There are few things as uninviting as a swimwear store's changing room, and they are - in no particular order - vaginal steaming, molten hot lava being poured down your back, and being at the Oscars with John Travolta. Although we're still not in the throes of summer, bathing suit season is on the horizon and for many of us, that means the inevitable trip to shops like Bikini Village, La Vie en Rose, Victoria's Secret, and countless other swimwear boutiques.
For most of my second year of university, I worked at Bikini Village in the Halifax Shopping Centre where I was top salesperson nationally for three months in a row, and I enjoyed those commission cheques thoroughly. Day in and day out, I worked with women to help them find styles that fit well and made them feel good - but I never lied to get a sale. If someone asked for my opinion, I gave it - tactfully of course - along with a suggestion for another style. It sometimes meant that I spent upwards of an hour with a customer, but as a woman - even back when I had my pre-baby, cellulite-free body - I knew exactly what it was to feel insecure in next to no clothing.
It's been seven years (yikes!) since I handed in my notice of resignation at Bikini Village, but I've used many of the things I learned there in my own swimwear searches to help me survive the change room, find the right fit and ultimately love my purchase.
- Dress appropriately. Nothing will make you feel worse than seam marks on your thighs, sock lines across your ankles and the telltale signs of the pants you were wearing all over your torso. If you can, reach for a cotton jersey dress and tall boots (long jacket highly encouraged if you're shopping in the colder temps!) and avoid restrictive pieces that will leave red marks on your skin. Also: be sure to wear small, seamless panties (thongs are your friend).
- Shave your legs - and moisturize! If you typically shave your legs, consider shaving them before trying on swimsuits. You'll feel more comfortable and confident - plus no one will know you've been hibernating! If you really want to feel good after months of being covered under layers, use a moisturizer with shimmer or a hint of tint to brighten your skin tone.
- Shop early in the day. Malls and shops typically get busier as the day goes on. Know what else happens as the day goes on? Bloat. It could be that second cup of coffee, or the ciabatta club at lunch, but if you're anything like me, bloating gets worse as the day goes on.
- Speaking of bloat, be mindful of your cycle.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help! The staff in swimwear stores and boutiques know their product (hopefully!) and can help you identify the best pieces for your body shape, your needs and your price point.
Some other quick tips:
- When you're at the checkout, ask about swimwear cleaner. It will help extend the life of your suit. Don't want to spring for the bottle of cleaner? At least make sure to rinse your suit after swimming in salt or chlorine, since both will break down the fibers in your suit.
- Don't size up. Unless you really feel like you're stuffed into a suit, you're probably wearing the right size if it feels snug. Swimsuits stretch with wear and especially when they're wet. Save yourself that embarrassment.
- If you want to create a fuller bust, look for pieces with ruffles or balconet-style tops. To balance a larger bust opt for a dark, solid top with a patterned or embellished bottom.
Looking for a perfect suit? Try one of these beauties on for size.