Don't fake tan first (and other swimwear buying tips)

Buying swimwear for the big beach holiday need not be a nightmare. Fashion editor Stephanie Smith has advice on how to hit the shops and choose well.

Aruba underwired twist front bikini top £34, and high waist tummy control briefs, £18, at
Aruba underwired twist front bikini top £34, and high waist tummy control briefs, £18, at

As the end of the school year approaches, and the big summer holidays loom tantalisingly (or is that ominously?), it’s high time to check out the swimwear situation.

Holiday and beach swimwear is, for most of us, not the same swimwear we use for visiting the local pool. That’s the stuff we swim in, affording comfort, coverage, ease of movement and, for those who take their swimming seriously, perhaps a degree of performance enhancement.

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When it comes to holiday swimwear, it’s more about shape enhancement and fashion, and that means a trip to the High Street, or a trawl through the online swim and lingerie stores, to see what we can pull out of the beach bag for this year.

The poolside look, total price, now £41, in the sale at Evans.

Swimwear shopping can be a stressful business and many High Street stores make the experience more daunting and depressing than it need be, thanks to the unflattering lighting and unhelpful mirrors they use in their changing rooms. Why, I simply don’t know. Don’t they want to make women look good, feel good and actually buy their designs?

Much, although far from all, holiday swimwear is in sale at the moment, which can confuse the issue even further. As tempting as it is, especially in the large supermarkets, to grab a bargain bikini or swimsuit that looks OK, this can prove to a false economy when you get home and discover it fits badly or looks far worse than anticipated. With swimwear, it’s better to spend a little more for quality and style.

Before you go out in search of your swimwear, experiment at home with what you’ve already got, including underwear, to see what works for you. The so-called swimwear rules that online sites such as offer are a useful guide, but every body shape is unique and you might be astonished to find that high legs, or low legs, or halternecks, work for you. Shop early in the day and take your time. Wear something easy to take on and off and preferably your beach or pool-side sandals. Don’t fake tan beforehand, especially not if you plan on a white suit or bikini. Be open-minded about sizing – how it looks and feels is more important than the label.

If you can’t find your size but like a style, search online for similar. If you can afford to order a few different styles and sizes, you can then try everything on in your own home, using your own accessories and cover-ups, and then simply send back the ones you don’t want.

Mix and match swimwear pieces, now in the sale starting at £4.95, at

As well as Figleaves, try Very, JD Williams and Seaspray. Leeds-based Joe Browns is brilliant for retro style swimwear, with lots of mix-and-match options, and take a look also at Rigby & Peller, for high end, specialist fitting (it has a store in Harrogate).

It’s important that you feel good about yourself when trying on swimwear, so get some prep in as early as you can. Body brushing does improve cellulite surprisingly quickly, although it doesn’t remove it completely. Paint your nails, style your hair and wear make-up, if you usually do. You’re ready. So go out there and get trying on.


Now-April, 2019: York Castle Museum: A Personal Collection of Vivienne Westwood Shoes.

Black flower swimsuit, £69, at

Now to Sep 22, 2018: The T-Shirt: Cult | Culture | Subversion exhibition at The Civic Barnsley.

Saturday and Sunday, July 21 and 22, 2018: The Great Seaside Vintage Fair, Whitby Pavilion, organised by Rose & Brown Vintage.

August 8, 2018: Ladies’ Day at Pontefract; Wednesday, August 15, Beverley; Friday, August 17, Catterick; Thursday, August 23, York.

Now-Oct 26, 2018: Himalayan Fashion, Lotherton Hall, near Leeds.

Sapphire draped bandeau swimsuit, £75, at

Saturday, September 8: Vintage Fair at Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax, by Yorkshire Vintage Fairs.

Under The sea swimsuit, £34.95, at
Portofini swimsuit, £52, at