Heidi Pearson is the Principal Consultant for Chicago-based, Pearson PR Consulting, Inc., specializing in fashion, image consulting and style communications. Heidi's career brings her into contact with many designers, vendors, and fashion editors as she coordinates photo shoots for marketing campaigns and trains various clients for media appearances.
As part of her job, Heidi often finds herself shopping for her clients, helping them to find fashions that make them look their best, and swimsuits are part of that equation. Whether she's helping someone prepare for a modeling show or a sun filled vacation, Heidi teaches her clients to work with their own assets to find swimwear that presents them at their best.
Tips for Finding Flattering Swimsuits
LoveToKnow (LTK): Swimsuit season can bring on a case of shopping nerves for women who do not relish looking at themselves in those unforgiving dressing room mirrors. How can we make this less stressful?
Heidi Pearson (HP): I believe that the stress associated with selecting the appropriate bathing suits is purely psychological. Let's face it, almost every woman in the world can find at least one thing that she doesn't like about her body. The truth is, you can't really hide in a bathing suit.
Initially, when you decide that you're comfortable enough to begin shopping for your suit, choose a store where there is wide availability in sizes, particularly if you're interested in purchasing a two piece. You may actually need to purchase each piece separately because many of us are not the same size on top as the bottom. You should also decide whether you want a suit primarily for sunning, swimming or both, as this too affects your selections.
Suit Your Shape
LTK: How can a woman decide which swimsuit style is the best choice for her personal shape?
HP: When it comes to deciding which type of swimsuit is best for your personal body shape, it's simple. If you know that you have excessive flab in places that are likely to show, stay away from a two piece. I advise my clients to go for a classic look, and play up the areas that flatter the most as opposed to showing everything.
There are suits designed to create curves where needed, minimize hips, and diminish waistlines, and then there are the standard all purpose suits that may look great on a variety of shapes.
LTK: What are some common swimsuit choice mistakes?
HP: Choosing a suit that is disproportionate to your body shape is one definite mistake. In that vein, some swimsuit shoppers fall victim to the misconception that "less" is sexier, which is not always the case. I strongly advise my clients to be mindful of the environment they'll be in. If they're not going to a place where there's a strong European influence, then a less revealing suit may be more appropriate.
Camouflage Figure Flaws
LTK: How can women camouflage problem areas?
HP: Here are some easy steps to follow when dealing with problem areas.
For hips and tummies:
- Choose a color and a print that is most flattering to your skin tone and type. Refer to your favorite colors along with colors that complement your hair and eye color.
- Choose blocks of color to distract from wide hips or tummy bulges. Remember, wearing a one-piece suit with a dark colored lower half and a lighter patterned color on the bodice, and choosing patterns that cut across the hips, not under, draw attention back to your upper body.
- Choose a suit with at least 20% spandex to minimize flabby areas.
For the bosom:
- To enhance smaller breasts, choose a lightly padded halter top or a demi cut with an under wire. The purpose of the demi cut is to support like a bra without actually having a full cup. Also look for suits that offer texture, like delicate ruffles that add a bit of volume to the bosom.
- To minimize a full chest, choose a tank top-style. Look for a dark top that has a high or square cut neck, and make sure that the top provides ample support to resist drooping or sagging. Then select a skirt bottom to balance the overall look.
For your frame:
- To enhance a petite frame, choose a one-piece suit that has thin vertical lines or stripes. This gives the illusion of length.
- Boyish shapes, and long torsos are emphasized by a one piece, so I would suggest a tankini instead, choosing a darker bottom piece and a lighter colored top. A Tankini shows the middle a bit, and this trick shortens your body.
- You can create more of a waistline with a one-piece that has cut outs on the side, or a belt or sash.
Also remember to accessorize. Sun hats, pareos, cover ups, Capri's, thongs with low or high heels, sunglasses, mesh tote bags, and beach towels all add something to your ensemble.
LTK: Is there any way a woman with a terrific shape can go wrong when choosing a suit?
HP: Women with terrific shapes can wear nearly any style, but they can still go wrong by overly exposing the body. Bottom line, it's always sexier to leave a little left to the imagination.
LTK: Do you think men have any of the same swimsuit issues as women?
HP: I personally have only consulted women on bathing suit selections. However, I don't believe the selection process is as intense for men as it is for women. Overall, men seem more comfortable with their bodies than women. For them it's either Speedos or trunks, T-shirt or no T-shirt.
LTK: What are the most common fabrics used in swimwear construction, and does one type have an advantage over the others?
HP: Swimsuit manufacturers like to introduce unique new swimsuits made from different types of fabric. Although a suit made from a custom fabric will greatly distinguish your swimming wardrobe, that fabric will have a dramatic impact on both the fit and the life of that suit. Most swimsuits contain some percentage of spandex or Lycra in their fabric to give the suit it's stretch and fit. The higher the percentage of spandex or Lycra in the swimsuit material, the better suited the swimsuit is for serious or competitive swimming. These materials can help you look firmer, but they can become tight and uncomfortable. The trade off is that these materials have a tendency to last longer.
Swimwear made from metallic fabrics are designed to be fashionable and glamorous. They are surely eye catching, but they don't hold up as well to extensive swimming, and laundering. The metallic overlay often begins to fray and dull after only a short amount of time.
LTK: Have you had any experience with sheer, tan-through suits? Do they really work, and how much can you actually see through them?
HP: Many people assume that sheer swimsuits, are completely see-through. Usually, that's not the case. The material resembles other fabrics, but the secret is the tiny holes woven in the fabric that allow the rays to pass through. And yes, they actually work. I know for a fact that you can see a difference after you have taken the swimsuit off.
Choose Your Best Suit
By following the right tips on choosing a flattering style that's right for your shape, knowing how to deal with problem areas, and understanding which fabrics to choose, you can select swimwear that is more than functional. Look and feel beautiful no matter what your size or shape is when you choose the right swimwear.