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Swimsuit Shopping for the Plus Size Woman

It’s that time of the year, the season when layering is no longer an option, and worst case scenario is — nothing but a swimsuit. I don’t care what size you are, chances are swimsuit shopping is not your chosen summer activity. It’s a necessary evil; one that I’ve managed to avoid for many years. Until now.

The same doctor that recommended Medifast also suggested swimming (we’ll get to the hour a day part later). In order to swim in public, I needed a swimsuit. Sure, I have a bikini, but it barely holds the girls in, and is only suitable in private pools and hot tubs with no one other than the hubs present. It was definitely not what the doctor ordered for water aerobics.

My journey started at Wal-Mart. Believe it or not, they were one of the few local stores that had plus size bathing suits, and they were at least a good price. This brings me to my first piece of swimsuit shopping advice - always try the suits on at home. Sorry retailers, I know you hate returns, but there is something to be said for your own mirror and lighting.

Red Swimdress

I took home a bright pink swimsuit with a little skirt reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe and a simple black tankini. Tip number two – tankinis are the devil. While the pink suit was cute, it was a little too much to try to be active in. The tankini, with its adjustable straps, flattering black color, and separate sizing should have been a dream. Nightmare. If I moved, the top moved – up, and up and up, until I had this cute little when-are-you-due belly hanging out. I could picture tugging down the sides all throughout a class at the gym pool. Needless to say, they both went back.

Next stop was Old Navy. Again, good prices and plus sizes, so I figured it was worth a try. I took home a Missoni-like chevron one piece and a blue bandana print one piece. Tip 3 - find a flattering pattern. While a monochromatic look in your clothing choices may be slimming, I found that patterns and colors offered a great distraction.  Despite the flattering prints, they both went back to the store since they also didn’t cover up my goodies. While returning, I sucked it up and broke rule 1 to try on a slimming suit with power-mesh something-something. Tip 4 – you don’t want a swimsuit labeled slimming, controlling, or power. Not if you’d like to move and breath in your swimsuit. And be able to get it on without help.

Old Navy Chevron Suit

Since I live in BFE, this pretty much exhausted my options. Fashion Bug’s swimsuits for the bigger gals were atrocious. They had more fabric then my comforter! While it may seem counterintuitive, I found in my shopping that in many cases, less was more (tip 5 if you’re counting). My old black bikini was more flattering than just about any other suit I found.

I finally caved and started researching swimsuits online. I realized that like many other things in life, tip 6 – you get what you pay for. I sprang for a Speedo, a brand known for performance suits. While lacking a ton of colors and styles (I broke my solid color swimsuit rule), I found a great black one-piece with white piping. The back has super cute crossed straps and the coverage is perfect. Plus, its got just the right amount of padding. I used the measurement chart to pick a size, along with the reviews, and it fit perfectly. Tip 7 is not just for swimsuits, but any piece of clothing you order online – always read the reviews. You’ll find out if something is cut big overall or small in one area and can adjust accordingly.

Luckily, it even arrived in time for our weekend trip to Charlotte and I debuted it at the Ritz Carlton pool. It was comfortable, and more importantly, I was comfortable. It worked both to swim in and to lounge in. It made its second appearance at our brand new neighborhood pool and again, stayed put while I moved and was perfectly suited for the occasion.

Black Speedo Plus Size Swimsuit  The most important tip I can give you is this one. Don’t sweat the swimsuit! If you feel good, you’ll look good. And remember, everyone is just as focused on their own bodies as you are on yours – they couldn’t care less what you’re wearing. Just because you don’t have your dream figure doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a little fun in the sun. You’ll get there, you might as well enjoy the ride.



  1. I ordered a Spanx swimsuit this year (from a daily deal site 60% off) and man, I LOVE it. It’s the best thing you can do without having anything else to hide under! Well worth it, if you can find a great deal! :)

  2. I love that pink one- although I hate swimsuit shopping (and never try them on in the store) I’m addicted. It seems like I never have enough- although that’s handy for camping!

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