How to Survive Hell (aka Swimsuit Shopping)

The last time I bought a real bathing suit, one that actually fits and that I actually like, was before my honeymoon. That suit does not fit anymore. I’ve had a couple cheap ones to get me through since then, but it’s not going to cut it much longer. My kids are getting bigger, I can no longer pretend there’s no such thing as a pool. Oh, and we’re going to a water park in less than a week. It was time. 

Let me tell you a little bit about my body and what I look for in a swimsuit.

  • I’m a size 8/Medium top and a 10/Large bottom, which is why I find two-pieces to be a good option in terms of fit.
  • Even though I’m a smaller size on top, I have a C-cup bra size and a sizable post-baby tummy.
  • I hate hate hate clothes that are very tight. No Spanx for this girl. I suffer through tights. This makes swimsuit shopping particularly hard, since so many of them are heavy, tight fabric.
  • I may have a post-baby tummy, but I am not wearing any kind of suit that is supposed to camouflage or cover up my tummy. No Miraclesuits, please. I want to be comfortable. And have a little bit of jiggle control. And beyond that the belly is what it is.

I put out the call to see where people shop and if they could confirm to me that there is in fact a two-piece that fits my criteria. Based on their recommendations and my own choices I made 3 shopping trips for bathing suits. (Actually 4, but a look at Swim ‘n Sport in the mall yielded absolutely nothing I wanted to try on. Total bust.) Before I get to the specific places and suits, let me give you my tips to make bathing suit shopping a little less painful.

swimsuit 1 How to Survive Hell (aka Swimsuit Shopping)

You’re probably thinking that I’m crazy, but I ate a meal right before I went swimsuit shopping each time. (Including a delightful lunch with several courses in Chinatown.) Why, you ask? Because the last thing I want is to take a suit home and find that it’s too small. I will be wearing this suit before meals, during meals, after meals. I’ll be wearing it when I’m bloated and when I’m not. But the times when I’m stuffed full are the times when I’m much more likely to care about whether this damn suit is comfortable.

A little food baby isn’t going to require you to go a size up, it’ll just help you make sure you’ve got a good fit.

Also food is awesome and you might as well enjoy something before you go into the fray.

swimsuit 2 How to Survive Hell (aka Swimsuit Shopping)

Start at the top and the bottom of your budget. When you know what’s out there for $30, it’ll give you a lot of perspective once you get to the pricey ones. You may also find that the most expensive suits are not necessarily your favorites. 

Also don’t be afraid to buy more than one suit. If you find something that works, buy it. If you find something else you like better, buy that and then return the first one. Or you may find two suits that you love that work in really different ways so you opt for both. 

swimsuit 3 How to Survive Hell (aka Swimsuit Shopping)

Look, no one expects this to be fun. But if you do your job right you won’t have to do this again for a LONG TIME.

Now let’s do this.

 

First Stop: Macy’s

Pros:

  • Variety. Way more than you’ll find at a store that only has one brand.
  • Great brand names: Nautica, Ralph Lauren, and Michael Kors all had plenty of suits there.
  • Sales! More sales, more coupons, more promos than you’ll find at many stores.
  • Suits for all body types, all kinds of coverage and several with built-in bras.

Cons:

  • Not every store has the same variety. It’ll vary depending on where you are. 
  • You may find yourself in a very sad dressing room. Again, it varies.
  • Rare to find someone there to help you get a new size. Best to bring a friend.

What I Found:

My favorite suit from Macy’s was not one I expected, but it fulfilled all my requirements. And it was on sale so it cost less than $40 to buy both pieces.

macys suit 1 How to Survive Hell (aka Swimsuit Shopping)

This is basically a bikini with a crochet cover below the cups. But it was unexpectedly flattering. Only downside is that with nothing holding on to the belly, it’s not great for running around. On the plus side: I looked pretty damn sexy in it.

20140614 131552 e1403012526287 How to Survive Hell (aka Swimsuit Shopping)

The big thing I learned from this suit: emphasizing the boobs can go a long way to help you care less about the belly. And it was possible for me to feel kinda cute and sexy in a suit. A welcome discovery.

 

Second Stop: Athleta

Pros:

  • Oh comfy. So comfy. Like yoga clothes for the beach.
  • Lots of options for mix and match two-pieces.
  • Easy online shopping.
  • Lovely dressing rooms, and there was always someone back there to get me more sizes or options.
  • Really good refund policy.

Cons:

  • Not many brick and mortar locations.
  • Less selection. There’s much more online, but in store is limited.
  • Little in the way of boob support. Skip this one, big-breasted ladies.

What I Found:

I wouldn’t have considered Athleta if a few friends hadn’t given it high marks. I only took two suits back with me to the dressing room. Their one pieces looked too complex for my taste, and even their two-pieces felt the need for a lot of detailing. So yeah, I was skeptical.

Until I put a suit on. And then I was just so happy. It was comfortable. The skirt had shorts beneath it, shorts that ACTUALLY FIT. I can’t remember if I’ve ever worn a pair of swim shorts that actually fit. The shorts have bikini bottoms beneath, and same deal. Actually fit. And I love that the shorts look like cute sport shorts instead of too-tight swim shorts.

athleta suit How to Survive Hell (aka Swimsuit Shopping)

This suit was not at all too tight on the tummy, the fabric was light and breathable. I just felt like I was wearing a tank top. It also didn’t feel too short, which is a definite plus.

20140616 121331 e1403012452828 How to Survive Hell (aka Swimsuit Shopping)

(Apologies for the blurry pic.) But boob coverage is one of their weak points. I loved this suit, which also came with lots of cute bottoms, but the boobs were not having it.

 

Third Stop: Lands End

Pros:

  • Lots of mix and match options.
  • Lots of colors and styles.
  • Good variety of sizes, including plus-sizes. Lots of cover-ups, too.
  • You can try on suits at Sears if you don’t want to roll the dice online.
  • Lots of suits with underwire bras.

Cons:

  • So many skirts. Seriously, WTF? (Maybe it was just my story, but crazy.)
  • Prints are okay, but not great.
  • Old-school styles and fabrics.
  • Sears dressing rooms leave much to be desired.

What I Found: 

So I’ve been hearing about Lands End suits for AGES. YEARS. I have walked by them and thought about trying them on plenty of times. I finally bit the bullet and I was… not super impressed.

lands end suit How to Survive Hell (aka Swimsuit Shopping)

Yes, they have a variety of tops and bottoms. Lots of colors. But not one suit was flattering. Putting them on was horrendous. And once on they were tight and not terribly comfortable. They were everything I don’t really like about swimsuits. Everything I was trying to escape. Everything that made me dread trying on swimsuits in the first place.

They tended to emphasize the belly (especially the pink one) and do nothing for the boobs. I swear the models have their boobs smushed up to get cleavage in these suits or were photo shopped in. So yeah. We did not have much fun.

lands end suits How to Survive Hell (aka Swimsuit Shopping)

Look, it’s not like I look hideous in them. But they kinda look like wearing mom suits. And I definitely wasn’t paying that much for a suit that didn’t do much for my body.

 

The verdict

I ended up buying both the Macy’s and Athleta suits, but I’ll be taking the Macy’s one back. It was a good one to have in case I didn’t find anything else I like. 

The Athleta suit was more than I wanted to spend. But it really didn’t cost more than a Lands End suit. And I liked it a whole lot more. I also feel pretty confident taking it to the swim park, especially because their return policy is that you can work out in their clothes and return them if they don’t perform. So we’ll see how a day at the water park goes…

 

Anywhere I missed? Any tips you’d add?