Your Memorial Day weekend likely included many firsts for summer 2012: first hotdog, first margarita, first ice cream cone, and first (eek!) swimsuit. If the mere idea of slipping back into your dusty bikini--or worse, shopping for a new one--freaks you the eff out, then relax and remember you aren't alone.
To help us cope with this daunting prospect, we asked some of our favorite Aussie swimwear designers for advice on getting comfortable half nude after a winter of denim and wool. They are, after all, to swimwear what the Americans are to denim (well, the Brazilians might argue that, but you get the idea). And having just wrapped up summer Down Under, their outlook is perhaps a bit sunnier (and bronzer) than our own. Click through for their swimwear tips and tricks.
Quality Control Think of swimwear the way you think about regular fashion--fit and fabrication are key, only more so because when you're dealing with less it matters more (like with lingerie).
"Look for high quality Lycra so it feels amazing when you are wearing it, and always check the lining that is used," explains fashion editor-cum-designer Lill Boyd of Anna & Boy.
Amelia Stanley, Head Designer at Tigerlily, also suggests heavier microfibers that contain--not constrain--you, "there's nothing worse than dig-ins in swim, it's meant to be leisure time so comfort is key."
Along with premium fabrication, high quality trimmings can take an ordinary bikini to another level. "Using beautiful trims to highlight the bikini can really make the swimsuit feel and look special," says Boyd. Always check that detailing like clasps and tassels are functional, comfortable, but also that they look and feel luxe rather than cheap.
Find a Good Fit These days you're spoiled for choice when picking a style, making it even harder to find the most flattering shape. Seafolly’s head designer Genelle Walkom helps break it down.
Big boobs: Find thicker straps that are adjustable--a convertible cross-back is best. A soft cup is great for shape, with an underwire if necessary. Under-bust bands also offer great support.
Bottom heavy: A skirted pant or plain pant with detail like a twist, soft ruching or tie belt will draw focus away.
Athletic: A hipster or string bottom will help give the appearance of curves. Also boy legs and high-waisted retro pants look really cute.
Flat chest: Bandeau styles tend to flatter and give shape to a smaller chest.
Of course, it's not easy to fit every body shape into categories, and the real trick is trying on as many styles as possible. "Women pre-judge a swim style and don’t take enough shapes into a changeroom or just choose the same style they always have," explains Nicky Zimmermann, half of the sister duo behind Australian label Zimmermann, which just opened a boutique in Soho. "You should also approach buying a swimsuit like you would a dress or any other wardrobe piece--buy it because it makes you feel good."
You'd be surprised, that itsy-bitsy string bikini could be more flattering than one with more coverage, or the one-piece you dismissed as mumsy could look super sexy. (Side note: One-pieces can look mumsy. Amelia from Tigerlily suggests textured, jacquard or vintage shirred cotton for a more youthful look, as well as lower leg lines).
Beach to Bar There's nothing better than a day at the beach turning into sunset drinks, hair and skin still salty. But what to wear? If you're planning on continuing into the night post-beach you may want something more than cutoffs and a tank, but still just as relaxed.
Amelia from Tigerlily recommends wearing a "dressier" bikini, like one with beading or crochet, when you know you're heading out after and to keep the rest earthy with a simple kaftan. "Accompany with antique jewels and tan accessories, never too much sparkle or bling!"
A loose silhouette is the most effortless to throw on, and it's a look that's easily accessorized (think Halston). Plus, you don't want something tight against your body if you're still sandy and damp.
"Look for beautiful fabrics like silks and cottons that translate easily into cocktail wear. All you really need to do is throw on a beautiful heel and a fabulous earring or cuff and you are ready to go," says Boyd from Anna & Boy.
Relax and Enjoy! Of course there are the usual tips: wear sunscreen, bring a hat, don't trust dressing room lighting, get a spray tan, but if the Americans can learn anything from the Aussie girls, it's just to relax and enjoy the sunshine.
"Aussie girls are very confident and natural wearing a swimsuit, whether it's around a pool or wondering around Bondi Beach after a swim. The beach and the city are very connected in Australia so it’s more of a way of life. I’m not suggesting New Yorkers cruise the streets in their bikini-- but the point is, it's summer, so relax and enjoy it!" says Nicky Zimmermann.