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How to Buy Women's Swimsuits

For competitive swimming as well as aquatic fitness activities, such as lap swimming and water aerobics, a good swimsuit will increase your efficiency in the water, keep you feeling comfortable during your activity, and stand up better to the deteriorating effects of chlorinated water than most fashion swimsuits.

Determine Your Size

To determine your swimsuit size, you'll need to measure yourself using a tape measure.

Measuring Tips

  • Take your measurements while wearing only your underwear
  • Stand in front of a mirror
  • While measuring, make sure that the tape measure is straight, not twisted
  • To get an accurate measurement, the tape measure should be snug, but not pinching or tight

Step-by-Step Measuring Guide

  • Step one: measure your waist
    • Find your natural waistline by bending to one side. While standing straight, measure around your waistline.
  • Step two: measure your bust
    • Measure around the fullest part of your bust. If this measurement is between numbers, it should be rounded, either up or down, to nearest whole number.
  • Step three: measure your torso
    • Run the tape measure around your body from your shoulder where your bra strap rests over the fullest part of your bust, down through the center of your crotch, and back up to the starting point at the shoulder

Find Your Size

  • Consult the chart below to determine which size matches your measurements.
    • The first suit size row represents a woman's dress size, and is often used in fashion or aquatic fitness swimsuits.
    • The second row represents racing/competitive swimsuit sizes.
  • If you are between sizes, choose the smaller size in a racing/competition suit and the larger size in an aquatic fitness suit
Determining Your Suit Size
Women's Swimsuits
Bust33343536383941
Waist2526272829 1/23133
Torso58596061 1/26364 1/266
Suit Size46810121416
28303234363840

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Determine How You'll Use Your Suit

To select the right suit, first determine the activity for which you'll be wearing the suit most often:

  • Racing/Competitive swimming which includes both practicing and racing at either the school or club level
  • Aquatic Fitness which includes activities such as lap swimming and water aerobics

Racing/Competitive Swimming

For both training and competition, competitive swimmers need high-performance suits that maximize speed in the water and improve glide times by reducing drag and increasing water flow. Many swimmers buy separate suits for training and competition. For both training and competition, compression, resulting in a tight fit, is the key.

  • Sizing
    • For training, buy your normal size, but realize that the fit will be snugger than that of a regular fashion swimsuit
    • For competition, consider buying a suit at least one size smaller than your training suit
  • Construction
    • Support
      • Swimsuits for both training and competition support through compression
      • Women's competition suits do not include any kind of bra or bust support. A tight fit across the chest creates a more streamlined silhouette for the swimmer, reducing drag and increasing glide times.
    • Lining
      • Suits for top-level competition are not lined, since reducing drag is a priority. However, many women's suits for training are front-lined.
      • A suit with lining will generally last longer, and hold its shape and color better than an unlined suit
  • Styling
    • Suits for competition and training are one-piece, usually with moderately cut leg openings, fairly high necks and either high backs or racer styleX, Y or V backs for a secure fit and freedom of movement
    • Some high performance racing suits come with high zipper backs for the ultimate hydrodynamic fit
  • Fabrication
    • Although there are many hybrid fabrics for racing/competitive swimming available, most swimsuits for this sport are done in blends of nylon/spandex. (Lycra is a specific brand of spandex made by DuPont and is found in many swimsuits.)
    • Improvements in fiber engineering have resulted in swimsuit materials that are more resistant to chlorine than ever. Suits for racing/competitive swimming typically use these more durable versions of nylon and spandex.

Aquatic Fitness

  • Fit
    • For lap swimming and water aerobics, you will need a suit that provides comfort and freedom of movement, plus coverage and support
    • Fit should be snug but not tight. A good fitting suit will stay in place during vigorous movement, but not pinch, bind or ride up in the seat.
  • Construction
    • Support
      • Most women's swimsuits for aquatic fitness will include some type of bust support. Finding a suit with proper support, which will help reduce breast motion during exercise, is especially important for water aerobics. There are 3 basic types of bust support in swimwear:
        • Shelf bras: Most suits will feature this type of light coverage and support
        • Soft cup bras: Some suits will offer this type of extra support. This type of support is recommended for women with C cup and larger bust sizes.
        • Underwire bras: For the most support available in women's swimwear, look for suits with underwire bras. This type of support is most appropriate for women with larger busts.
    • Lining
      • Look for suits with front lining. A suit with lining will generally last longer, and hold its shape and color better than an unlined suit.
  • Styling
    • Fitness swimmers and those who do water aerobics have a wide selection of styles from which to choose. Both one-piece and two-piece styles are available and appropriate for aquatic fitness activities like lap swimming and water aerobics.
    • Your comfort level in the style will determine which is right for you. Keep in mind that if you will be wearing the suit primarily for fitness or exercise purposes, fashion considerations should be secondary to more functional ones.
      • Two-piece swimsuits
        • Make sure both the top and bottom offer the coverage, security and support you'll need during vigorous movements
        • Bottoms should have low to moderately cut leg openings and a slightly higher rise than a fashion bikini
        • Tops should reach at least several inches below where your bra band typically hits
        • The newly popular tankini style, a tank style top with a bikini brief bottom, has a top that hits just above the waist
        • Necklines should be slightly higher than most fashion swimsuits, straps should be wider to offer support, and backs should feature a racer style for comfort, support and freedom of movement
      • One-piece swimsuits
        • Look for suits with low to moderately cut leg openings
        • Necklines should be slightly higher than most fashion swimsuits
        • Straps should be wider to offer support
        • Although tank style suits are available, most women benefit from the additional support offered by racer style X, Y or V backs. These back styles also offer greater comfort and freedom of movement.
    • Fabrication
      • Most swimsuits for aquatic fitness activities are done in blends of nylon/spandex. (Lycra is a specific brand of spandex made by DuPont and is found in many swimsuits.)
      • Suits made with specially engineered chlorine resistant nylon and spandex will have a longer life

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Find the Most Flattering Swimsuit Style for Your Body Type

Matching suit styles and designs to your body type will help ensure that you'll not only feel good and perform well in your new suit, but look good, too.

  • Ample bust
    • A dark solid color at the top of the suit with a pattern at the bottom will draw the eye downward
    • Sturdy straps and full coverage at the neckline and armholes will add support
  • Smaller chest
    • Bright colors, prints or diagonal stripes across the chest area will visually enhance your chest
  • Large Tummy/Waist
    • Slimming stripes or color blocking at the waist can create the illusion of a slimmer middle
    • High-waisted bikini bottoms may also divert the eye from the midriff
  • Long torso
    • Look for suits offered in long torso sizes
    • Two-piece suits can also eliminate fit problems for lady swimmers with long torsos
  • Large hips and thighs
    • Look for suits with vertical patterns and stripes, or suits that feature a bright color at the chest and a darker color below to draw attention away from the lower body
    • Higher cut leg openings can also create a slimming illusion, but don't sacrifice appropriate coverage for style

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When to Replace Your Swimsuit

  • Despite the advances in fiber technology, chlorine will eventually deteriorate swimsuit fabrics. When your suit begins to bag or feels looser than when it was new, it is time to replace your suit.

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