Betty Says: A Public Service Announcement About Swimwear

It's a lovely day at the beach. Wear something that fits and flatters.

Ladies, after my visit to Hawaii it’s become abundantly clear that we need to have a talk about swimwear. First we’ll discuss what’s right and what’s wrong, and then I’ll tell you the best swimwear brands based on the unscientific method of surveying random beachgoers. Ready?

If it doesn’t have enough support to wear it as a bra, you shouldn’t be wearing it as swimwear.

Honestly, ladies. Do you really think that those tiny triangles of material and tiny strings are going to hold up those behemoths? The answer is no. I saw one woman whose string halter was tied so tightly around her neck that I was worried that she was going to behead herself. For goodness sake, give yourself some support.

Gravity is not your friend.

Are you an A or B cup? Are you under age 22? Then get that strapless bandeau while you can. If you’ve had kids, are older than 30 or are well endowed, avoid these suits like the plague. I saw a dozen women of all ages who probably didn’t realize that their breasts had sagged so far that there was only a 3″ clearance between them and the waistband of their bikini bottoms. Not good.

Lining, lining, lining.

A little bit of lining goes a long way in preventing pointing. That is all.

That high waist isn’t hiding anything.

You think that the high waisted suit hides your muffin top, don’t you? Instead, it pushes everything that much further up and gives you an even bigger problem: the mushroom top. It’s bigger and more severe than a muffin top, and much less flattering. Surprisingly, a lower-cut bottom (within reason) helps to avoid that packed-in look.

Your tankini top should come down to your hipbones.

Look, I’m pretty sure that the tankini was invented so you didn’t have to completely strip down to use the bathroom. It should offer the same coverage as a one-piece suit. If the top stops above your belly button, put it back on the rack.

Swimsuits don’t last forever.

When the elastic starts to go and the suit starts to sag, toss it. Don’t think, “Oh, I can get through another season.” No. No, no, no.

Your cover-up should actually cover something up.

Just say no to the short shorts and wife beater tank that don’t cover anything. A nice tunic looks lovely on the beach. If you want something that can also transition to someplace off the beach — like a restaurant for lunch — consider a simple maxi dress. Even a simple pareo can cover what you want to hide.

And now, ladies… the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the best swimsuits on the beach.

Bikini Division

The majority of suits on the Hawaiian beaches were bikinis. Three major companies led with clear winners, chosen for the wearer’s ability to move, the suit’s ability to contain the assets of the wearer, and the amount of tugging required to keep the suit in place. They are:

Tommy Bahama. The stores are all over the Big Island, and while the suits are pricey, they always seem to fit, regardless of body type. For the smaller breasted among us, the Brocade top is gorgeous. For the more moderately endowed, the Pearl underwire push-up looks stunning. For the well-endowed, the Isla floral underwire halter lifts and supports.

As for bottoms, I saw no one tugging at any of the Tommy Bahama styles, but my favorite is the Brocade side-tie hipster.


You probably don't need your swimwear to do this, but it's nice to know that it can. Photo from

Athleta. Like Tommy Bahama, Athleta makes suits in generic sizes (S, M, L) for the smaller breasted woman, and sells by bra size for those who need more support. As the name implies, Athleta caters to a more active clientele. This is good for everyone. If you can wear it to swim, play beach volleyball or stand up paddleboard, it will stay put when you walk down the beach or chase the kids.

Larger breasted women can’t go wrong with the Twistini bikini top. I saw a woman doing a full-blown sprint in one of these as she chased her toddler, and she stayed put. Best endorsement ever. Smaller women might like the Scrunch bikini top, which doesn’t look like much in the picture but is remarkably flattering on.

Athleta offers a wide array of swim bottoms, from bikinis to swim shorts. As far as I can tell, you can’t go wrong with any of them.


The Victoria's Secret combo, as modeled by yours truly.

Victoria’s Secret. I’m going to admit right upfront that I’m really cheap when it comes to swimwear. Really, really cheap. How often do I wear it, anyway? But I’m cheap within reason: if the suit doesn’t fit, isn’t properly lined or falls apart after a single washing, it’s not worth it at any price.

Enter the Victoria’s Secret Beach Sexy line. It’s a mix and match array of bikini tops and bottoms that are pretty affordable even at regular price, but can be acquired for even cheaper on sale. For smallish women, I recommend the Liya top┬ápaired with the adjustable hot short for as much or as little bottom coverage as you’d like.

One Piece Division

If you're a one-piece girl, get this one. Photo from

I only have one entry for the one piece division. There were many to choose from, but most were terribly, terribly wrong. Let’s face it, unless you’re swimming in a competition, that Speedo race suit just isn’t the most flattering. Ladies, a one piece can still have a little bit of flair.

This was a suit that looked good on a new mom in her 30s trying to cover the belly from her 3-month-old as well as a considerably larger 60-something woman. It’s the Lands’ End Draped Sweetheart suit. The draped detailing and the control panel in the belly made this suit look universally flattering.

Do you have a favorite swimsuit that you want to share with the group?

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One Response

  1. swimmer says:

    Great article. Recurring theme.
    Personally, I always buy new swimwear for the new season.

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