Swimsuit Review: Looking to Flatter my Large Bust and Soft Curves

It's the time of year for buying swimsuits. Last year I decided to make do with what I had – my Lands' End paisley bikini and a turquoise halter one-piece that was gifted to me eons ago that is showing its wear.

Bad move, Allie.

While the bikini wasn't bad, my body has changed over the years and it's just not as cute as it was. And while I'm all about a fun and colorful bathing suit, I just don't think my personal style is pink paisley. I'm all about rocking a fatkini and wearing what you like no matter your shape or size, but as a 41 year old woman who had a baby, nursed that baby for over two years, and doesn't consider the gym her home away from home I don't feel comfortable without a bit of support and suckage. Before stock is depleted and I end up buying out of desperation instead of getting what I want, I started ordering from a few places that have brands that cater to large busts and soft curves.  I'm sharing photos of me in these suits, be kind and forgive me for a messy closet!

Nordstrom

I first headed to Nordstrom because I had a $20 Nordstrom Note that was burning a hole in my wallet and I know I can take my time trying and return shipping is free.  It's nice to have time to try it, then try it again a week later when you're in a better mood or you're less bloated or you now have a cute coverup to match it with.

Magicsuit® ‘Harper' Wrap Effect One-Piece

Magicsuit 'Harper' Wrap Effect One-PieceEmerson is turning into a fish and I need a one-piece to keep up with her. I'd also like a suit that can do a few laps while looking sassy. The Harper from Magicsuit has underwire support and tummy-control plus some strategic wrapping to whittle the waist. I liked that the straps looked thinner which made it appear less matronly, and I liked that those straps were adjustable. Available in Emerald and Guava at the time of order, I went with the green. It said to order a size up so I got a 16 against my better judgement.  As an FYI, the links are not for Nordstrom but instead Zappos because the suit currently sold out.

This bathing suit looks like the bathing suit that all overweight moms across America wear to the local pool. The gathered fabric only added bulk, the underwires didn't do much to support and only made my large bust look super droopy and deflated. The top at the bust kept flipping over exposing the nude colored lining. It was also too long in the torso; most hid in the front with the gathers but the back looked especially obvious and the seat didn't fit well. I think a 14 would have been better for fit but this bathing suit wasn't anything to write home about (especially considering it's $160 at Nordstrom and $156 at Zappos) so back in the box it went.

Miraclesuit® ‘Basic' Swim Briefs (shown with Freya ‘Pier' Halter Swim Top)

Miraclesuit 'Basic' Swim Briefs shown with Freya 'Pier' Halter Swim TopI already own the Freya Pier Halter Swim Top (36F) and I love it. It's cute, but not twee, it fits great, and it makes my bust look amazing. I've worn it with a Lands' End bottom in a deep purple but that bottom never fit well. I figured if all the other bathing suits didn't work at least I could rock this simple black bottom with the top I already own. I ordered the Miraclesuit ‘Basic' Swim Briefs in a 14.

This swim bottom is… fine. I think a 12 would have cut into my legs too much. However, because I am petite this is too high waisted to the point that the waistband keeps folding over when I move. But it does smooth the belly without looking weird, it's not too tight, it doesn't have matronly legholes but not so high-cut things are falling out. It's a good basic bottom for those who have found a great top elsewhere (and are also over 5'4″).

Bare Necessities

Bare Necessities is my favorite place on the Internet for underpinnings and swimwear. With an extensive size range and selection and plenty of promo codes, it's usually the first place I go for bras, shapewear, and swimsuits. The customer reviews are truly helpful and they have swimwear brands that not only come in cup size, but specialize in larger busts.  I actually found more suits than I had money to try; these are the ones I ordered:

Fantasie Tie-Side Boyshort Swim Bottom and Balconette Swim Top in Kuranda/Jungle

Fantasie Tie-Side Boyshort Swim Bottom and Balconette Swim Top in KurandaI ordered the bottom in L and the top in 36F and it was a perfect fit. Emerson didn't like this suit, but Karl's eyes popped out when he saw it. It's fun, it's sassy, it's sexy, it's age appropriate without being frumpy. I liked the shape of the swim bottom – high enough to hold in my tummy but not so high it looks weird. The side ties made a lower rise leg opening look stylish. The top fit like a bra: it was supportive, it separated, and it held everything in place as I jumped around and pretended to be bodysurfing on my bed. Thing is… I don't NEED this suit. I have the dotted bikini top, what I really need is a suit (one or two-piece) that is more durable and appropriate for swim lessons and laps at the indoor pool. So it's back in the box but if I suddenly had a tropical vacation on the books or won the lottery I'd reorder this set.

Fantasie San Marino Swimsuit

Fantasie San Marino SwimsuitI ordered a 38F. I am not sure why I ordered a 38 instead of a 36. This bathing suit was too big. It was too long, the straps in these photos were shortened as much as possible, and the underwire did absolutely nothing to support or flatter my bust. Also the color did nothing for me. Maybe if it was a different print and maybe if I went with a smaller size but I fear it would still be too long in the torso and make my breasts look older and saggier than they already are.

Fantasie Deep Gathered Brief Bottom and Balconette Swim Top in Bora Bora/Amethyst Rose

Fantasie Deep Gathered Brief Bottom and Balconette Swim Top in Bora Bora Amethyst RoseAgain I ordered the bottom in L and the top in 36F. While the top has the same name as the jungle-print one, this one has molded cups. The bottom was a simple traditional brief without a lot of frou-frou (I don't know if it's my size but I didn't see a lot of gathering going on). In theory, with these details I should have loved this suit. I wear molded cup bras and I like bathing suits without gadgets and frills.  I also love this color.  But it just didn't excite me.  With a bust of my size and my short stature this molded cup type of top overwhelmed me and made me feel like they were too big, too pronounced, too lifted, and solid like a suit of armor.  However, this bikini top surely did lift and support!

Pour Moi Splash Control Brief Swim Bottom

Eh, it was $29, and though it had a couple ruffles on each hip it was pretty basic and it was black and I figured I could wear it with my Freya bikini top.  There are no pictures because this bottom was so ill-fitting I immediately pulled it off and threw it across the room.  These are the kinds of bathing suit pieces that make women hate their bodies.  I ordered a UK 18 (US 12, but the measurements matched me).  The fabric was stiff, the elastic hard and hurt.  It cut into my rear, cut where my legs join my body, dipped so low in the front when I bent over my belly spilled over the top, yet in the back it folded over because it was so high.  I'm glad it was the last piece I tried on; if it was the first I may have given up and not even tried the other pieces, it was so awful.

I may have reviewed some pretty expensive bathing suits in this post, but this is something that is make or break when it comes to confidence at the pool, the beach, or even the sprinkler in your backyard.  When you wear something that fits and flatters, your posture improves and you walk differently.  Also, if you purchase quality and something that is good to your body, you're likely to wear it more often and it's likely to last more than a season, reducing the cost per wear.  Heck, the Lands' End bikini I am replacing cost me over $100, but is three years old and still in perfect condition.  It is me that has changed, not the suit.  If the suit doesn't look halfway decent, don't blame your body, blame the jerk designers who don't care that most women have figures that don't look or feel as firm as mannequins.  Spend on bras and bathing suits, these two wardrobe items are worth it more than any designer bag, drool-worthy boots, or elegant coat.  Your body, and your heart will thank you.  And this summer, get out there!  Have fun in the sun, YOU DESERVE IT! YOUR BODY DESERVES IT!

46 Comments

  1. Rose
    April 4, 2016 / 1:50 am

    Recently spent $170 AUD. On a Sea Folly (Australian brand) one piece. After the initial shock of spending that much, it was worth every penny l felt great on my beach holiday, something the multitude of previous cheap costumes have never done. Shopped at a specialised swim ware shop with teenage daughters who encouraged me to try on lots of different styles. Would never have picked the style l settled on straight off. Good on you for modelling your choices, I thought you looked brilliant in the green two piece, the pink looked a bit too much like an undies set.

  2. Marie Danielle
    April 1, 2016 / 2:12 pm

    If you want support and large bust options, check out Tara Grinna swimwear’s online store. Designed and made in USA, super trendy colors, VERY comfortable and fashionable pieces. I’m from Canada and sometimes vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC; I ALWAYS stop by the store to pick up something new.

  3. Unsub
    March 31, 2016 / 11:20 pm

    You look great in each of these suits, especially the green two piece. Way to go! I’m inspired.

  4. Michelle
    March 28, 2016 / 1:38 pm

    I’ve LOVED Boden one-piece suits for the past couple of summers. The fit is very nice, good coverage without being matronly, a good mix of solids and fun prints… all around good buys.

  5. bubu
    March 28, 2016 / 11:38 am

    So glad you posted this — I agree with everyone that that green one is fabulous — but I totally get the “keeping up with the kids” reality check on suits. I stumbled onto a solution that has worked well for me: a LE black halter bikini top (with polka dots) that I paired with black swim shorts I already had. I realized after years of one piece or tankinis that the tops of my thighs are actually much more problematic (to my eye) than my midsection, which I was always nervous to expose. This combo is sporty and fun, easier to run around the beach in, or hop in the water, and makes me feel a lot more at ease and attractive than all those “mom suits” out there. And I can easily throw a swim shirt on top if I start to burn (very fair skinned). It also makes putting on sunblock easier, I don’t end up with weird painful burns at the tops of my thighs where I missed a spot.

  6. terezib
    March 27, 2016 / 2:37 pm

    there are some custom-sewing places online you might want to try, like Zena Swimwear. And years ago, I had some suits custom-made for me by a local designer.

  7. Heidi
    March 27, 2016 / 12:01 am

    I just want to say I love you for putting yourself out there in a bathing suit not just once but MULTIPLE times-you are my hero. Also-I hate Miracle Suits with every fiber of my being-it’s bad enough that you’re clearly self conscious because otherwise you wouldn’t bother-but then they are ungodly uncomfortable. I have a few Lands End suits-one that has a ruffley skirt and a top with a tropical print that are comfortable and I don’t feel like a complete dork in. But I am still on the endless search for something pretty, with a lot of support but not cutesy.

  8. Melissa
    March 26, 2016 / 2:41 pm

    I have the panache anya in 36f. I love it. Basic but comfortable. Good for laps, holds up well. I have a few panache suits. Not cheap but fits well up top.

  9. Emily
    March 26, 2016 / 1:27 pm

    I agree with the others that you suit a 2-piece better than a 1-piece! And that green tropical one is fabulous. Have you looked at Freya? I find their sizing is pretty good (bikini tops sized like bras rather than by clothing size) and they last well. Generic clothing sizes never work well for me as anything that’s the right size in the back is typically too small in the cup!

  10. Ruth Slavid
    March 26, 2016 / 12:32 pm

    I thought you looked pretty good in some of the suits you rejected. My worst feature are my thighs, all the way down to my knees – lots of cellulite. So basically no suit will look good. My solution? Well, I suppose it helps that I don’t like lying on the beach. If I do go to the beach, it is get in the water, swim, get out, dry, change and go off to do something more interesting. But I do like swimming and swim every week in a pool. so, I buy a suit for swimming in. Racing back, it covers everything, it squashes my boobs into place, which is fine. It has a jazzy pattern which 1. says I am not pretending to be a more serious swimmer than I am and 2. it confuses the eye and covers the lumps and bumps. So, I feel pretty confident when in the water. And on the way there and back? Well, that’s easy too. I just decided that I am invisible. Really if you NEED to wear something and it doesn’t make you look your best, then I can’t recommend the imaginary cloak of invisibility too highly. And it’s free!

  11. Val
    March 26, 2016 / 11:37 am

    Buying a bathing suit is like cooking something deceptively simple, like a caprese salad. There are fewer ingredients, but they have to be phenomenal because there’s nowhere to hide. It always irritates me to spend a lot of money on a swimsuit, but it irritates me more to be miserable at the pool.

  12. Fawn Mulcahy
    March 26, 2016 / 9:31 am

    We have an amazing Canadian designer for women’s bathing suits – http://www.nettlestale.com – their one piece fits really well (especially if you are running after kidlets). Bathing suit shopping is the WORST activity for me, but I love the Nettles Tale suits (total bathing suit shopping miracle).

  13. Danielle
    March 25, 2016 / 10:49 pm

    To make yourself so vulnerable on the internet when the trolls are just waiting to viciously tear anyone apart who isn’t “perfect”… girl, you are my hero! And let me just say, I think you are gorgeous and you have a rockin body! My two favs on you are the polka-dot and solid black bikini and the Fantasie San Marino one-piece. Both look smashing. I may even go hunt down that one-piece myself. All my best!

  14. Lisa Cone
    March 25, 2016 / 7:46 pm

    That green one is AWESOME on you!!!! Please reconsider the return!

    I went with Unique Vintage for suits last year, both a two piece and a one piece.

    The Esther Wiliams two pieces hide the tummy and support the boobage (although my post 2x mastectomy pair are only a c cup now). They are cute, fun and I don’t look silly at 53. Top with a big hat, red lips, retro sunnies and flip flops with a bit of wedge and I look downright glamorous!

    http://shop.unique-vintage.com/swim/two-piece-swimsuits.html?gclid=CJWeg9mK3csCFcNlfgod1U8FrQ

    • March 31, 2016 / 9:41 am

      Those suits are super cute! I love so many of them, wish they had cup sizing because I know my puppies will spill right out of them. I used to not mind, but after having a baby and turning 40, while I love my breasts they aren’t as perky as they used to be and look better with a bit more coverage 😉

      And I reconsidered and kept the green bikini!

  15. Bridget Wall
    March 25, 2016 / 6:43 pm

    I’m still working on a swimsuit, but if any ladies out there are looking for a rash guard, I love the one I bought from Land’s End. I wore it every day in Puerto Rico, and it did a great job of protecting my very fair skin!

    • March 31, 2016 / 9:39 am

      LOVE Lands’ End swimwear. I was disappointed in how they handled the whole issue regarding their profile of Gloria Steinem and was trying to find alternatives to them (love their clothes, hate how they didn’t think of their audience and ended up offending conservatives and feminists alike) but I ended up ordering a few after returning these to see if any work out. I’ll be sure to have another review!

  16. March 25, 2016 / 3:35 pm

    Wow…first off I applaud you for actually showing you wearing the swimsuits—when we did our posts about a wrap over a swimsuit, we wore a t-shirt over it. But in all reality, we wear these in public at the pool or beach, so why not? Still….you are a braver woman than me.
    And second, can I just say wowza for the tropical print two piece—I felt the same way in the initial look see at the green one piece so green must be your color for bathing suits!!
    I do have a question….since you ordered these, why didn’t you order a couple different sizes? You said “not sure why you ordered a 38 instead of a 36”—I’m in the habit to order 2 or 3 sizes since that’s what I take into the dressing room. Not trying to be critical, just wondering if there was a method to your madness 🙂 ??
    I think you are so right about investing a little more in a bathing suit especially because it needs to stand up to chlorine, sun & sometimes seawater (besides hold the booty in place)! I haven’t bought one in probably 5 years—I guess it’s time! jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • March 31, 2016 / 9:37 am

      I didn’t order a couple sizes because each suit is over $100 and I just didn’t have enough money to do it. And the 38 was a mistake, I pretty much know my size for most swimsuits since I have to go by cup size 🙂

  17. crtfly
    March 25, 2016 / 3:33 pm

    I also like the first one piece the best with the tropical two piece second. But then I am partial to greens and blues so that has something to do with it. You are fortunate that you can wear two pieces if you want to. You have such beautiful, smooth, unblemished skin. I have some huge, honking scars from 2 different emergency surgeries that I will never be comfortable exposing to the world. It looks like I got in a terrible sword fight and lost.
    Looking forward to your final pick.
    Chris

  18. Mary
    March 25, 2016 / 3:32 pm

    I got one of the Esther Williams bikinis last year–I had to bump up a size from normal to a 22, but it fits pretty much perfectly and is super cute. I’m not sure they would work for the truly large busted, but they are flattering to a wide range of body types. And, new this year, you can actually buy separates in multiple sizes!

  19. Kitty
    March 25, 2016 / 2:45 pm

    You are my hero!

  20. Amber
    March 25, 2016 / 1:09 pm

    I thought the green one-piece looked great, goes to show how deceiving photos can be, as all the fit issues you mentioned are not obvious.

  21. Michelle Van Ellis
    March 25, 2016 / 12:41 pm

    I love the green bikini on you. You need to buy this! Tropical prints never go out of style on a bathing suit and you will look good in this 20 years from now hanging by your pool in your back yard. We’re all going to have our own pools in 20 years, right?

    The pink bikini to me looks like you had a bra and underwear on. I, like others, got my last suit from swimsuits for all but have been pretty loyal to lands end in the past. I am always a size smaller on top than I am on the bottom regardless of my weight and some sort of support is a must.

    Go back and get that green suit!

    • Nancydrew
      March 26, 2016 / 4:07 pm

      I thought the exact same thing about the pink one!! And I also agree that the green was my favorite on Allie.

  22. Pam S.
    March 25, 2016 / 11:21 am

    Thank for you doing swimsuit reviews, with pictures! I’ve fallen in love with Popina swimwear. I have 2 versions of their Grace Kelly suit and I’ve been wearing them for years. I get a lot of compliments. They’re a retro halter one-piece style. I like them because they seem to adjust well to my weight fluctuations, they have a modest leg cut so I don’t feel like my rear is dangling out, and they keep my boobs in place. I get to be active, comfortable, and rock a pinup girl vibe! Anyway, if you’ve never tried one, it’s worth a shot. Looking forward to seeing more of your swimsuit adventures.

  23. Ginger
    March 25, 2016 / 10:37 am

    I think any of the 2 piece suits looked better than either of the 1 piece suits. You have a well proportioned figure and skin in between the top and the bottom gives you some definition. With the 1 piece everything runs together. I particularly liked the high waisted bottom.

    I have tried those miracle swimsuits in the past and decided I’d rather just be flabby. Not only do they squeeze you, but they’re hot. You certainly don’t want a suit that you fall out of, but if it’s not comfortable you won’t wear it and then the money is wasted.

  24. CA_Powell
    March 25, 2016 / 9:28 am

    I’m surprised you didn’t think the first one piece suit was flattering….maybe different in person, but I actually thought it was very flattering on you! Have you tried a tankini? I’ve found so many that are way more attractive & less frumpy than I expected. (also easier to take off to pee!)

    • March 25, 2016 / 9:57 am

      It could work for someone else but I found the quality and features not up to the pricetag. The front view is fine but the back and side weren’t good at all. And for the peeing situation, I pull my suit to the side! 🙂

  25. Throckmorzog
    March 25, 2016 / 9:16 am

    You look fantastic in all of these, just not quite like “you” yet. I know you’ll keep looking because you deserve to feel as beautiful in your new swimwear as you look to all of us lucky enough to see you trying them on. Thanks for sharing your struggle. I can SO relate. Can’t wait to see more in this saga. : )

    …Just like they say when trying on wedding dresses: when you put on the right swimsuit you will know it — your face will light up and you will feel happy wearing it. I go by the ‘twirl test’ – if I put it on, and it make me feel like spinning around and dancing, then it’s the right one for me. cheers

    • March 25, 2016 / 9:57 am

      Such a great comparison! 🙂 I’ll have at least one more post with reviews, there’s some already in the mail on their way to me and I hope to hit a store or two next week!

  26. Brittany V.
    March 25, 2016 / 9:09 am

    I have a family beach trip to the Outer Banks coming up in September, and since I live in a landlocked state I have a very sad bathing suit collection. I haven’t wanted to come to terms with how my body has changed (I swam competitively in high school so bathing suits are particularly fraught with anxiety). Even though I’m using the trip as motivation to work out, I just don’t know what my size will be in 6 months. Thanks for using this post to show that it can take a while to find a good suit, and that it’s important to choose the right one to help a woman be more confident in her skin!

    • March 25, 2016 / 9:58 am

      As an ex-swimmer and lifeguard I get your feelings about swimsuits. And regarding changing size, I’ve worn the same suits even if I have lost 20 lbs. It’s usually more an issue when you gain than when you lose. Good luck!!

  27. mostlatestvegetable
    March 25, 2016 / 9:05 am

    I raised an antenna at the Fantasie Kuranda bikini. It looks like a reboot of my beloved Freya Amy bikini I wore until the wires literally broke. Now trying a Freya Tula Poppy halter bikini (and hunting for the tankini top to match), but the Freya fit is just not the same post-partum. I’m a L bottom/36 FF-G top and I found the bra style of the Freya bikini top kept me contained while giving a very natural shape. I could run down the beach without fear of flopping out, and that’s something I could never say about any other suit. Wish I had my Amy back. 🙁

    And I agree with your husband. Out of the presented lineup, the Fantasie Kuranda looked best on you. What about the Kuranda one-piece? I liked the look of it, but probably wouldn’t try it for myself because I’m tall and long all over. I’ve never had much luck with one-pieces being long enough, except for Lands End’s long torso fits. However, I haven’t bought a Lands End suit since high school, when I was “complimented” on it by a peer with the words, “Nice suit. I think my mom has that one.” Eek!

    • March 25, 2016 / 9:55 am

      LOL on that “compliment”! It’s worth giving Lands’ End another look, they’ve added some pretty great prints, cuts, and styles, many our moms wouldn’t be caught dead wearing!

      I hear you on the postpartum, my entire body changed and suits that I rocked before Em even though they still fit just didn’t give the same effect. I have to realize that strapless one-pieces used to be my JAM and now make me look shorter and rounder but now the extra curves make me like two-pieces more!

      I find boldly printed one-pieces seem too much on my frame. I did consider the Kuranda one-piece but I think it may be too intense for me.

  28. Patricia
    March 25, 2016 / 8:46 am

    I’ve had good luck on one pieces and tankinis (the look of a one piece but easier in the bathroom). What works for me is taking in a pile of suits into a dressing room and just keep trying them on. It takes a lot of trying to find one I’ll spend the $$$ on…

    • March 25, 2016 / 9:59 am

      With my schedule it’s hard to get to a store but this is my plan in my home. I know it will happen! 🙂

  29. Windy Poston Queen
    March 25, 2016 / 8:45 am

    Just bought my first “fatkini” and I am hoping I can either work up enough nerve, or enough don’t give a damn to wear it at the very least on vacation where no one knows me. I got it from swim suits for all, because I didn’t want to spend any money on something I may not even wear. I was expecting a terribly cheap, poorly made item for the price…but was pleasantly surprised when it came in and was well made. They had a decent selection of one piece and tankini suits as well, in sizes 8 to……80 or so. Maybe worth at least investigating.

    • March 25, 2016 / 8:54 am

      Swimsuits for All is really awesome! The only issue I have had with them is that my boobs seem too big for my body and I just am too short for their one-pieces. To accommodate my breasts the top or suit is too big everywhere else. According to their size chart, for my band I should be an 8, for my waist I should be a 16, for my cup I should be an 18, for my hips I should be a 12. 🙁 But dang they have great suits and a lot of fab variety in a variety of sizes!!!

  30. Kati LeTourneau
    March 25, 2016 / 7:43 am

    So no luck at all on the one piece, eh? I am built similarly to you and am now renting a house with a pool (yay!) So a one piece is essential. If I find a perfect one, I will let you know. 🙂 I think I am going to try the Panache sporty one piece.

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