it on the "yes" hook and finish trying the others. If it's still one of your favorites, try it on a final time and examine yourself from every angle. Get really critical. Is it the best color for you? Can you swim in it? Is it gaping or pulling? Are you sure you don't need a different size? Then, If you still like the suit, buy it immediately and don't look back.
My Suit!
  • I found I liked tops with sewn-in cups (without those little cup liners that are always sliding around) and wide, uplifting straps. I also developed a passion for ruching, because the gathered material covers a lot of lumps and bumps.
  • In the end, I bought the red shirred La Blanca Tankini pictured above. The top cost $97 (ouch) and the bottoms $39 for a total of $136 plus tax.  It's not the sexiest, flashiest suit, but it's cute, it fits well, and I think I'll feel comfortable wearing it poolside with my 45 new best friends. After a couple stong margaritas, that is.
Are you going doing some swimsuit shopping this Spring? I'd love to hear about your experience and the suit you score!

April Update: here's a picture of me in Mexico wearing the suit. I was very happy with it - felt very comfortable whether sunning, snorkling, swimming or jet skiing. That forgiving pleating became even more important over the course of week as my intake of margaritas, guacamole and tacos went unchecked. Ole!