The only thing more difficult and potentially deflating than shopping for denim is shopping for swimwear. But like finding the right pair of jeans, selecting a swimsuit that fits and flatters is a huge confidence booster and will liberate you from the scourge of always having to swaddle yourself in sarongs. I’m not a sun lover, so I haven’t been on a beach holiday in at least ten years (I’m a typical Celt; intense heat makes me feel irritable and lethargic) so I’ve relied for many years on a single bikini I bought in Topshop over a decade ago, which I’ve worn more often in the Irish Sea than the Mediterranean.
It’s exactly the right shape to minimise my “bad” bits and showcase my good. I have a small bust, so a triangle style bikini top makes me look completely flat chested (which I’m not!). A bandeau top, on the other hand, makes the most of what I’ve got. Although my day-to-day personal style involves not showing any flesh – I like trousers and tops with long sleeves – I find a bikini is more flattering on me than most swimsuits. That’s because I have a small waist and a reasonably flat stomach (a positive consequence of not having had children) so it makes sense to show that off. My thighs are my “problem” area so I avoid any bikini bottoms that have a high leg like Superman does kryptonite. If you have a curvy bottom half, you should do the same. The difference a lower cut makes to my silhouette is striking. I also find that fifties-style high-waisted bottoms (as much as I like them) make me look out of proportion, as the eye is drawn from the smallest part of my body (my waist) to the widest part (my thighs), making the latter seem even bigger. Instead I wear a pair of bottoms that sit on my hips for a more proportioned shape.
We all have bodies that we both love and loathe at times. The trick to buying swimwear is to do your research first. Identify your body shape, the areas you want to minimise and those you want to highlight and start googling which shapes and fits are right for you (or you can simply put all of this in the hands of a personal shopper and let them do the work for you). At least when you first step into that changing room, you won’t be horrified as I was the first time I tried on a triangle bikini top (never again). You’ll be working within an appropriate set of parameters that should make for a more soothing experience. Beyond that, pay attention to the obvious… exfoliate, shave your legs, moisturise, and even throw on a bit of tan if that’s your own personal body confidence booster. Choose a pretty nail polish for your toes and make the very best of what you’ve got. Stripping off and seeing scaly shins and broken toe nails isn’t going to make the process any more fun. I won’t put the effort into wearing fake tan now as I did when I was in my twenties, but I do swear by Johnson’s Holiday Skin Body Lotion to take the blueness away from my pasty Irish skin tone.
Given I’m not a beachy kind of girl and only an occasional swimmer, I’m happy to shop on the high street. But athletic or premium brands are a good option if you want your swimwear to me made of sturdier stuff. Aesthetically, there’s no compromise in choosing the former (although you may not find too many frills and ruffles), and given athleisure is such a solid trend right now, it makes sense from a practical and a fashion point of view. Here are few brands and styles you might want to consider.
Tuscany over-the-shoulder swimsuit, €235 at Melissa Odabash
Logo low-back swimsuit, Calvin Klein, €84 at Brown Thomas
Colour-block swimsuit, Tommy Hilfiger, €100 at Arnotts
Mesh-panelled swimsuit, Adidas by Stella McCartney, €83 at net-a-porter.com