My sister texted me, in a rage: "SHANA. I just bought a swimsuit at Target. Size? XL!!! Who can possibly wear a small?????"
My sister is not a big girl. In fact, she's pretty tiny. But places like Target (or Forever 21, or Old Navy) often end up making swimwear that is much better suited to a 23 year old body. Or for a 12 year old. Stuff like this:
This model has the tinest little bum I've ever seen. So cute.
Even my relative happiness at finding a Gap Bikini last year (See Your Pre-Baby Body Called, it Says it's Not Coming Back)...resulted in my returning home with a size large top. Yes, I was nursing, but "the girls" had calmed down (I'd been nursing Raines for 18 months at that point), and anyway, I'm typically an A cup. Sooo...someone who starts out as a gasp! C cup is then forced to buy an...XXL? That's crazy. And hard to find.
Add to this mess the fact that we need swimwear to help hide our c-section scars, poochy stomachs, muffin tops, and cellulite -- all while chasing the kiddos around. Oh yeah - and we'd like to look hot and young, not dowdy.
There really is no perfect solution. I think the best approach is to decide what you hate less: stomach or bum/thighs, and bare one of them. Covering up everything is a quick road to dowdyville. And as my husband likes to remind me: We are our own worst critics. So pick a cute suit, then slap on some fake-tan, big sunglasses and forget about it! Your little one will just want you out there!
Here are my strategies and stores for finding cute, mom-appropriate swimwear:
Be a Surfer Girl
However, if you are relatively happy with your post-baby body (or at least have made your peace with it), bikinis by surf companies will still provide a young, sexy look with staying power (and coverage). You won't have to worry about your top popping off or your bottoms ending up around your ankles as you dive into the waves.
Halter tops are the most supportive in this category, and halter tops with straps that cross in back and tie are even more so. Pictured is Roxy's Surf Essential's Surf Bikini (roughly $70) at roxy.com.
Want More Coverage?
Athleta.com does an incredible job of pulling that surfer girl vibe into a very functional line of bikinis. To be honest, I think most of their prints can be very overwhelming, so keep the following in mind:
With prints, less fabric is key.
So stick to bikini tops and bottoms - full-coverage boyshorts or (even worse) skirts in wild prints can quickly veer into old lady territory.
If you had your heart set on a boyshort or skirt, feel free to mix and match with a solid bikini top. (Or a solid bikini bottom for a printed tankini).
But You Don't Want a Bikini...
A rashguard can be a great choice for moms who want more belly coverage. Whether you prefer it long-sleeved (like Athleta's Summer Shade Tee pictured at right) or just barely sleeved (like Roxy's Hot Chip Rashguard, pictured at left) be sure to buy your rashguard a size or two bigger. It'll be much more flattering (and comfortable) if it's not skin tight.
Pair your rashguard with a flirty little bikini bottom - something with side ties is perfect, and since the ties are completely adjustable, you won't have to worry about any kind of muffin-top effect. This is not the time to bust out the board shorts - you want to look like you are enjoying the day at the beach, not putting on a costume.
Board shorts look adorable with a swingy cami used as a cover-up once you are out of the water. These should fit loose around the hips - no muffin top!
My favorite board shorts are by the vintage inspired surf company, Lightning Bolt. These typically retail for about $60 at surf shops like killerdana.com, but are currently on sale at revolveclothing.com for $45.
Channel Your Inner Olympian
Solid Splice Top - Resort - Speedo USA Swimwear, $36
Swim: Trivana Triumph Bikini Top: Performance Swim | Athleta, $44
Graphic Leaf Halter Top - Fashion Swim - Speedo USA Swimwear, $70
Graphic Leaf Fold Over Midster - Fashion Swim - Speedo USA Swimwear, $70
Solid Boyshort - Resort - Speedo USA Swimwear, $70
adidas - Stella Swim Apparel - adidas by Stella McCartney, $45
adidas - Stella Swim Apparel - adidas by Stella McCartney, $41
Whether you are turned on by Olympic swimming or Olympic volleyball, we can take a page from the Olympian's book, style-wise. Would you believe that two of the bikinis listed above are by Speedo? Performance brands are starting to turn out fashionable swimwear that's not only flattering, but crazy-functional. Also be sure to check out the swimwear by Stella McCartney for Adidas, and, of course, Athleta's performance bikinis (but I'd stick with the Triumph top).
Sporty is always better than dowdy.
Not Sporty? Then Go a Little Glamourous
Now we're entering dangerous territory. The following recommendations are where to shop for non-sporty mom-appropriate swimwear, but it is very, very easy to go wrong and end up looking dowdy. One rule of thumb: choose something with a bit of glamour. What does that mean?
- Look for something that evokes a pin-up girl feel with ruching, twisted bits of fabric, or bows.
- Look for something in a slightly fancier fabric.
- Look for plunging, dramatic necklines and clean lines
- Even stripes with a French Riveria feel can be glamourous
Nordstroms has an amazing selection of swimwear that is mom-appropriate. They also let you shop by body type: Straight, Pear, Hourglass, Apple, or Full Bust. Their selection is so large that they also have their fare share of dowdy offerings, so choose wisely and keep the glamour rules in mind.
I'm loving the DKNY Faux Wrap Tankini ($48 - $88) pictured at left.
LOFT just launched a swimwear line, and while the vast majority of the line leaves me lukewarm, it is very mom-friendly. They do have one standout bikini: I am in love with the Print Twist Bandeau Top, $44 and matching Cross Front Scoop Bottom, $40. For you tankini lovers, the flirty Halter Top Keyhole Tankini is just glamourous enough to work, $44.
J.Crew is the king of the mix-n-match bikini. While many of their offerings are pretty skimpy, they do have several adorable boyshorts, skirts, and halter or underwire tops that would work well for moms. Just make sure to balance out a longer bottom (like a skirt) with a smaller bikini-style top. Or balance a tankini with a flirty bottom.
Furthermore, J.Crew has started experimenting with textures and fabrics in swimwear, and each new line is more glamourous than the next.
Malia Mills is pricy, but gorgeous, timeless, glamourous and will last forever. I love that she uses "real" women in her photos instead of just the usual skinny young models. She even pictures one of her tankinis on a 50-something woman. Yay, Malia!!
You scroll through her tops by bra cup size. She lists the exact size(s) that each top is capable of supporting. Malia Mills tops range in size support from an A cup to a DD.
Her bottoms offer a range of coverage, cuts and styles.
Malia Mills is offering our readers $50 off their purchase - just mention Ain't No Mom Jeans when ordering!!
Land's End makes two types of swimwear: terrible or fabulous. It's confusing, really. This topic might need to become it's own post -- the best of Land's End Swimwear, or something. For now, the Valletta collection is a fairly safe bet. But stick to the solids.
Cheers to feeling hot in a swimsuit! Or at least....Cheers to a swimsuit that doesn't make us cry!!
Where To Shop For Mom-Appropriate Swimwear
http://www.adidas.com (Stella McCartney line)
http://www.havaa.com (Rashguards only)
http://www.killerdana.com (Boardshorts and Rashguards)