Shopping for swimsuits can be overwhelming, time consuming, and mentally taxing, especially in the age of overabundance. Just the thought of so many styles, shapes, trends, price points, in-store and online destinations—it can make your heads explode, without even stepping foot in the dressing room (or opening all of those online orders). But imagine if wearing a bathing suit was literally your job. Would that make the process any easier? If it’s any consolation… Apparently, no.
We asked some of the most experienced, on-the-front-lines—or, more accurately, on gorgeous white sand beaches—professionals this question: a bunch of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models (mic drop). And, spoiler, shopping for a bikini can be an endeavor for them, too.
“Honestly, I think swimwear is one of the hardest things to do,” Kate Upton tells Glamour during the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit on Location event in Miami, celebrating its 2019 issue. “I always say, emotionally, jeans and swimwear are the hardest things to try on.”
“Just go in with an open mind,” says Danielle Herrington, last year’s Swimsuit Issue cover star. “Be nice to yourself!” Body-positivity activist, swim designer, and model Tara Lynn agrees: “It’s best to just go for what you’re most comfy in and try as many things on as possible. You might surprise yourself with what you feel most gorgeous in.”
Sports Illustrated’s 2019 class of swimsuit models are diverse in age, shape, size, and background. Halima Aden made history as the first model to appear in modest swimwear in the issue; Tyra Banks came out of retirement to appear on its cover. And, having spent a cumulative hundreds of hours (if not more) in bikinis, one-pieces, and burkinis, they know a thing or two about swim. So, we asked them to share their expert advice about trying on and finding the perfect fit and style to look our personal best and, most importantly, feel most confident.
The next time you’re out shopping for bathing suits and feel frozen by indecision or overwhelmed by too many options, just ask yourself: What would Upton or Banks or Lynn or Lais Ribiero or Kelsea Merritt or Winnie Harlow do? Read on to find out.
Straps can make or break your suit.
Banks made history in 1997 as the first African-American solo cover model. And over the years, she’s developed a preference for a swim top with strong shoulder straps. “I’m busty, so when there’s a string at the back of my neck, it’s digging and, sometimes, it can create chafing,” she says (A thicker strap neck-tie works, too.) Upton, three-time Swimsuit Issue cover model, suggests a tie-less halter top: “So I can actually enjoy my beach day. I can go swimming; I can snorkel; I can be with my daughter.”
Same goes for the edges of a swimsuit.
Lynn recommends paying attention to what your one- or two-piece is made of and how it sits on the body. “Anything with a really rigid edge is going to cut into any soft spots and cause some discomfort,” she says.
Not all one-pieces are created equal.
“I honestly think I look better in a one-piece than a two-piece,” says Banks. “There’s something about a one-piece… I feel stronger.” Plus, having one in the arsenal brings versatility for say, going from beach to cocktails. But not all one-piece trends—low-back, strapless, super-strappy—will work on all bodies. “Cute one pieces with open backs for big boobed ladies… That doesn’t roll with us,” warns Upton. But there are options. For instance, Banks advises finding a one-piece with a covered or high back detail to balance out support in the front. Straps on each shoulder, instead of a tie around the neck, also help when you have a big bust. If you want to highlight the waist, Merritt recommends suits with a belt or a wrap tie at the waist to create dimension.
Everyone can benefit from an underwire, regardless of bust size.
No matter your bra size, an underwire-lined top can offer some additional support, maybe even a little boost. Herrington likes light padding, too, “just because my boobs get all over the place.” Visible underwires are also a huge trend in swim right now. Kelsey Merritt, the first Filipino model to walk the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show runway and appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, suggests “trying a corset-style, especially with tiny little straps.”
With separates, try (and buy) different sizes.
Banks makes it a point to “find a bottom that’s slightly too big in size, because I have hips and I’m not super muscular, so when suits are too tight, they dig into my flesh and cut off my blood circulation,” she says. She suggests finding a bikini bottom with ties on the side, which you can adjust to rest right on top of—and not cut into—your hips.
Consider modest swimwear to cover up beyond SPF.
Be it for cultural reasons or because sun damage is real, modest swimwear—or some variation on it—could make sense for you. Aden says to “really treat it like a bikini,” picking colors, prints, and other style elements that fit your tastes and also needs. She recommends looking for a stretchier, flexible material that won’t contract too much in the water. Oh, and don’t be afraid of the accessories: Layer up with colorful scarves, overalls or cover-ups, throw on some jewelry, play with hats, plus go high drama with the sunglasses. “They will transform it from a bodysuit to ‘oh, she did not come to play,” Aden says.
Don’t fear the high-cut leg.
That ‘80s-style, hipbone-revealing silhouette has made a comeback in recent years. The look makes Banks think, “Elle Macpherson,” she says. “That for me is everything, and it makes the legs longer.” Even Merritt, who’s petite, recommends trying one that’s “not super high but has a low back” for that elongating effect.
… or the neon trend.
Victoria’s Secret Angel Ribeiro cites neon as the swimwear trend she’s most excited to try this summer. “It makes your tan pop, so it seems like you’ve been in the sun a long time already.” Upton, like everyone else we talked to, can’t wait to cop the trend, either: “It’s so fun, especially with a spray tan.” Merritt wants green and pink—maybe with leopard print thrown in for some extra fire.
Keep an eye on the details.
These models are exposed to any and all trends that have touched swimwear over the years. And they’re not afraid to embrace some of the fun, playful elements that are now all over your bikinis and one-pieces. And you shouldn’t be, either. Winnie Harlow’s recommendation? “Ruching always makes the butt look cute,” she says.
Make swimsuit shopping a group activity.
If you’re buying your swimsuit IRL, bring along “one of your best girlfriends, who can hype you up and get you trying things on that are outside the box,” says Lynn. Make sure she’s someone you trust to give honest, but always encouraging, feedback, like “‘this looks good’ or ‘no, don’t buy that,’” says Herrington.
If you prefer to shop online, patience is key.
“Online shopping is underrated,” says Lynn. Over the years, online-only swim brands have offered more options to shoppers who felt they weren’t being catered to—either because of their budget, their size, and so forth. It can be harder to gauge what will fit you and what won’t, though. Lynn suggests “finding a retailer who uses models with your body type [online], so you can really visualize yourself in the suit.” Upton normally “gets a million different sizes [to try on],” she says. She’ll “start with the biggest size and go down” and recommends always reading the fine print and return policy.
Time your beach ‘grams.
Yes, there are specific windows that are ideal for shooting your swim #OOTD. According to Banks: “before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m, when the sun is lower in the sky.” Now smize.