When plus-size clothing brand Catherines offered to whisk me away to Playa Del Carmen for a week in January, my first thought was, ‘A swimsuit? Post-holiday season? No way,’ because, you know, I’m a human woman and have (sadly) been conditioned to feel insecure in any beach situation. My second thought, though, was that waking up under a palm tree with a melted margarita doesn’t sound bad. And my third was that I’d be in the company of Kelly Augustine, Kellie Brown, Rochelle Johnson, and Madeline Jones, four plus-size bloggers who were also invited. Between that and the margarita, my mind was made up and my plane ticket was booked for the Catherines trip. When we got to the beach, talk turned (naturally) to swimsuits—how we shop them, style them, and feel good in them—so I wrote down the women’s most valuable advice. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Fit comes first. “I’d compromise color for fit in a second!” says Jones. “For me, fit is always about the boobs—I need lift and support. If you buy something that’s really pretty but it doesn’t fit properly, it’s not worth it.”
2. Consider how a suit will function. “For my body type, I like two-pieces with a high-waist because most of my weight is in my middle,” says Brown. “I don’t want a suit rolling down, want a suit to perform—when I’m moving around in the pool, I want it to stay in place.”
3. Skip bra sizing if you have big breasts. “I have a K-cup chest, so I shop suits with L or XL sizing, because a lot of bikini tops don’t come in my bra size,” says Augustine.
4. Longline tops are your friend! “I like a thicker back band, not just a typical bra band, because I also have weight back there and I need full coverage,” says Brown.
5. Try on suits at home. “Shopping in general can be frustrating—especially when it comes to swimsuits—so I do all of my buying online,” says Augustine. “That way, everything comes to me and I can try everything on in the comfort of my house.”
6. But take note of return policies. “I have better luck online,” says Brown. “If something looks cute, I’ll try it, but I look for brands that have good return policies—or stores I can make online returns in. Returning never killed anybody!”
7. And try everything you think may work. “Everything,” says Johnson. “I have a cover up that’s medium/large—which I’m not, I’m more like a 3X. You never know what will work.”
8. Same goes for online shopping. “Check every tab on the sites you shop on—including regular price and sale,” says Johnson.
9. Look for options with built-in support. “Normally, I buy suits with a bra in them,” says Jones. “And pay attention to straps, if they’re too thin, they tend to dig into shoulders. By the end of the day your neck and back will hurt.”
10. Material is important too. “Something with spandex will hold you in,” says Jones. “I also love a great neckline, I usually wear a sweetheart, v-neck, or halter to give good shape.”
11. Be open to shapes beyond a bikini or standard one piece. “Get something that you’re comfortable with—for me, I want something with more coverage around the hips,” says Johnson. “I lean towards a dress or a high-waisted skirt, when I want to feel a little sexier.”
12. Sheer is in! “If you’re not up for a two-piece but you still want to feel sexy, get something that’s sheer at the top or in the mid-section,” says Augustine.
13. Remember, you can alter an imperfect suit. “I sometimes size up to a 20,” says Augustine. “If you have the option to tailor it and have a special bra size like me, why not? It’s better to invest and have a few suits that really fit you, instead of a bunch that don’t.”
14. And just do you. “No matter what you think you look like, the woman you’re looking at with the ‘perfect’ body is also insecure about something,” says Brown. “It’s not something to dwell on!” Her parting thought: “I want to go swimming more than I don’t like my arms.”