Lauren Borish, senior buyer for FigLeaves.com, a lingerie and swimsuit website, has advice to find what works:
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- Buy bigger. A common mistake is to go too small, especially with bikini or tankini bottoms. (Don't be distressed if you need a larger suit—swimwear often runs a size or two smaller than streetwear.)
- Brighten up gradually. Although dark-skinned women can wear bold colors right away, paler types should start summer with a neutral like mocha or chocolate (less stark than black), working up to juicier shades as they get some sun.
- Accentuate the positive. Put color and pattern where you want attention, dark solids where you don't.
- Know your body. Each figure type imposes its own limits. Some helpful innovations: bikini tops with fixed cups (like a T-shirt bra for the beach) to support larger breasts, one-pieces with cutaway backs—they cover the stomach but look like sexy two-pieces from behind.
- Psych up for trying on. Shop in the morning, on a relatively empty stomach; avoid bloat-prone days. Self-tanning beforehand makes women feel more confident, Borish says—and arms and legs look slimmer.
- Don't rush. Block out a few hours for shopping, and try on at least ten suits. If the changing room doesn't have a three-way mirror, leave.
- Explore online options. Make sure the website has free returns so you can order several suits and sizes without risk—essentially, your home becomes your try-on room.