How to Buy the Best Bathing Suit for Your Body Shape

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Ah, bathing suit season. The once-yearly event that prompts us to join a gym, eat our veggies, slather on the self-tanner, get bikini waxes, and worry endlessly about finding that perfect swimsuit. Aside from finals week, I can’t think of any time of year that sparks more anxiety in college girls! Funny that finals week and swimsuit season are so close together…

But let’s be honest: there’s no magic formula that will instantly give you Jessica Biel’s bikini bod (or Justin Timberlake for that matter). Fortunately, there is a way to magically look fabulous in your bathing suit no matter what body type you have.

Whether you’re curvy and full-figured or stick-thin and boyish, top-heavy, bottom-heavy, or somewhere in between, this guide will help you find your most flattering bathing suit.

A bit about body shapes and “what to wear”

As I’ve mentioned in posts here before, I’m not in favor of dressing to “hide” any perceived “flaws”. Every body is different and all bodies are beautiful – no exceptions! Therefore I’m not going to mention “problem areas” or “how to disguise yourself if your (insert body part here) is too fat”. If you want someone to make you feel bad about yourself, look elsewhere!

What we’re trying to achieve

Before I get into each individual body type, let me just explain what we’re going for here. The single most important rule for swimsuit shopping is BALANCE. That’s what we’ll be trying to achieve for each figure.

What do I mean by balance? Simple – you want your bottom half and top half to balance out and for your body to look proportional. Humans love symmetry, so a balanced body is the most universally pleasing aesthetic for the eye. That’s what we’re going for.

Now that you get what we’re going for, here are some tips to finding the best bathing suit for your body type.

The Four Basic Body Types

Hourglass

The hourglass figure is characterized by your bust being equal or very close in measurement to your hips. Women with hourglass figures also have small, very defined waists. Celebrities with your body shape: Scarlett Johansson, Selma Hayek, Jessica Alba, Kate Winslet

Bathing suit shopping tips for hourglass figures:

When you have even proportions and curves, you can get away with a variety of different bathing suit looks. The bikini was made to show off your sexy curves!

Look for halter tops, string bikinis with enough coverage for a larger chest, and anything that will give you extra support up top.

If you’re a skinny hourglass figure, you can wear the classic string bikini with no problems. Those with larger chests should be careful of skimpy triangle tops, though, as they rarely offer enough support or coverage.

Don’t do the mix-and-match thing! Wearing different colors on the top and bottom could make your body look disproportional. Stick to bikinis that match.

Triangular

Women with triangular body shapes tend to carry weight on the lower half of their body, normally around the hips and thighs. Triangular ladies usually have a hip measurement that is larger than their bust measurement and a small to average sized waist. Celebrities with your body shape: Kim Kardashian, Shakira, Rihanna, Eva Mendes

Bathing suit shopping tips for triangles:

If you’re self-conscious about showing too much of your butt, try a bikini with boy shorts for a little extra coverage.

Having a triangular body shape usually means you also have a flat tummy, so don’t be afraid to show your amazing abs off in a bikini.

Use color and pattern to balance your body out visually. Busy patterns draw attention, while dark, solid colors minimize attention. Try a patterned bikini top with a black bikini bottom for a cute mix and match look.

Always look for bikinis sold as separates, so you can get two different sizes for your top and bottom.

The strapless bandeau bikini top was made for you! Yours is one of the only body types that can pull it off. You can also go ultra low cut or skimpy with your top and not look vulgar or worry about showing too much.

If you want to boost a smaller chest, look for halter bikini tops or padded options. They’ll give you a few extra inches where it counts.

Inverted Triangle

If you have a large chest, wide shoulders, small hips, and are generally more top-heavy than bottom-heavy, you likely have the inverted triangle body shape. Celebrities with your body shape: Victoria Beckham, Audrina Patridge, Jessica Simpson, Angelina Jolie

Tips for the inverted triangle body shape:

Don’t go for a strapless top – it will only squish you down and won’t provide enough support. Sagging is not exactly flattering!

Your best bet top-wise is something with an underwire or halter shape, thick straps, and thick enough fabric to keep you in place. Make sure your top has enough coverage, too – the last thing you want is to show off too much.

You can do the opposite of what triangle-shaped ladies wear when it comes to mixing & matching colors. Draw attention toward your bottom half with a brighter colored bikini bottom, and minimize your upper half with a dark colored or black bikini top. This will help create more of a balanced look.

Like the standard triangle shaped body type, you too need to look for bikinis that are sold as separates since you’ll probably wear a bigger size up top than on the bottom.

You’re one of the lucky few who can wear tiny string bikini bottoms without a problem. Take advantage!

Rectangular

Rectangular body shapes are characterized by strong, broad shoulders, proportional hips, and the lack of a highly defined waist. Celebrities with your body shape: Cameron Diaz, Hilary Duff, Kate Hudson, Kelly Ripa

Bathing suit shopping tips for rectangles:

If you want to add curves to a boxy frame, ruffles, ties, and girly bow details create volume and draw attention to your hips and bust.

A one-piece can work for you if you want to create more of a waistline. Monokinis and one-piece suits that belt at the waist will help create more curves.

Girly details and patterns are your friend. Go for florals, crochet detailing, or even lingerie-inspired bathing suits to visually balance out a more athletic frame.

If you’re on the skinny side, look for tops with ruching and padding to add volume. You might also want to go for a side-tie bottom that will draw the eye to your hips.

Which swimwear styles are your favorites?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Which body type are you? What types of bathing suits do you usually find the most flattering? Leave your tips below!

35 thoughts on “How to Buy the Best Bathing Suit for Your Body Shape”

  1. Thank you the article! I enjoyed reading all the varied feedback. I am never really sure what type I am. as though I am very petite and have thin arms and legs. I still have hips and a bum but am quite small up top. Is that an inverted triangle or an hourglass? Anyway thanks for sharing this it is interesting to hear other women’s opinions and to know I’m not the only one who values modesty (or in other words is a little shy)! 🙂

    Just an observation but I am pretty sure that Jessica Alba is a triangle not an hourglass!

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  2. Oops.. what I meant to ask was whether I a triangle or an hourglass? And that I think Jessica Alba is an INVERTED triangle!! All these shapes are confusing 🙂

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  3. My aunt’s friend is a professional photographer, and next week, she and I are going to visit her at her home by the beach. I anticipate plenty of pictures to be taken, as I am her favorite model. This article really helped me to decide on what sort of new bathing suit to get (halter bikini).
    However, I just remembered that it is DECEMBER, and I will therefore be lucky to find ANY bathing suits, much less the kind I want. Do you happen to know of any stores that sell bikinis year round?

    Reply
  4. I don’t know what shape I am….
    I have a very large bust and a good shape to my hips, butt, and thighs yet I still carry some weight on the sides of my waist.
    No clue what would compliment me the best = /
    Help!?!?

    Reply
  5. Yeah, I’m a rectangle too, but I’ve always hated swimsuits because they’re so revealing and I’m not the skinniest person ever. We’ll see how this works out though, maybe I can get a cute suit for once instead of the unattractive one pieces I wore for year-round competitive swimming. ^-^

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  6. Hey, I always have problems trying to work out which shape I am. I’ve got a 32C bust, 34″ hips and a 25″ waist.

    Anyone got any ideas what I am? My boyfriend tells me I’m hourglass but I think he’s just being nice lol.

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  7. This post was helpful. You would think that an 18 year old would have an idea on what type of swimsuit to wear but I don’t, haha, well I do now. Thanks:)

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  8. I know you don’t see this a lot nowadays, but for modesty’s sake, I’d like to find a suit that minimizes cleavage and cuts across like boy shorts on the bottom. I even prefer one-pieces, but this year, I’m trying to make a tankini work.

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  9. My measurements are 39-33-45. Looking at those alone you would think I have a triangle body but I don’t because I do have broad shoulders and a large chest. Sometimes I look like an inverted triangle, sometimes triangle depending on what top I’m wearing and sometimes I even look like a rectangle. My waist is not very defined in my opinion. I have no idea what swimsuit suits me best

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  10. I am of rectangular shape, but I am flat chested, with a bit of tummy and heavy bottom, please advise me on which type of swimwear or bikini suits me. Appreciate it much!

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  11. This doesn’t help me that much. I’m 32-25.5-31 but my shoulders are 16 inches across (where my bust is like 10 inches across) and the top of my thighs are 34 around. I’ve been top I’m top heavy because of my wide shoulders, hourglass because my bust and hips are similar and bottom heavy because of my thicker thighs and bum.

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  12. I’m surprised most of you say you’re hour glass shaped when only 8% of women in the world actually are. Not saying anyone’s lying (what would be the point lol) but just find it interesting that all us hour glass shaped ladies have such trouble finding bikinis that we have to read abt how to on here.
    I’m 35-23-35

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  13. Thank you!!
    I have always been confused about my body type as I have equal bust and hips but am not perfectly thin, YAY figured it out thanks xx

    Reply
  14. Hi, this article is really detailed, I love it 🙂 I have a really weird body shape and I really don’t know what kind of swimsuit would look good on me! I’m definitely a rectangle, I have a tiny frame and my legs are pretty long and skinny, which I like, but my waist is the problem. Unlike other skinny girls, I’m skinny EVERYWHERE, except for my waist 🙁 It’s not chubby or anything, but fat all goes to my stomach and not anywhere else! I don’t have a defined waist at all! What kind of swimsuit should I wear? I heard that boyshorts make your hips look fuller, but what can I wear on the top? I love triangle string bikinis, but….I’m only a A cup, so… I don’t know! Can anyone please help me?

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  15. Hi. Thank you for the post. I do need some help finding the most flattering swim wear for my body. I do love my self but I must admit my body shape is quite odd.
    Let me describe… My shoulders are wide, chest a little heavy… compared to the other parts of the body… torso is neither short or long… no hips at all and flat bum too… with very long slim legs might even be thin.

    So I guess my body is some sort of an inverted Triangle lol… anyway it is depressing coz i cant seam to find any swim wear that looks good…is there anyway that I could find a swim wear that flatters my body…
    Maybe the swim wear bottom could make my lower body look more curvasious.. and my bum a little bigger. The swim material doesnt do good for my body coz the material is designed to stick tight.. this is good for the upper body for me but when it happens to my lower body my bum looks even flatter and my hips look so hollow… very unflattering..

    Some one suggested getting a bikini bottom with a frilly short skirt? i have no idea if this is going to look good or if this is even available/
    please help.
    Would appreciate it.

    Thnx
    April

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  16. I’m steering clear of bikinis altogether this summer (I’m not too keen on my stomach atm) but I’m toning up for next spring when I’m going to Greece for eight days, so these tips will be really useful then!

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  17. This is a great article–something everyone is looking to research right now I’m sure! I have to agree on the boyshort vendetta. Truly triangle, or ‘pear’ shaped girls should probably steer clear. They add too much bulk on any already rather bulky area lol.

    My tip for bikini season is to work out a little doing something you enjoy, like swimming! A little toning up can do a lot for your confidence, even if you don’t drop 3 swim suit sizes, and that’s your best feature for looking great in your swim wear!

    Reply
  18. I’ve got an hourglass shape, but I dread going shopping for swimsuits. Luckily, I’ve found a particular brand that always fits & flatters me (Roxy). I think it’s probably because it’s for surfers and a but more athletic and less skimpy.

    This is a great article, i’m going to post a link on LPF!

    Reply
  19. No one who posted seems to be a rectangle lol…am I the only one? I like the halter tops with the wide band under the bust and the bottoms that have little ties on the sides (not string bottoms) because they ad a fun flirty feel (haha nice alliteration) and draw attention to my hips…however, i must say i’m completely jealous of those with a waste lol i have never been a fan of my boyish figure, but at least i do sort of have boobs ;D What does everyone else think? Any other rectangles out there?

    Reply
  20. ive always been self conscious in showing my tummy [cuz i dont have abs of steel lol] , are tankini’s still ‘in’ this summer??
    if so which styles are trendy? me and my friends are goin for a road trip and i wanna buy a new pair of swimsuit for it. and my old one just wont cut it. =)

    do u have any suggestions?

    Reply
  21. No matter how much I read on body shape, I always tend to be in between a hourglass and a triangle. The only thing I know for sure is that my thighs are normally bigger than my hips.
    Personally, I think the ruched, one piece bathing suit à la 1950’s pinup looks excellent on EVERYONE.

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  22. My measurements are 32-22-34 so I guess technically I’m a triangle, but I always feel like the hourglass “rules” (for bikinis & other clothing) fit me better because I have such a defined waist and I have shoulders that are proportional to my hips, so I don’t think I look disproportionate.

    Anyway.. I love both string bikinis and bandeau tops! I also think boyshorts can look nice. I personally don’t wear them, but for someone who wants a little more coverage I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them.

    & finally I love how this article was written. Honestly when I saw the title I was like “ugh.. this article has been written so many times.” but you really took a different approach. For instance, you took into account someones whole body shape rather than “small bust” or “large bust” and “big butt” or “no butt” lol

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  23. Oops, the second part of that got cut off. .
    But I agree with most of the tips in this article & it’s great that you didn’t take the traditional “hide your problem areas” approach. Love it.

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  24. Jackie – Totally agree! Getting different sizes is so key as the majority of women are not the same size top and bottom!

    Bryn – I’m a fan of bikinis with the boy short style too. I just bought one this year and I love it! I don’t usually do tankinis though – I’m proud of my abs and like to show them off, haha.

    Jamie & Nele – Hmm, I have to disagree with the boy short hate! It really depends on the individual body shape and the cut of the boy shorts. I’m thin but carry weight on my butt and thighs, and love the boy short look. I bought a bikini with boy shorts this year and it actually makes my legs look better and draws more attention to my abs. Also, a slightly higher waisted boy short has a cute vintage look that I love. And boy shorts can be great for concealing stretch marks which most triangle-shaped women have. But I agree, pulling it off REALLY depends on your shape and the cut of the boy short – shorts that are too tight on the bottom will make thighs look bigger.

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  25. @Jamie, I agree! I never saw boy shorts on someone and liked it, they always made the “problem” worse.

    As for me, I am clearly an hourglass figure, rather big boobs but also not small on the bottom. I always wore bikinis that matched and according to the shopping tips, I bought exactly the right for me.
    Though I often have problems with finding a pretty and fitting bikini top, either they are too small or have an awful pattern or both.

    Thanks for the article, I find it very helpful!

    Reply
  26. I just have to say, I HATE when boy shorts are recommended for people with larger butts. Unless you have amazing thighs and a huge butt, then boy shorts make you look WAY worse! They make thighs look huge. The best I think is to find something that covers your butt and has a higher cut, which will make your legs look A LOT better than the boy shorts!

    Am I the only one that thinks this!?

    Reply
  27. Funny that this was posted just minutes after I bought a new bathing suit from Old Navy! I am very happy that I found the boy short style. Also, I’ve always been more a tankini girl than a bikini girl!

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  28. I’m really more of a triangle, larger on the bottom then the top so I do tend to get different sized pieces. I like bikinis or tankinis….bikinis more though, I’m proud of my abs =D

    Great post! I think there are a lot of women who haven’t a clue what shape they really are and at this age, (20 somethings) we should all learn how to dress it and flatter it.

    Reply

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