How to Shop for a Swimsuit (without freaking out)

by Tracy James


Invest in one - or some - cute cover ups.

These days, if you’re wise, you’re not baking in the sun to perfect a tan. Long gone are the bronzing marathons of sundial-like rotating on space blankets, iodine and baby oil cocktails, and Malibu Barbie sporting tan lines. So you might as well cover it up. Especially when on vacation, I like a swimsuit cover-up that I can slip on and feel comfortable enough in to wear to lunch by the pool. Whether you want one to cover your arms, your legs, what-have-you…there is a style out there for everyone. Resist feeling obliged to match your swimsuit - a worthy coverup should hide your suit anyway.   

Left: Nanette Lepore Mozambique Cold-Shoulder Lace-Up Caftan ($168, Everything But Water) & Harvest Jewels Turquoise Necklace (Regina Jewelry & Treasures); Center: Nanette Lepore Tanzania Tile Cover Up ($156, in stores soon) & Harvest Jewels Necklace (Regina Jewelry & Treasures); Right: Trina Turk Algiers Tunic ($140, Everything But Water) 

Left: Nanette Lepore Mozambique Cold-Shoulder Lace-Up Caftan ($168, Everything But Water) & Harvest Jewels Turquoise Necklace (Regina Jewelry & Treasures); Center: Nanette Lepore Tanzania Tile Cover Up ($156, in stores soon) & Harvest Jewels Necklace (Regina Jewelry & Treasures); Right: Trina Turk Algiers Tunic ($140, Everything But Water) 

Rethink the one-piece.

The one-piece swimsuits of today are not the swim team Speedos of old. In fact, one-pieces have made quite a comeback and are sexier than ever, with plunging necklines and strappy details accenting open backs. A variety of styles available allows one to highlight certain areas while camouflaging or distracting from others. In my opinion, prints are more flattering and more fun, and less likely to make you look like you are about to put on a cap and swim laps or break into a gymnastics routine.  

Trina Turk Tropic Escape V-Plunge One Piece ($148, Nordstrom)

Trina Turk Tropic Escape V-Plunge One Piece ($148, Nordstrom)

High-cut necks are universally flattering.

Don’t believe me? Go try one on. There is something about the eyes being drawn UP that compliments the figure. As a petite, I appreciate the fact that this visual trick elongates as well.  Whether in a bikini top, tankini or one-piece, this style offers support for busty women or the illusion of volume for smaller chests, and has the added benefit of offering sun protection to the décolletage, an area prone to both burn and damage. Just say no to crepey skin.

Nanette Lepore Mozambique Stargazer Top ($96) & Charmer Strappy-Side Bottom ($72), both from Everything But Water.

Nanette Lepore Mozambique Stargazer Top ($96) & Charmer Strappy-Side Bottom ($72), both from Everything But Water.

Rollover bikini bottoms are your friend.

Love handles? What love handles? Just like your favorite yoga pants, swim bottoms with a fabric rollover feature can hide a multitude of sins, allowing the wearer to adjust what to cover - the lower waist, the hips or both. Unlike bottoms with a single layer of fabric, the gentle rollover prevents the wearer’s stomach from doing the rolling over!

Nanette Lepore Damask Floral Dreamer Bottom ($84) & Vixen Top ($84), both from Belk.

Nanette Lepore Damask Floral Dreamer Bottom ($84) & Vixen Top ($84), both from Belk.

Consider a swimshirt.

When I flip through an Athleta catalog, I want to look like every one of the fit women on those pages. And while a swimshirt can’t give me a Crossfit bod or the ability to surf, it does make me feel like one of those women. Even if I don’t start a day in the sun with a swim shirt, I usually finish with one, once my skin has said “enough, already” to the rays. I keep both a long-sleeve and cap sleeve version, like the one pictured, in my beach bag at all times.

Pacifica UPF Tee 3.0 in Electric Fuchsia ($49), Capri Stripe Pura Bikini Top ($64) & Side Smocked Bottom ($49), S'well Water Bottle in Marrakech ($45), all from Athleta.

Pacifica UPF Tee 3.0 in Electric Fuchsia ($49), Capri Stripe Pura Bikini Top ($64) & Side Smocked Bottom ($49), S'well Water Bottle in Marrakech ($45), all from Athleta.

Tankinis don’t have to be matronly.

Tankinis have gotten a bad rap over the years, thanks to some god-awful versions out there. If this two-piece style is your jam, opt for a fun print and look for details like a strappy back to keep it from being too basic. As for the bottoms, NOT a skirt. NEVER a skirt. Save that look for the tennis court or gold course. If you want more coverage on your bottom half, opt instead for a hipster style, swim shorts, or ruched retro style bottom.

Trina Turk Pacific Paisley Halterkini Top ($100, Zappos) Tie-Side Hipster Bottom ($88, Everything But Water)

Trina Turk Pacific Paisley Halterkini Top ($100, Zappos) Tie-Side Hipster Bottom ($88, Everything But Water)

As published in B-Metro Magazine, June 2017

Photography by Chuck St. John
Model: Amanda M with Red Models