The Plus-Size Girl's Guide To Swimwear

No matter your shape or size, shopping for a swimsuit can prove itself a real chore. After all, what are these pieces, really, if not glorified (and water-friendly) lingerie? 

The key is to not let swimwear's inherent skimpiness limit your choices, according to founder, blogger, and plus-size model Aimee Cheshire. Finding swimwear in the right size — and with adequate support — is invaluable when it comes to feeling confident and comfortable. 

"In the past, plus-size and curvy women were told to avoid bikinis, embrace the 'miracle suit,' wear black, and hide their bodies under cover-ups," Cheshire explains. "Today, the plus industry is changing from a position of 'concealing' to 'revealing' — more and more brands are creating swimsuits for curvy bodies, so you can step away from basic black and find styles that fit your personality and flatter your body."

Ultimately, every body is a bikini body; you just have to put a bikini on it. Wherever you fall on the size spectrum, just know there are styles out there — in a range of colors, prints, and silhouettes — that are tailored to your style. Ahead, we're sharing our favorite plus-size suits to shop (so far) this season, along with tons of expert tips to help you nail that fit.  
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Not every woman is a bikini girl, and that's okay.
"Even though body empowerment is at an all-time high, I get that not every plus-size woman is a fan of the bikini," plus-size blogger Margie Ashcroft told us. "One-piece swimsuits can be just as sexy and can make you feel just as fashion-forward on the beach." Just look at this Pour Moi maillot, for example.

While you are in no way limited to only black or only one-pieces, sometimes it's a classic color and silhouette that prove the most flattering. We're digging the mesh detail in this suit's front — you're showing some skin but are still plenty supported on top.
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Embrace vibrant colors and prints.
"For one-piece swimsuits, I look for mid-section control and chest support, but play with prints — whether it's vibrant color-blocking or a more retro floral print, like this Gabi Fresh for Swimsuits style," Ashcroft adds.
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At least try a bikini!
Aimee Cheshire encourages plus-size women to "embrace your curves and at least try [a bikini]! A high-waisted bottom will give you the shaping that a one-piece offers." Another great shopping nugget to keep in mind? "Look for bikinis that are available as separates, so you can get the right size on both the top and the bottom," she says.
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Buy your tops and bottoms as separates.
Finding bikini sets that fit properly on the top and bottom is easier said than done, according to Sorella swim designer Jessica Petersen.
"Many women tell me that they are small-busted but have a very full frame everywhere else — and that all the swimsuits they try on are too big in the bust." The reverse can also be true. "I recommend shopping for a two-­piece swimsuit that is sold as separates. This gives women the flexibility to buy tops and bottoms in different sizes," suggests Peterson.
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Don't underestimate the power of underwire.
If you're busty, Cheshire suggests "looking for a suit with underwire, for lift and support. If you find underwire uncomfortable, try a style with a shelf bra built in."
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Find bathing suits with details you love.
"Most women with curves only feel comfortable in a swimsuit if it provides them with adequate support," says Petersen. "Look for features like underwire or molded cups, adjustable straps, control panels, and fabrics with a high percentage of spandex or Xtra Life Lycra. All these features will help with support."

Case in point: This maillot's ruched detailing along the sides highlights and subtly enhances the model's natural curves.
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Experiment with silhouettes.
"Opt for more of an open neckline: The bust can be one of the most flattering areas of a curvy woman’s body, and there is no better place to show that off than at the beach," suggests Cheshire.
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Get creative.
"The monokini is great for girls who carry their weight in their hips," says Cheshire.
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Hone in on adjustable features that let you tailor a suit to your liking.
"Look for swimsuits that have adjustable features, like halter necklines, removable cups, adjustable ties, and ruched fabrics that can be spread out or scrunched up to show less or more skin," Peterson suggests. This way, you're able to tailor your suit to you.
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Cutouts aren't for straight sizes only.
Cheshire is also a fan of creative skin-showing: "A cutout placed right below the bust can be very flattering."
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Understand that sizing can be tricky across brands.
"Sizing is one of the biggest disparities you start encountering in products over a size 10 or 12," explains Petersen. "There is no grade rule on how sizes are determined above a size 12. Therefore, a size 14 in one brand can vary by one to two inches compared to another brand."

"Look for sites that offer free shipping and free returns so that you can try multiple sizes without the expense of shipping back and forth," she suggests.
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Keep the quirky prints a-coming.
"Look for a fun, allover pattern that keeps the eye moving," says Cheshire. If the design featured here feels like a lot, start with a suit that has "solid panels on the sides and a fun print in the middle. It’s a great way to step into wearing prints."
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Take a suit's leg opening into account.
"Look for a suit that is cut lower at the hip — a retro silhouette will create a flattering shape... There are so many cute swimsuits with skirts or boy shorts to consider, too," says Cheshire.
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Don't settle.
"With the boom of the 'fatkini' two years ago, mainstream brands have been catching waves that the curvy community wants more when it comes to swimsuits," exclaims Ashcroft. "We want to play with prints and cuts rather than just purchasing the first basic-black swimsuit we find (that ultimately just minimizes our curves)."
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Channel your inner Sasha Fierce.
Ashcroft's parting (and maybe most important) piece of advice to swimsuit shoppers: "Go into the shopping experience with a Beyoncé 'flawless' mentality, and really take notice of the different body parts you want to accentuate in order to find the style that is right for you." Hear, hear.

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