**This post has been updated here: http://www.wellsewnstyle.com/2017/05/03/updating-the-2017-ultimate-plus-size-swim-guide/ ** Fit tips and sizing guides are still super-relevant in the post below.
Although making my own swimsuit is on my 2017 sewing to-do list, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. So when I got an incredible opportunity to take a much needed weekend getaway in Florida I knew I would have to shop for a new swimsuit. Last year I bought my first bikini as a plus-size woman (I wore them ALL THE TIME when I was smaller) and wasn’t as confident as I could be. I fussed with the top and the bottom and only wore it out once. Which is really a shame considering how much time I spend on the beach in an average year.
This year I decided I was going to have a new attitude. I decided to stop caring what others thought about me, specifically, what others thought about my body. I decided I was going to focus on the clothes and styles that brought me JOY and not what made others comfortable. And something AMAZING happened. Suddenly my wardrobe options expanded exponentially including my swimwear options—and swimwear shopping started to get a little, dare I say, fun.
As I’m heading into my second season of plus size swimwear shopping I’m sharing all the things I’ve learned about shopping for swimwear for plus and curvy bodies and sharing that knowledge in my 2017 Plus-Size Swimwear Guide. Enjoy!
The 5 Do’s of Plus-Size Swimwear Shopping (there are no “don’ts” we’re all about the positive here!)
Do shop online. There is nothing worse than trying on bathing suits in harsh dressing room lighting (I’m looking at you, Target) while in a rush. Furthermore, when you are shopping in stores you don’t have a size chart to reference. When I shop online I like to buy several options then take my time trying them on. I’ll even try something on and come back to it a day or two later, fiddle with the straps, change the way it sits on my hips and realize that I really like the suit. The beauty of shopping for swimwear online is that you get to try on new styles in the comfort of your own home, at your pace.
Do take your measurements. Just like in RTW clothing, RTW swimsuit sizing is all over the map. In order to buy swimwear online you’ll need 4 key measurements: bust, waist, hip, and torso length. Need help with measurements? Swimsuits for all has a clear video tutorial for taking your own measurements here: Swimsuits For All Measurement Video.
Make a point to write down your measurements and keep them by your side when swimwear shopping.
Do consider stepping outside your comfort zone. Plus size swimwear has come a LONG way from the days of ill-fitting swim dresses (granted the industry is still not where it needs to be, but we’ve definitely made progress!). It took me some time to consider wearing a stomach baring two-piece. Years ago, my thinner self exclusively wore two-pieces, fast forward to the present and I couldn’t wrap my head around wearing a bikini without a perfectly sculpted tummy. But all that’s changed. With more and more plus-size women wearing what they want (instead of wearing what they’re told they “should”) I feel totally empowered to rock a two-piece, and I hope you will too!
Do Tailor! Yes, even a swimsuit can be altered. When I purchase swimwear my measurements generally fall into three different sizes. My hips being the largest, then my bust, then my waist. So when I wear a tankini if it fits in the bust it’s swimming in the waist. Taking a swimsuit in at the sides is super easy. If you still don’t believe me, take your suit to the local tailor. I promise they won’t look at you funny. (In the black fringe tankini I’m wearing, I’ve altered the waist by taking it in about 2 inches.)
Do decide on support. Every body is different. For me, I absolutely need underwire in a bathing suit in order to be comfortable (unless its super-tight!). At a size 38D and having breastfed a baby, let’s just say my breasts aren’t where I left them, ok? That being said, everyone needs to determine what they want/need out of swimwear. When shopping for swimwear always check the description box, it should mention what type of support is in the bra (shelf bra, underwire, molded cups, etc.) It should also note whether or not the garment has power mesh, shaping, etc. This refers to a lining that smooths. If you find the description lacking, call customer service. They should be able to help you with more details.
Online Plus-Size Swimwear Shopping
Now that you have some shopping and fit tips, what are the best online swimwear destinations for plus-size and curvy women? I’ve rounded up the best plus-size swimwear destinations and even included this handy chart so you can see which stores carry your size range. Ultimate Plus-Size Swim Guide Master Size Chart
As you’ll notice on this chart each brand makes up their own size range which further proves there is no rhyme or reason in RTW sizing so don’t feel bad if you’re bigger or smaller in a certain brand vs. another brand, this is actually an intentional marketing tactic called vanity sizing, don’t fall for it!
Make sure to check both the size chart and the return policy before making your purchase!
Swimsuits For All
Currently my favorite online destination for swimwear shopping is Swimsuits For All I love how this site allows you to purchase two pieces as a set but has you select your size for each piece (other sites either sell the bikini as a set, both the same size, or sell the pieces separately).
I’ve found that if you take your measurements and find your size based on their provided size charts you will have a great fit! I know many people just want to select their size, the reality is Swimsuits For All sizing is different than what you’re used to. For reference I am wearing a size 18 top and size 22 bottom in the red bikini pictured (I need to alter the bottom to take it in at the waist). In RTW clothing such as blouses and jeans I generally wear a 14/16 on top and a size 16/18 on the bottom.
GabiFresh Wish Underwire Bikini
This is probably the sexiest swimsuit I’ve ever worn, plus or straight sized. The criss-cross and draping of the fabric create this beautiful effect that really highlights my curves. The design is on-point for curvy bodies.
The straps on this bikini are full detachable. Personally I didn’t like the bra style straps on this suit (the combination of the back closure and the wrap around ties felt far too busy with the shoulder straps. Instead I linked the straps together to create a halter effect. This suit could also be worn strapless. My only gripe is what happens to the bottoms in the water. When wet, the criss-crossed fabric on the bottom stretches out and looks a bit messy. This could be related to the fact that this bottom is just a smidge big on me. the fabric does dry fast so it went back to normal in no time. Otherwise it’s a gorgeous suit, in a beautiful color and the top is very supportive.
Black Fringe Bandeau Tankini
I actually bought this swimsuit last year but it is still for sale on the Swimsuits For All site. I love how the fringe is on trend and also lends a little sex appeal without being too revealing.
This suit does come with a detachable strap which can be styled like a halter (which I’ve since lost, I’ll have to make a new one!) This really is a cute and stylish suit. I love the rouching on the sides. I did have to take this in about 2 inches at the waist. Also note, this tankini comes with only a shelf bra, which is not enough support for my curves. I plan to sew in underwire cups in the very near future.
Stylish, plus-size options for swimwear
Reminder- before purchasing make sure to check both the size chart and the return policy. Happy surfing!
This swim line is the epitome of sex-appeal. The prints, styles and cuts will make any curvy woman feel like an absolute goddess. Current favorite from Monif C is the Seychelles Ruffle Top and the Bora Bora Bottom. Hello Queen!
I love how Modcloth has managed to make their brand all about size-inclusivity. They carry clothing ranging in size from 0-4X. The modcloth look is vintage-inspired and definitively retro. Currently loving this mod cloth one piece here: Splice of Life One Piece.
Plus-size powerhouse Lane Bryant has continuously evolved their style to keep up with the changing demands of the plus size consumer and their swim line doesn’t fall short. They have a number of bikinis, tankinis and one pieces that are anything but stuffy.
Being both tall and curvy I love when a tankini actually looks like a one piece (without riding up in the crotch). Check out this Lane Bryant sexy stunner in red Shimmer Criss Cross Tankini Top and matching bottom.
Youthful, playful swimwear. Definitely geared towards a younger clientele, but many of these swimsuits translate to women of all ages. Current favorite is this stunner here Balconette Bikini Top and Lattice Mesh High Waist Bottom.
Always for Me
Provides a variety of plus-size swim options from bikinis to swim dresses. If you’re looking for a bit more coverage this swim dress provides that plus some retro bombshell-esque: Retro Halter Swim Dress.
Additional options for classic plus-size swimwear
Great place to get timeless, quality swimwear that you’ll wear year after year. Classic one piece here: Colorblock Escape One-Piece
Not an extensive collection of stylish suits but a great place for a quality piece that you’ll be able to wear forever. Also carries plus size rash guards (I tried to surf once, it was a disaster).
Check out this head-turner here: Grecian One-Piece
So you’ve found the perfect suit and you’re ready to hit the beach!
Not so fast.
Protect yourself! Real tans will NEVER come back in style (any opportunity to lecture people about skin safety I am going to take it!). Regardless of your skin tone everyone needs sun protection. I don’t go out of the house without at least wearing SPF 30 on my face. When I head to the beach I use the highest protection I can find. For a little glow prior to hitting the beach I use Jergens natural glow and sometimes even get a spray tan. Sunless tanning technology has come light years and today’s faux glows look incredibly authentic. I also make sure to wear both a hat (the bigger the better) and sunglasses to protect my face and eyes.
So you’ve got your swimsuit, check! Killer bod (just as you are), check! Sun protection, check! Now, slather on the confidence, thicker than that sunscreen. Nothing says bombshell like a confident woman. Shoulders back, head up, and strut. You got this! Get out there and HAVE FUN!
Happy Shopping, Sewing and Styling!
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