Diving into Deep Water

10 Tips for Buying Swimwear

Let's face it: this is the time of year we all dread. Whether you're the size 6 who wants to buy the size 4 or the size 16 who just doesn't want to wear a swimsuit at all, shopping for a swimsuit is a stressful experience.
    "Swimsuits are, of course, in a class by themselves," says Leah Feldon, fashion expert and author of "Does This Make Me Look Fat?" (Random House, $24.95)
    "Bathing suit shopping puts you between grim reality and horrid overhead fluorescence - frankly, not one of my favorite places to be. Still, if you want to frolic in the sea and surf, you're going to need a suit - and it might as well be one that flatters."

Here are some of Feldon's tips on shopping for swimsuits, no matter what size you are:

.    Give yourself time to shop. "You have to try on a lot of suits," says Feldon. "Try styles you might not ordinarily consider - sometimes they work better than you think. And of course, look for designs that will accentuate the positives. If you have a lovely bosom and heavy hips, make sure the bodice of the suit is perfectly well cut and gorgeous and the bottom unobtrusive."

.    Always try at least one size larger than you think you wear. Personally, I've found this to be very true when shopping for swimsuits. I've even gone up two sizes. "When suits are tight," says Feldon, "the edges cut into any excess flesh and make bulges. Suits that fit a bit looser compress flesh less - hence nothing is squeezed, nothing pops out." None of us wants that!

.    Look for high Lycra content. Hey, we all know this rule by now: the more Lycra in the suit, the more it will hold you in!

.    Check the inside construction. "Some suits have hidden features such as underwire bra support, bust enhancers, double linings, or tummy trimming panels that could serve you well," says Feldon.

.    Stick to the darker colors or tones close to your skin color. "Remember that dark colors recede, making the figure appear smaller, and skin-tone suits give the impression of an all-over monotone, always a winner."

.    No big prints. As if we all didn't know this one! The bigger the print, the bigger it makes us look, right? So, Feldon says, if you have to wear a big print, pair the big print top with a matching solid bottom to draw attention away from hips and thighs.

.    Cleverly placed vertical and diagonal stripes and/or color blocks can help slim. OK, this is one "rule" where you have to just try it on and then see what you and the mirror think.

.    No shiny fabrics. It seems it just shows everything. I know ... I love metallics, too.

.    Shirring across the front of a suit can camouflage tummies,
but make sure these are not your "Grandma" suits.

.    Go for the highest-cut leg that you feel comfortable in.
"The high cut gives more length," says Feldon, who suggests steering clear of the boy legs. "Every iota of excess flesh is squeezed down and pops out right where the suit leg ends. They are deadly! If you like the idea of bottoms that resemble shorts, make sure they are wide around the thigh."

Bottom line:
Find the swimsuit that fits you. And better yet, find a cover-up that fits you better.
Take the time to find the perfect bathing suit that flatters your body shape.

    Sharon Mosley is a former fashion editor of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock and executive director of the Fashion Editors and Reporters Association.

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