Stylish Swimwear for All Shapes and Sizes

Trends include high waisted bottoms, boyleg “playsuits,” large florals and sexy shoulder ruffles.    

By Stacia Friedman


Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Malone in swimsuits that would look up-to-date today.

If you dread shopping for swimsuits, I’ve got good news. This year, designers finally got wise and came up with styles that flatter every body type, whether you’re an unendowed size two or a curvaceous plus size.

What’s hot? Color-blocking, over-sized florals, polka dots, peek-a-boo cutouts and off-the-shoulder ruffles. The newest trends include high-waisted bottoms (a full two inches above your natural waist) which offer tummy control and more coverage, as well as boyleg “playsuits” and shorts.

The most important thing is fit. Part of the agony of trying on swimsuits is that awful moment where you realize you need to go up a size. That’s when most women run out the door. The smart money, however, run straight to a specialty shop such as Linda the Bra Lady or Town Shop which carry every swimsuit cup size from AA to N. (Yes, N!) If these experts can’t get you into the swim, you have our permission to go skinny dipping!

Hip, hip, hooray

UNIQUE swimsuits-740

Curvaceous hips are back! Not that they’ve ever gone away. But this year, you’ll have many attractive ways of displaying or concealing them. Our favorites are retro chic styles that conjure up 1950’s pin-ups. You’ll find a dazzling selection of regular and plus size beauties online at Unique Vintage. Before you shriek that you’d never buy swimwear online, consider this: Unique Vintage carries size zero to 4X and designers from Betsey Johnson to Bettie Page. UV also offers a detailed size guide and a video. Plus, its swimwear is returnable with no shipping fee. We dare you to visit the site and not go gaga!

Above left to right: We love the Monroe Halter Swim Top and High Waist Bottom sold separately in solid colors and polka dot. Top: $38. High-waisted bottom: $44. Consider the aptly named Esther Williams 1950s Style Pin Up ruched one-piece with side boning and halter neck in emerald green. Sizes 14 to 18, $88. Or strike a nautical pose in the Garbo Retro Halter with high back, boy legs and button trim. The white top and navy bottom accentuate the bust and slim your hips. Also comes in solid black or polka dot. In regular and plus sizes $88. All at Unique Vintage.


Another online site that understands the needs of full-figured women is Bare Necessities. Its Network Madero Miraclesuit lifts your breasts with underwire cups, defines your waist and shrink-wraps your hips. Mesh insets in the front torso add a sexy touch, while the back offers full coverage. Prefer a skirt? Look no further than the Pin Point Aurora Miraclesuit with V-neck, asymmetrical wrap front and flirty skirt with attached panty in black with white dots. Each suit is on sale for $137 at Bare Necessities. (Miracles don’t come cheap, but if you compare these suits to the cost of liposuction, it’s a bargain!)

For plus size women, Macy’s offers a huge selection at all price points. Our top pick? Gottex Enchantment Swimdress. The draped, deep V-neck with underwired cups draws eyes up, while the bust to hip ruching sucks in your belly, finishing off with a dainty ruffle at the bottom. On sale $133 at Macy’s. (Ladies, this figure-enhancing number comes in ALL sizes!)

Designers vs Knock-Offs


A smart way to shop the latest swimwear styles is to check out designer labels, then scoot over to affordable retailers and discount chains for the same look at a fraction of the price.

Mossimo-225Above left to right: For instance, what’s not to like about the one-shoulder Arden Swimsuit by Lisa Marie Fernandez with this year’s hot trend—the ruffle—in red, $430? Or the same brand’s off-the-shoulder ruffle Mira Swimsuit in black with white or cobalt with yellow, $465. Each at Barney’s. Um, for starters, the price tags!

Compare those high priced spreads to the Off-the-Shoulder Ruffle Swimsuit at J.Crew with a low-dip keyhole back in black polka dot: on sale for $70. These ruffle styles are especially complimentary to small breasted or pear-shaped figures. Or buzz over to Target for a classic One-Shoulder Swimsuit sans ruffle with a high back in black for just $39.99. While you’re there, try a sleek Strappy Back number by Mossimo in blue and green print with criss-cross, skinny straps over a scooped-out back, $39.99.
Rlauren-swim-solutions-375Tummy Control

You don’t have to be a plus size to want to suck in your gut. And you don’t need to sacrifice style either. Ralph Lauren’s Tummy Control Swimdress features a chic retro look with plunging V-neck, shirring from bust to hip and full bottom coverage in blue or black, $89 on sale. You’ll also get tummy control and full bottom coverage with Swim Solutions Sarong Swimdress in blue frond print, $74 on sale. Both at Macy’s.




Floral prints are over-sized, retro and decidedly tropical. The best we’ve seen are at Anthropologie. Zinnia Plunge One-Piece is a veritable hot house of seductive blooms with a down-to-there plunge and wide crisscross straps that create back view drama. The vibrant print looks like it was plucked off a 1940’s English Country drape. Multi-colored flowers on black or pastels on sky blue, $118. (The top of this suit is so pretty you’ll be tempted to slip on a pair of capris or skirt and wear it to dinner.)

Anthro-hydrangea-225At right: Want nice with just a sliver of naughty? Try Hydrangea, a one-piece swimsuit with center front tie that plunges down to the waist, to expose as much or as little as you prefer. White print flowers on Lilac with scooped back, $128. For greater coverage with retro “playsuit” appeal, consider Seafolly Tropic Coast Boyleg One-Piece with padded cups and halter tie in tropical blue on white, $158.


Where oh where can you find a classic maillot? We suggest J.Crew’s Scoopback Swimsuit in regular or long torso. It comes in 8 colors! On sale $69.

Reality Check

Although suits are created for every figure, not every figure is going to look great in every swimsuit. Take an honest assessment of your physical “assets” and, when in doubt, ask a swimsuit fit expert or a trusted friend for a second opinion. The goal is to feel confident, comfortable and stylish. If that means wearing an ankle-length sarong or a breezy cover-up over your swimsuit until you’re ready to take the plunge—so be it! And don’t forget your sunhat and SPF 50.

Stacia Friedman is an award-winning Philadelphia-based journalist who writes on health and lifestyle for regional and national magazines. She also contributes humorous essays to and

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