11 Apr 2008
If you've got a great figure that you're proud to show off, read no further, but if you've got anything to hide, read on...
Swimsuits are one of those things that many women over 40 loathe buying. Trying the things on, under unflattering lighting or in crowded changing rooms can be sheer purgatory, and if you don't try it on, then get the thing home and find it's not right, that's even more annoying.
As you get older, and probably a bit saggier, a swimsuit needs to do more for you than the old micro-bikini, but the good news is there are some great designs on the market that take real women's shapes into account.
When looking for a suit, there are several things to bear in mind.
1 The higher the lycra content, the better - the more the suit will hold you in. Ten years ago, most suits had about 8-10 per cent lycra, but now the high-end suits have 23-45 per cent. You do, of course, have to pay more for this, but if your swimsuit is something people are going to see you in, you may as well make the most of yourself. Check the label for the lycra content.
2 Get one with a proper bra - either shelf or underwire - and with moulded cups if you like them. It does wonders for your shape. This MiracleBra tankini (right) from Victoria's Secret has underwires and even removable padding.
3 Colour can be your friend. Although black is the most slimming option, it can look a little harsh, and a bright colour is often more flattering, especially if you're pale.
4 Pattern breaks up your outline more than a solid - the bigger the better. Look out too for slimming central panels.
5 Separates will give you more options than a one-piece, and allow you to chop and change your look. It's especially useful if your rear end is bigger than your bust (something that plagues most of us), as you can buy the two halves in different sizes. If you like bikinis, the sky's the limit, but if you prefer a one-piece look, tankinis are a great option. It's an old-fashioned idea that the two halves have to match, so just chop and change according to your whim.
6 Don't forget the swimskirt. Swimskirts are great for covering up that fat bit of thigh a lot of us are sensitive about, but they tend to rest on your hips, so if you're sensitive about a flabby tummy too, you need either a swimsuit or tank underneath. Swimskirts come in all kinds of designs, from split to tennis-type to asymmetric. They also allow you to ring the changes - a couple of tankinis and two different bottom halves gives you four different outfits for a beach holiday - but add a swimskirt and that's eight different outfits.
7 A good beach cover-up is worth its weight. Although you may be comfortable lying on the sand in next to nothing, for getting to and from the beach or the pool, or sitting in the icecream parlour, a cover-up preserves your dignity a bit. It's best to get a specialist one, designed to cope with salt and sun and chlorine, rather than make do with an old cotton sarong that retains the damp and fades in the sun. Modern microfibres dry in minutes and are incredibly useful - or try poly chiffon. This yellow halter version is from Victoria's Secret.
There are some great companies online offering swimsuits. Figleaves stocks the a wide range of swimsuits by great bra makers, including Freya, Fantaisie, Ballet and Triumph. All offer degrees of control from light to firm, different necklines and various types of breast support from moulded cups to underwires. Triumph's Doreen swimsuit offers the same support as the superb Doreen bra.
Another great company, perhaps surprisingly, is Victoria's Secret. Victoria's Secret may sell extremely sexy underwear, but they understand the female shape.
The Magicsuit range for Victoria's Secret is a range of solids in dark shades like black, chocolate, burgundy and blue. Magicsuits comes in medium or firm control that promise to take ten pounds off you and offer overskirts that can be worn in the water. Calvin Klein (see right) also offers a couple of overskirts that match its tops in solids like black, brown and magenta.
Victoria's Secret's Miraclebra range, however, is fabulous - offering excellent breast support in half a dozen different styles, including halter. As well as bra tops you can buy tankinis, including in longer length, and different styles of bottoms, from Brazilian to full boxer shorts. Crucially, the range includes a high-waist bottom that comes up to your bellybutton and holds you in properly, which goes brilliantly with a contrasting tank. The Miraclebra range also includes overskirts that you can wear in the water, which effectively lengthens your suit into a skirted suit. With five different prints, matched to five different solids, the range gives you a fantastic range of offerings for a two-week beach holiday.