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Flaunt It: Why Big Girls Shouldn't Wear Big Swimsuits

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Anonymous: "Big girl, you are beautiful," goes the song -- and it's true. So here's a message to my fellow plus-sized gal pals out there: Step away from the big skirted swimsuits and swim dresses.

woman in swimsuit

I was never the kind of girl who could slip effortlessly into a bikini -- even when my abs were perfect and flat. Two pregnancies and too many days off at the gym took care of that, so the one-piece swimsuit has always been my friend. A few years ago, though, I started buying into the idea that I needed to cover my assets with a skirted suit. After several summers suffering under all that extra fabric, I've banned those dowdy numbers for good, and will squeeze into a simple and slightly sexy one-piece this year.

Here's why: Skirted suits and swim dresses break the Golden Rule of plus-sized fashion: You can't just cover it up. Boxy cuts hide a lot of sins, sure, but they make a woman look bigger than she really is. They shorten the leg and add extra width at the hips. Several years of scientific research (sitting on my beach towel people-watching, that is) have taught me that skirts just aren't flattering -- not even on the slim swimmers out there.

Swimming in a skirted suit or swim dress is like swimming with your clothes on. If all that extra fabric isn't dragging you down to the bottom of the pool, then it's floating up and hanging around your armpits. The minute you come out of the pool, it's all wrinkled up and sticks uncomfortably to your skin. Flattering. For that same reason, skirted suits aren't suited for exercise, and swimming is an excellent way to burn off a few extra calories.

I know, I know -- you just aren't comfortable putting it all out there without something covering your butt and thighs. I hear you, I do. But there are a multitude of options out there that can make you feel comfortable and pretty at the same time. Here are some tips for your next swimsuit shopping trip:

  • When it comes to clothing, black is a popular slimming color. But when picking out a swimsuit, look for a flattering pattern that will camouflage any lumps and bumps you might be trying to hide.
  • Suits that have shirring or twists in the fabric that form a diagonal line are also great for accentuating a waistline and hiding bulges.
  • Suits with slimming panels are great, but make sure they aren't too tight. You can't squeeze fat into nonexistence; it has to go somewhere.
  • If you're above a DD cup, look for swimsuits with a built-in bra. A shelf bra -- or, worse, no bra -- just won't offer enough support. Halter-top necklines look great on women with larger breasts, and full-coverage suits with a lower back will give you a touch of sexy while still giving you the support you need.
  • Consider replacing that old skirted suit with a sheer wrap or a pair of trendy board shorts that you can slip off before you jump in the water. A cute cover-up does the trick, too.
  • If you must wear a skirt, look for a well-fitting suit in a style that actually flatters your figure and doesn't just cover you up.

Here's how I know I'm right: When I showed my husband the suit I picked out to replace last year's skirted version, he didn't even bat an eye at the $108 price tag. Proof positive it was time for the skirt to go!

next: Vicki Iovine: 'The World Needs a League of Girlfriends!'
8 comments so far | Post a comment now
anonymous June 4, 2010, 6:35 AM

I like Delta Burke swimwear a lot. Also, there are ways they can make the patterns and shades that make you look slimmer.

Barb June 4, 2010, 6:44 AM

Why don’t you share your good buy with us? Brand? Style? A link, perchance?

Judy Bradley June 4, 2010, 7:55 AM

I am allergic to latex and I did not know until last year after a very bad reaction, that swimsuits have latex! There is nothing on the label, so I do not know how to find a swimsuit free of latex (and I cannot afford that $108 tag! lol). My budget is very limited but I would like to have a suit so I can swim in my son’s pool or at the beach (if the oil doesn’t ruin it all) with my family.

Lindy June 4, 2010, 9:32 AM

I love my plus size swim dress I bought from Roaman’s catalog. It’s very stylish and I feel comfortable in it. I don’t care what other people think.

Andi June 7, 2010, 12:15 PM

I’ve been searching for a new swimsuit for - literally - years. Finally I found one last week and yes, it’s a swimdress - a shimmery lilac number shirred up the sides with an honest-to-goodness flip skirt, and it. is. adorable. I feel like a 40s glam goddess, and that doesn’t happen very often. I am keeping the old one as a backup, but this one is my new happy place.

Jacob Garcia June 22, 2010, 7:34 AM


Emily July 9, 2010, 12:53 PM

I have always had that opinion about a swim skirt. What i find to be comfortable and even flattering ate the two piece suits (don’t stop reading)that cover. I have one that has the shorts for the bottom and a halter top that comes down over the belly. It doesn’t come up in the water and the shorts are comfy and don’t ride up. they even cover some of the blobby cellulite.

sfsfsdfgsdgdg March 27, 2011, 2:42 PM


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