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The Plus-Size Girl’s Guide To Swimwear

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No matter your shape or size, shopping for a swimsuit can prove itself a real chore. After all, what are these pieces, really, if not glorified (and water-friendly) lingerie?
The key is to not let swimwear’s inherent skimpiness limit your choices, according to HeyGorgeous.com founder, blogger, and plus-size model Aimee Cheshire. Finding swimwear in the right size — and with adequate support — is invaluable when it comes to feeling confident and comfortable.
“In the past, plus-size and curvy women were told to avoid bikinis, embrace the ‘miracle suit,’ wear black, and hide their bodies under cover-ups,” Cheshire explains. “Today, the plus industry is changing from a position of ‘concealing’ to ‘revealing’ — more and more brands are creating swimsuits for curvy bodies, so you can step away from basic black and find styles that fit your personality and flatter your body.”
Ultimately, every body is a bikini body; you just have to put a bikini on it. Wherever you fall on the size spectrum, just know there are styles out there — in a range of colors, prints, and silhouettes — that are tailored to your style. Ahead, we’re sharing our favorite plus-size suits to shop (so far) this season, along with tons of expert tips to help you nail that fit.

The best women’s swimsuits

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THE BEST SWIMSUITS FOR MOST WOMEN
Twist-Front One Piece

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THE BEST AFFORDABLE SWIMSUITS
Pique V-Scoop Bikini Top

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THE BEST ECO-FRIENDLY SWIMSUIT
Long-Sleeved Swell Seeker One-Piece

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THE BEST GENDER-INCLUSIVE SWIMSUIT
Añú Swim Top

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THE BEST PLUS-SIZED SWIMWEAR
Ashley Graham Zuma Lace Up Bikini

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  • Finding the right swimsuit for you may seem impossible, but we’re here to help. We’ve tested swimsuits from leading brands to find the best ones.
  • Helen Jon makes the best swimsuits for most women, but we know there’s no one best choice, so we list several other excellent swimsuit brands.
  • We like the impressive range of sizes and styles at Swimsuits for All, and we think Outplay makes the best gender-inclusive swimwear.
  • If you like to stay active at the beach or pool, we recommend suits from Patagonia and Athleta.
  • For those of you on a budget, we can’t recommend Aerie enough.

When it comes to picking a swimsuit, it really is all about you. Be sure that the suit that you’ve chosen is one that makes you feel confident and comfortable.

There are several different styles to consider when choosing the best suit for your needs and style preferences. Are you more of a two-piece gal, or would you rather wear a one-piece? Do you prefer boardshorts and compression tops or long-sleeved rash guards?

You should also keep the supportiveness of the suit in mind. While you probably won’t be running down a beach “Baywatch” style, you should consider how much moving about you’ll be doing. If you want to swim, surf, paddleboard, run, play beach volleyball, and do other activities at the beach or pool, you need a swimsuit that will stay in place no matter what you get up to.

Women with larger cup sizes will also want to be sure that their bathing suit is properly lined, has built-in cups, or has some degree of support.

We’ve kept inclusivity top of mind in our guide to the best swimsuits, so we’ve included plus-size and gender-inclusive options to accommodate most everyone’s needs.

Here are the best swimsuits for women:

Updated on 2/21/2020 by Remi Rosmarin: Updated prices, images, and formatting. We are currently researching other new options for consideration.

The best swimsuits for most women

helen jon

Helen Jon/Facebook

$148.00 FROM HELEN JON

Helen Jon makes a wide variety of classic swimsuits in simple patterns and colors, plus, it has bra-sized options for women with larger busts.

Helen Jon takes a unique approach to designing swimsuits for women — the brand tests styles on its employees instead of models. The result is swimsuits that fit a wide variety of women in all shapes and sizes.

Five women on the Business Insider Shopping team — myself included — put Helen Jon’s swimsuits to the test to see if they really do fit a variety of women’s bodies, and we found that they do indeed. Every one of us loved our swimsuits. We tried one-pieces and two-pieces, including skimpier bikinis and bra-sized tops for larger busts.

Buying swimsuits online is fraught with peril for any woman, but if you have a large cup size like I do, it’s even harder. Helen Jon’s swimwear collection made it super easy for me to choose a swimsuit that would fit because there are tops specifically designed for D/DD women like me.

The D/DD cup twist underwire bra bikini top fits me perfectly, offers excellent support, and looks exactly like a normal bra under clothing when you’re en route to the beach. The Slimmer hipster bottom I chose also fit perfectly and was comfortable. I swam in the Atlantic Ocean and ran around on the beach in this swimsuit without any problems. Plus, the suit dried fairly quickly afterward. — Malarie Gokey

Pros: Simple designs, fit a variety of bust sizes, DD+ tops, one-piece and two-piece suits

Cons: Limited patterns and colors, pricey

Shop all Helen Jon swimwear

The best affordable swimsuits

aerie swim

Aerie

$34.95 FROM AERIE

Aerie’s swimsuits are cute and affordable — and they’re frequently on sale.

You can still get a cute swimsuit if you’re on a budget. American Eagle’s lingerie brand Aerie makes great swimwear that’s affordable. Aerie’s swimsuits are about $50 for a one-piece suit and about $60 for a two-piece suit.

Aerie’s two-piece ensembles are easy to mix and match. You can choose from all kinds of bottoms that range in coverage from a full high-waisted option to slinky bikini cuts and cute cheeky hipsters.

Since Aerie is a lingerie brand, some of the tops are almost bra-like in terms of support and structure, which is great for women who need more support.

Aerie has lots of cute prints and color options available, too, so you’re almost guaranteed to find something you’ll like.

It seems like everyone from celebrities and Instagram stars to ordinary women love Aerie’s swimwear, including a writer from PopSugar who loves Aerie’s one-piece suits in particular. She thanked the brand for making suits that celebrate bodies of all sizes and made her feel great in her own skin. — Malarie Gokey

Pros: Affordable, cute styles, one-piece suits, two-piece suits, a variety of sizes

Cons: May not last as long

Shop all Aerie swimwear

The best eco-friendly swimsuit

patagonia

Patagonia

$179.00 FROM PATAGONIA

Patagonia’s swimsuits are made for women who want to swim, surf, and stay active at the beach, plus, they’re made from eco-friendly materials.

Patagonia’s line of women’s swimwear includes everything from rash guards and long-sleeved one-pieces to bikinis, tankinis, and board shorts. Like all of the company’s products, Patagonia’s swimwear is meant for active use.

The swimsuits are all made from high-quality, recycled nylon or polyester fabric that’s non-slip and has UPF sun protection. Several women on the Insider Picks team — including me —tried out Patagonia’s new swimwear collection, and we were impressed by how comfortable the suits were.

Women’s swimsuits are often designed more for style than substance, but Patagonia’s collection breaks that trend. You can actually move freely in these swimsuits without fear of a wardrobe malfunction.

As someone with a short torso, a skinny ribcage, and a larger chest, I often struggle to find swimsuits that offer enough support and space in the bustline without being too loose around my ribcage.

The one-piece I tried had adjustable tie straps in the back, so I could adjust it to fit me perfectly. The cups were also adequately supportive, thanks to a strong underbust seam and the adjustable design of the cups that allowed me to spread out the fabric and more fully cover my chest. I swam, jumped, and ran around freely in the swimsuit without any problems.

The range of colors and patterns is limited, but the patterns are unique. I loved my one-piece’s colorful parrot design. The size range is also a bit limited, running from XS to XL. The other downside is the $120 to $180 price of the swimwear. — Malarie Gokey

Pros: Attractive suits, stay in place when active, UPF sun protection, Fair Trade Certified, recycled materials, comfortable, good variety of styles

Cons: Expensive, limited colors and sizes

Shop all Patagonia swimwear

The best gender-inclusive swimsuit

Outplay Añu paired

Outplay

$49.00 FROM OUTPLAY

For those who want a more androgynous swim silhouette, OutPlay offers tons of gender-neutral options from rashguards to swim trunks to full coverage swim tops.

Finding the right swimwear can be a daunting and frustrating endeavor for those who want to eschew highly feminine styles. I’m a queer person who presents androgynously and typically wears menswear, so swimsuits — especially tops — have been quite tricky for me. For a long time, going to the beach or pool was a stressful experience because I never had a bathing suit that made me feel comfortable in my own skin. Then I found OutPlay.

OutPlay offers gender-neutral swimsuits for women, non-binary people, and trans folks who are looking for simple, gender-inclusive swimwear. I bought my first OutPlay top — the Swimmee ($48) — back in 2016, and I’ve worn it every single time I’ve gone to the pool or beach in the last three years. It’s held up marvelously, even after multiple summers of saltwater, chlorine, and putting it in the dryer (even though you’re really not supposed to). It’s still my go-to bathing suit top, and honestly, it’s the only one I ever wear.

The Swimmee is a sports-bra-style top, but if you’re looking for something with even more coverage, they also offer swim tanks ($59) and rashguards ($58.95). Most of the tops come in both low-compression and high-compression, giving an option to bind your chest flat or minimize its appearance. The low-compression option still offers a ton of support — about as much as a standard sports bra — but the high-compression option takes it to the next level.

All of the tops come in several solid colors and stripes, so they pair well with a wide variety of bottoms. I often pair my Swimmee with whatever fun swim trunks I happen to find that season. They also offer several choices of their own, and everything comes in similar color schemes, maximizing your ability to mix and match. The Tomboier ($30), which fits like a pair of boxer briefs, is OutPlay’s signature style, but my go-to are the boardshorts ($52), since I prefer to keep it loose and breezy.

While OutPlay does tend to be on the pricier end, the durability has dropped my cost-per-wear down to virtually nothing. It’s some of the most reliable swimwear I’ve ever owned, to say nothing of the fact that this is the first swimsuit that has ever made me feel comfortable and confident. With OutPlay, I can bring my style to the beach without compromise, and that’s absolutely priceless. — Jen Gushue

Pros: Durable and long-lasting androgynous swim styles for those looking for a simple, gender-neutral silhouette

Cons: A bit on the pricier side, and they don’t offer many variations on style. If you’re looking for something with more flair, this brand isn’t for you.

Shop all Outplay swim

The best plus-sized swimwear

swimsuits for all

Swimsuits for All/Instagram

$126.00 FROM SWIMSUITS FOR ALL

Swimsuits for All sells swimsuits of all kinds in sizes 4 through 40, so anyone should be able to find a swimsuit that fits perfectly and looks gorgeous.

It’s not easy to shop for swimsuits online and size ranges are often limited, making a tricky situation worse. Swimsuits for All is aiming to change that with its big selection of swimsuits in a variety of styles and sizes ranging from 4 to 40.

Whether you want a bikini, tankini, one-piece, a swim dress, or a coverup, you’re likely to find what you’re looking for on the company’s site. Many of the suits cost around $100 or less, and they go on sale frequently.

There’s also a big selection of plus-size suits, so you can filter results down to the size range you need.

We asked several women at Insider Inc to try Swimsuits for All, and all of our testers enjoyed the process. One of our reviewers commented that she liked how easy it was to find reviews from plus-size women because it helped her trouble-shoot sizing and fit issues while she shopped.

Senior editor Sally Kaplan was impressed by the cup support in the one-piece she tried, and several other reviewers also commented on how supportive the suits they tried were.

There are two downsides that we came across in our testing: Some suits were sold out of larger sizes and shipping isn’t free on all orders. Luckily, if the size or style doesn’t work out, Swimsuits for All offers free returns within 60 days and exchanges with free two-way shipping. — Malarie Gokey

Pros: Patterns and colors, wide range of sizes and styles, great for plus-size women

Cons: Some larger sizes sold out, no free shipping

Shop Swimsuits for All swimwear

The best active swimsuits

athleta

Athleta

$108.00 FROM ATHLETA

Athleta’s swimwear is comfortable, reasonably priced, and great for women who like to stay active when they’re at the beach or pool.

Athleta is known for its functional and stylish activewear, and its swimsuits are just as great for women who like to be active at the beach or pool. You can swim, surf, run, dive, and even play beach volleyball in these swimsuits without feeling uncomfortable or worrying about your top falling off.

The swimsuits range from functional bikinis to tankinis and one-piece suits, so there’s something for everyone. Around 85% of Athleta’s new swimwear collection is made from sustainable materials like recycled nylon. The fabric is also durable, thanks to UPF sun protection.

Several women on our team reviewed Athleta’s swimwear, and we consider it to be the best active swimwear you can buy. We were impressed by how comfortable the suits were — there was no digging or pinching along the seams and the suits offered full coverage where we wanted it.

The swimsuits are true to size and quick drying so you don’t have to sit around waiting for your suit to dry before you head home.

Athleta’s swimwear isn’t the cheapest, but it’s not terribly expensive, either: Bikini tops and bottoms start at $50, while one-pieces start at $100. — Malarie Gokey

Pros: UPF 50+, ultra-resilient fabric, supportive, breathable suit, moves with you, multiple colors and sizes to choose from, eco-friendly materials

Cons: A bit pricey

Shop all Athleta swim

The best swimsuits from a lingerie startup

lively swim

Lively/Facebook

$45.00 FROM LIVELY

Lively is a lingerie company that also makes excellent swimsuits that fit a wide variety of bust sizes comfortably.

Lively makes excellent affordable swimwear that’s simple, supportive, and stylish. You can get a one-piece for $65 or a bikini top and bottom for $80.

Because Lively is a lingerie startup, many of the bikini tops are based on bra sizing, which makes it super easy to find your fit. We’ve tried multiple bikini tops and bottoms from Lively (as well as its bras), and we’ve never been disappointed.

The Busty Bralette top perfectly fit my DD chest and gave me the support I need while still looking sexy and stylish. I got it in the fun tomato red color along with the high-waisted bottoms, which also fit perfectly and offered good coverage.

Lively’s Bandeau top is also fantastic, comfortable, and supportive. Both of these swimsuits are great for everything from swimming and running after a frisbee on the beach to lounging in the sand.

Lively also has more itty-biity bikinis and one-piece suits that I haven’t tried, but given how well the other suits fared, and how well-reviewed all of Lively’s swimwear is on its website, we feel that it’s safe to recommend them as well. Besides, Lively has a 30-day return policy, so if you change your mind, it’s no big deal. — Malarie Gokey

Pros: Affordable, simple designs, fit a variety of bust sizes, DD+ tops, one-piece and two-piece suits

Cons: More limited selection than some

Shop all Lively swim

What else we considered

boden

Boden Facebook

  • BodenWe like Boden’s wide range of fun, cute swimsuit styles. The brand also has tops that use bra-cup sizing, which is nice for women who need more support.
  • EloquiiWe like Eloquii’s plus-size swimsuits, but Swimsuits for All has a better selection of sizes and styles.
  • Summersalt: If you want a high-fashion swimsuit that doesn’t cost as much as top-shelf brands, Summersalt is a good option. However, our views are split on this suit brand: Some of us liked it, but others found the styles impractical for larger busts and petite women.

Check out our other women’s swimwear guides

active

Athleta

The best active swimsuits for women

If you like to swim, surf, or do other activities at the beach, you need a swimsuit that’s comfortable to wear and stays in place no matter what you get up to.

 

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