Style/ Beauty

The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Bathing Suit Online

Let’s be honest: the changing room experience does nothing for the already tender task of test-driving a bathing suit. Ordering swimwear online allows for a more relaxed try-on session at home, plus it opens up a whole world of options that might better suit your body, budget and style inclinations. On the flip side, taking the leap and buying a swimsuit without trying it on first comes with its own challenges: relying on a size chart to find the perfect fit, taking a chance on an unfamiliar cut and forgoing the hand feel. Here, all the insider advice you need to feel confident buying your next bather online.

How do I find my size when shopping online?

Hands up if you’ve ever faced sizing woes in the swimsuit department. With no standardized measure of size across brands, buying online can be tricky. Your best bet is to consult the size chart, says Naomie Caron, the Montreal-based founder of Selfish Swimwear. This resource will often provide three points of reference to work from: the bust, the waist and the hips (which, by the way, should be taken at the widest part of your bum, advises Caron.) Don’t have a soft tape measure handy? Use a length of string to take your dimensions, then compare against a ruler or measuring tape. The most accurate reading will be one that comfortably rests against your skin—you want to be able to breathe normally without the tape digging in.

If you’re still feeling unsure, reach out to the customer service department or designer directly for more guidance. “If it’s a company that aligns with your values, they’ll be easy to get in touch with,” says Caron, whose customers will sometimes send her recent snaps of their body shape and proportions so she can better direct them size-wise. “I’m really trying to make it a conversation with my clients.”

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What’s the best swimsuit material to look for?

Most swimwear is made up of a combination of nylon (sometimes referred to as polyamide) and lycra or elastane (the fabric that gives a suit its stretch). The best ratio to ensure both comfort and longevity is around an 80-20 split: you want your swimsuit to have some give, but return back to its original shape easily. Other factors like printing and the weight of the fabric, which isn’t always apparent in pictures, could also result in a tighter, more constrictive fit, says Christina Remenyi, the founder of Toronto-based lingerie and swimwear brand Fortnight. Another thing to think about: how sheer your swimsuit might appear after a dip. Pictures can provide helpful hints and, when in doubt, reaching out to customer service representatives or indie brands’ founders is also a good option.

If you’re someone who’s a little rough on your swimwear, “you’ll want to make sure the fabric is good quality,” says Remenyi, who uses Italian jersey in her designs. “Look out for high-performance material features like being UV-, pill-, or oil-resistant.”

What’s the best swimsuit top for my bust?

First, consider your desired result. If you’re looking to add a bit of oomph up top, exercise caution with cup inserts. “When padding isn’t done properly, you can see where it ends in the bathing suit,” warns Remenyi. Smaller busts might benefit from front seaming on bralette-style shapes instead; the little notches add structure and give the illusion of a naturally fuller cup. A sports-style top is a good pick for bigger chests, but if you want to avoid the compressed look, opt for a wide band under the bust, as well as a tie-back closure that criss-crosses your back, says Caron. These two design elements offer comfort-first support by eliminating pressure from the neck and evenly distributing it across the shoulders. And while a minimal shelf bra—the built-in bra lining that often accompanies a one-piece—might look like it’s better suited to petite chests, it’s actually a perfect option for ample cup sizes, says Remenyi.

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What design details should I look for in a swimsuit?

Give thought to what sort of activities you’ll be doing in your swimsuit; true function should be top of mind, says Remenyi. If you’re the lounge-all-day type, tie fastenings might not be the most comfortable choice while laying on your back. If you’re more drawn to water sports, no-slip leg openings and a higher neck will ensure that your suit stays in place.

Adjustability features can also help ensure a custom fit. “Our bodies are all different, so having that ability to tighten up some straps and shorten the torso is great,” says Remenyi. Pay attention to product descriptions for these kinds of elements—sometimes it takes reflecting on your swimsuit hang-ups to understand what you should look for. “Think about the things you don’t like in a bathing suit and go from there,” says Caron. Always feel like your bandeau’s slipping? Find one with stay-put silicone gumming. Concerned about bra bulge? A flexible tie-back closure will allow you to modify the suit to your size.

How do I care for a swimsuit to make it last?

Top-notch care is key for longevity, especially when you’re investing in a high-quality (read: big-budget) swimsuit. It’s important to wash out chlorine, sea salt and sunscreen residue after every wear to max out the lifespan, but steer clear of hot water—both of the washing machine and whirlpool varieties. High temperatures can break down fibres and elastics, says Remenyi, hence your suit’s saggy state after a prolonged soak. “Save your cheaper swimsuits for the hot tub,” she advises.

When it comes to drying, well-made pieces can stand to hang on the line, but it’s prudent to let your mall-brand bathers lay flat to help them retain their shape.

Read this next: This Swimwear Designer Is Making Bathers for Every Body

How do I find a swimsuit that won’t go out of style?

Keep it simple, says Remenyi, who’s a big fan of the classic one-piece maillot. “It’s such a timeless, versatile piece,” she notes. “It really takes you from water to land with ease. You can throw on a pair of jean shorts or a skirt and wear it as a full outerwear look.”

The high-waisted bottoms trend isn’t going anywhere either, says Caron. And for good reason: this cut delivers a figure-defining shape and uncompromising security. When it comes to bikinis, opt for colours that allow you to mix and match effortlessly. This kind of wearability let’s you double or triple your two-piece possibilities, a smart move considering our cooler climate often means we assemble a leaner swimwear wardrobe.

Below, some of our favourite swimsuit trends for 2020.

how to shop for a bathing suit online: fortnight

Thoughtful design details—including structured seaming, a dramatic, U-shaped neckline and high-cut legs for maximum elongation—take this classic maillot to the next level.

Fortnight Swim Maillot, $189,

how to shop for a bathing suit online: selfish

For sporty outings (think: laps, tubing or paddle boarding), pick a suit made from firm, shape-retaining material. This swimsuit is made from eighty percent nylon and twenty percent lycra, so it won’t budge.

Selfish Swimwear Gabrielle Bikini Top, $90, Analie Bikini Bottom, $90,

how to shop for a bathing suit online: lyra

This modest swimwear option comes complete with four pieces, including a swim cap.

Lyra Swim Sofia, $150,

how to shop for a bathing suit online: saltwater

This punchy two-piece offers a touch more coverage around the stomach, hips and bum for active outings.

Saltwater Collective Allison Top, $97, Morgan Bottom, $97,

how to shop for a bathing suit online: anna cole

Block colours never go out of style, and we’re crushing hard on this sizzling terracotta hue. To amp up the style factor, choose a timeless one-piece with a stylish cut-out detail.

Anna Cole Dream Weaver Twisted Front One-Piece Swimsuit, $91,

how to shop for a bathing suit online: asos

Fluttery shoulders are a beautiful way to reinvent the classic black bikini. Bonus: It doubles as a cute top when paired with high-waisted denim cut-offs.

Asos Design Flutter Sleeve Bikini Crop Top, $39, Frill Edge High Waist Bikini Bottom, $35,

how to shop for a bathing suit online: h&m

This ribbed set—in an always-classic ballet-pink hue—clocks in under $25.

H&M Padded Bikini Top, $15, Bikini Bottom, $7,

how to shop for a bathing suit online: aerie

Is there anything more summery than crochet? Sport this bikini at the beach or under a cover-up while entertaining poolside.

Aerie Crochet Halter Bikini Top, $60, Crochet Cheeky Bikini Bottom, $60,

how to shop for a bathing suit online: summersalt

Made from sustainable material, this one-piece maillot—complete with a waist-defining belt—is as practical as it is chic.

Summersalt The Tie Belted Cove, $127,

how to shop for a bathing suit online: mimi and august

Unyielding support, 50+ ultraviolet protection factor and quick-dry fabric make this Canadian-designed suit a summer staple.

Mimi & August Chichi Dunes Bralette Bikini Top, $69, Paloma Dunes High Waist Bikini Bottom, $60,

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