How to choose a swimsuit that will look great & last

Woman in a black swimsuit

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For most women, shopping for bathing suits is not particularly fun. The problem is that most swimsuits are too tight, too small, too big, too expensive, or look too cheap.

A cheaply-made swimsuit or one that’s poorly designed is anything but flattering — and can make you look older or bigger than you really are.
Here’s how to choose a fashionable swimsuit that fits and flatters

Smart fabrics: For swimwear, ShopSmart, a magazine that used to be published by Consumer Reports, suggested you go for nylon and spandex (also known as elastane or Lycra) fabrics, and avoid polyester blends.

Swimwear designer Karla Colletto told The Washingtonian that she recommends shoppers look for swimsuits made with Xtra Life Lycra because, “It really does resist degradation from perspiration and the oils in suntan lotion, so it lasts longer, keeps the suit looking newer, and helps the suit hold its shape.”

She also recommends the Sensitive brand. “Sensitive is a high-quality Italian microfiber. One of the great things it offers is built-in UV protection.” Coletto notes that the fabric is specially-designed to be chlorine-resistant — plus dries quickly and is eco-friendly.

Dozens of other brands now offer swimwear with UV protection — you can see many suits that have sun protection here.

Here are some more swimwear tips from ShopSmart & Lilyvolt:

Stitches: Look for zig-zag stitching, because you need your swimwear to stretch. Chain stitching will unravel more easily, and is a sign of low quality.

Stretch: Do a stretch test by pulling the fabric in one direction and then the other. If you see a lot of white fibers, the fabric will probably deteriorate quickly, and won’t withstand the damage that pool chemicals can cause.

Coletto also says to check to make sure the swimsuit recovers its shape well after stretching.

Close-up swimsuit material
Photo by by tenkende/Envato

Full lining: The lining should be attached around the whole perimeter of the suit, not hanging loose in places.

Seemingly seamless structure: Good-quality suits are intricately constructed within while appearing seamless on the outside. Avoid loose threads, lining, and pads, and sloppy stitching.

Sturdy hardware: Plastic accents are more likely to break than metal ones — but be mindful that metal rings, buckles and other embellishments can get hot in the sun.

A smart fit: Look for straps that don’t dig cut into your shoulders or back, and good built-in support up top that should fit as well as a real bra.

3 tips to get a great fit from your swimwear

Take your measurements: To make sure you get the right size, measure your bust, waist, and hips. Then check the swimsuits’ size charts. Measure your torso length, too; some styles are longer.

Try it on: Sizing is often inconsistent among brands, so try on every suit before you buy it. When you’re trying on a one-piece, the rear shouldn’t ride up, and the top shouldn’t squish your chest — those are signs that the suit is too short.

If your bum cheeks pop out of the rear, the suit is too small, and if material bunches around your backside, the suit is too big. Move and bend to be sure you’re comfy and the suit stays put.

Don’t settle. If a suit pulls or you bulge out of it, put it back on the rack! If you need a specialty suit, plenty are available. If you’re pregnant, shop retailers such as Asos and Figleaves; if you’ve had a mastectomy, look at Gottex, Lands’ End and Amoena; and if you’re a serious swimmer, check out Jantzen and Zoggs.

Proper care will help your swimsuit last

A well-made suit can last up to two years or longer if you rotate it with other suits, ShopSmart says. Rinse your swimsuits immediately after wearing, then hand wash them, and your suits can last even longer.

Nancy J Price & Betsy Bailey

Nancy J Price & Betsy Bailey

We're Nancy and Betsy, and we've been adventuring in the digital world since the mid-90s -- truly making us that type of entrepreneurial internet pioneer Gen X is known for! We started back in 1998 and later launched -- among various other online and print projects. Our partnership has spanned decades and crossed state lines (multiple times!). Nancy currently resides Arizona, and Betsy's newest home base is Minnesota. It's been an incredible journey of collaboration and innovation. You can read more about our story here!

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