Monday, August 11, 2014

Sink or Swim

Like many women, I hate shopping for swimwear. It can be so difficult to find a swimsuit that is simultaneously flattering, secure (no risk of flashing), and affordable. My last one was a sporty one piece from over 4 years ago, which was great for swimming but felt silly for the occasional beach trip or pool party. Every year I wanted to find a better alternative, but I was always defeated before I even began my search by the bewildering number of choices.

One piece or two piece (or both)? Halter, bandeau, or triangle top? What size do I need? Will this fall off if I get in the water?

Last month I finally gritted my teeth and began looking in earnest. I wanted something that fulfilled the following criteria:
  1. It must be a bikini. I already have a one piece, and it makes me feel dowdy, so hopefully a two piece would fix that. I'm not ready for the monokini yet. To me it somehow looks too sexy even though it offers more coverage than a bikini. Go figure.
  2. The top needs to be adjustable behind the neck and preferably in the back. Frequently bikini tops are alpha sized instead of by bra band/cup size, and there is a lot of variance across manufacturers. Finding your correct size mostly seems to be a trial-and-error process. For example, I tried on some bikini tops from J.Crew recently, and I couldn't find anything that fit me properly. I am a 32C and normally wear a 00/XXS there. When I tried on a few XXS swim tops, they were fine in the band but a little too small to cover my boobs. I also tried on a 32C bandeau top, but that one was too loose in the band. It would be easiest to get a top that I can adjust to fit myself.
  3. The bottom should have moderate to full coverage. I guess I'm fairly modest and don't feel comfortable revealing my butt cheeks to the public. 'Nuff said.
  4. The top and bottom should stay put when I'm swimming in the water. This seems obvious, but I swear many bikinis are designed just for lounging rather than actually swimming. A long time ago I bought a black bandeau top (with a thin halter strap) and matching black hipster bottoms from Victoria's Secret, which fit securely before I got in the water. Once I started swimming though, water would force its way down my cleavage, dragging the whole top down. My bottoms would also slip down whenever I tried to get out of the water. Worst swimsuit ever.
  5. The whole set should preferably cost less than $100. Why are swimsuits so dang expensive? Considering how little fabric there is, the cost per square inch is extremely high. I don't get that many wears out of a bikini, so I would like to keep the cost under control. 
I felt like I wasn't asking for a lot, but it still took me a while to find the one

First I tried this beautiful blue print set from Topshop that I bought at full price from Nordstrom. Prior to ordering, I was confused by the sizing listed on Nordstrom's website. At European stores, I usually wear a US4/UK8. Topshop is a British retailer, so I wasn't sure if the number outside the parentheses was the UK size. I used Nordstrom's online live chat feature to talk it over with customer service and decided to order an 8 (6-8 US) based on their recommendation. That ended up being about 2 sizes too large. The size 8 top wasn't terrible, because I could adjust the neck and back. Either a size 4 or 6 would have been perfect. The bottom was huge on me, so I predict a size 4 would have been ideal. Sadly those sizes were sold out. I was more than a little heartbroken since the print and style were so beautiful.
Recovering from my disappointment, I found another suit on deep discount at Nordstrom. This time I ordered my proper size 4 (0-2 US) and eagerly awaited its arrival in the mail. When I received it, I found that the bottom fit perfectly, but the top was too small. The Topshop bustier styles really are intended only for B cups at most even when you order larger sizes, so my cup runneth over. The reviews mentioned that issue, but I (mistakenly) thought I could sneak through with a 32C, which is the sister size to a 34B. Another issue for me is that I have a larger top and smaller bottom, preventing me from buying bikini sets in the future. This may not be an issue for women who are well proportioned.
Finally I gave up on Nordstrom and turned to Amazon. I am a Amazon Prime member, so I tend to buy lots of things from there since I get free 2-day shipping and free returns. Amazon is my secret treasure trove of sale shoes and clothing. Last year I bought some Pour La Victoire boots (similar here) and Sam Edelman booties at a hefty discount. I stumbled upon this Seafolly bikini while browsing the swimwear section. The glowing reviews aroused my interest at once. Prior to ordering, I had never heard of the brand. I did a little research and found that Seafolly is an Australian company specializing in swimwear and beachwear. Their essential swim collections offer mix-and-match styles in a number of colors, increasing the versatility. Sizing varies from AU 6 (US 2) to AU 18 (US 14). I immediately ordered the Goddess wrap bandeau top, the pleated hipster bikini bottom, and the twist band hipster bottom in AU 8 (US 4). The sizing for the top and pleated bottom were spot on. I found the twist band hipster a bit large, but I also have unusually slim hips.

After trying on everything, I can see what all the fuss is about. This bikini is crazy flattering! In fact, it's the best one I have ever tried. The wrap bandeau style is simultaneously modest and yet sexy. The back was not adjustable, but the strap and locking closure were very secure. The thicker halter straps could be adjusted as desired and were very comfortable. The bandeau itself had molded cups sewn inside. The pleated bottom was secure and had moderate to full coverage. The bright chartreuse color (somewhere between neon yellow and neon green) I ordered instantly made my skin glow. No muffin top was in sight. The pieces seemed high quality and well made. The only issue in my mind is that Seafolly is generally very expensive. At full price, this bikini totals a whopping $158. I paid about $85 for mine (the most I've ever spent on swimwear). Still it is well worth the price to find a flattering, well-fitting, high quality swimsuit that boosts your self-confidence. I will definitely be buying another Seafolly bikini in the future!

Where do you usually shop for swimsuits? What are your favorite swimwear brands? Have you ever tried Seafolly? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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