Swim in style

Spring has sprung and swimsuit season is upon us. Feeling uncomfortable in an ill-fitting swimsuit can spoil your day at the beach or at the pool. For those who have undergone a mastectomy, finding a suitable swimsuit can be even more of a challenge. You shouldn’t have to give up your well-deserved beach holiday after breast surgery. The number one secret to looking good is to work with what you already have. Identify your body shape and pick the swimsuit that flaunts your best assets.

Understanding swimwear material 

We have come a long way since the early woollen dresses that were worn as swimwear. A variety of fabrics including cotton, nylon, polyester and spandex are used mostly, but the best combination is Nylon (70%) and Spandex (30%).

Nylon is strong, lightweight, forms a smooth fit over the body and absorbs very little moisture. It provides poor resistance to prolonged sun exposure and swimwear may begin to fade and fray over time.

Spandex (or Lycra) is a vital component in swimsuit material and most swimsuits contain at least a small percentage of it. Competitive and slimming bathing suits contain a higher percentage. The stretch and elasticity provided by this type of material is slimming and formfitting. 100% Spandex is not chlorine resistant and the elasticity will diminish over time.

Swimwear care

Proper care will enhance the lifespan of you swimwear. A few do’s and don’ts:

Avoid getting sun tan lotions and oils on your swimwear.

Rinse in cold water after every swimming session. Soak it in clean water for about 30 minutes. You can use a mild detergent but ensure to rinse it out well before drying.

Gently squeeze water from your bathing suit after washing.

Never machine wash or tumble dry your costume!

What is your body shape? 

Pear ( “A”-shape or bell)

If you have wide hips and a smaller bust, you are classified as “Pear shaped”. This is actually the most common body type amongst women. There are many possibilities to look fabulous in a swimsuit. The idea here is to draw attention away from your hips.

Usually, a two piece swimsuit is better than a one piece. You can draw more attention to the upper torso by wearing a more colourful or funky top than bottom.

If you prefer a one piece, a swim dress is an excellent choice. The skirting creates flowing lines drawing attention away from the hip area. You could also choose a bathing suit with striking patterns or vibrant colours around your bust.

Additional accessories, like large earings, sunglasses or a matching necklace will also draw more attention to your upper body.

Avoid: Tie string bottoms will accentuate the buttocks.
Banana (Column or Rectangle)

You body is undefined with a lack of curves in all areas. It has always been difficult to highlight any part of your body when you buy swimwear, but here are some solutions.

If you want to accentuate your breast line, choose thicker or flowy tops which have a fuller appearance to them. Additional details such as folds and ruffles are also viable options. The same principle applies to the hip area.

Another clever way to shape your body is simply to wear a plain costume with a contrasting hour glass design on it. This will create the illusion of a defined waistline, as well as curvier busts and hips.

Avoid: Bikinis as you might be carrying a little more weight throughout the length of your body, a bikini won’t offer you support anywhere.
Apple (O-shaped)

You have an apple figure if you have slim legs and arms, narrow hips, carry more weight around the middle and your waist is not defined. Your breasts can be large or small.

If you would like to flatten your abdominal area, or create the illusion thereof, a one piece bathing suit with tummy control might do the trick (Be careful that it is not too tight as this might create undesired rolls!). This can be used in conjunction with pleats in the tummy area, or panels that would create a shaped silhouette over the abdomen.

A skirt design tanktini is always a good choice as the draping effect is flattering for your body type. Choose bottoms that are cut higher up on the thigh. Your waistline will appear slimmer with more attention on your legs, away from your tummy.

Accentuating the bustline is an effective way to provide balance to your figure. With smaller busts, it is better to wear padded, push-up cups, whilst with larger breasts, full support and a plunging or V-neckline is best. This stops the eye from dwelling on the belly!

Avoid: One piece swimsuits, light colours and, or patterns. Solid, dark colours appear more flattering on an apple shaped body. Handkerchief (vest like) tanktinis which emphasise the belly.
Hour Glass (X-shaped)

The hour glass might be considered as the archetype for females; the bust and hips are in proportion and the waist is slim. Many styles of bathing suits are flattering and a two-piece is a great option.

Small print or solid colours are best as they will not distort your proportions.

If you are a bigger breasted hour glass, it is best to have your breasts well supported and if your bottom is larger, adequately cover up with wider briefs or shorts.

Avoid: Bottoms that are too thin or too thick on the sides. This could throw your look off balance. Stringed bottoms: accentuating the hips might have you appearing wider.

Your shoulders are broad, breasts big and your hips narrow. What tends to work well is solid colour tanktinis and the reliable one piece. A further recommendation is moulded cups for cleavage support and to opt for a V-neck.

Rucking detail, print or bling also work well. The secret is to avoid focus on the shoulders or breasts but some detail or rucking along the neckline, between the cups, under the bust or at the bottom of the suit will have the desired effect.

Avoid: Spaghetti straps and strapless shoulders. Straps should be at least 2cm in width to support your ample bosoms.
Plus Size

Like the apple shaped body, curvy women can hide any belly with one piece swimsuits with tummy control and draw positive attention from accentuating their curves.

The tanktini can be extremely flattering while still giving the coverage that is desired. It is designed in variety of lengths and your choice is limited to how daring you feel. A ruched tanktini is a great option because it can be pulled tighter to reveal a bit more tummy, or let out to cover everything up. A top with a built-in bra is best and a bottom that gives full coverage will keep everything in check. A plus-sized hour glass figure doesn’t have to negate the idea of a two piece swimsuit!

Always remember that, flashy accessories will compliment your overall look.

Avoid: Horizontal stripes as this will give a wider illusion.
I have had a mastectomy. How does this change things?

Your current situation actually changes very little to the style best suited to your body. There are a view subtle changes:

Swimming prosthesis

If you have not had reconstruction, you could consider wearing a swimming prosthesis to fill your costume. Many breast prosthesis manufacturers have very suitable products on the market. They are usually hollow at the back to allow water to flow freely, this prevents an embarrassing slurping sound of water. They are made of surgical grade silicone and covered with durable polyurethane sheeting to ensure the same comfort as you are used to. Breast prostheses are simply slid into the specially designed pockets inside your bathing costume.

The only thing that remains is to enjoy swim season! Rush to the beach with a delicious fruit salad, ample fluids and healthy snacks whilst staying well protected with a good sunscreen and a lovely straw hat.

Written by Libelle van Rensburg