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11 Common Swimsuit Mistakes You’re Making and How to Fix Them

There are few things worse than trying on bathing suits. But you could be making it even harder by falling for these missteps. Top stylists share their tips for finding the best bathing suits for your body type.

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You shop only at department stores

Brick-and-mortar stores aren’t always the top places to buy your best bathing suits. “One of the biggest mistakes people make is not shopping online for swimsuits,” says personal stylist Bryn Taylor of BrynTaylorStyle.com. “A lot of stores won’t carry many specialized sizes, such as petites or certain cup sizes. Online, you will find a whole variety and a greater range of sizes.” Many online stores also have generous return policies and free shipping, says Taylor.

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You don’t have enough support

Bandeaus and triangle tops may look cute in theory, but they don’t offer the support that women with fuller busts often need. “The best thing to do is opt for a one-piece or bikini top sized for your breast size—not a small, medium, or large, not a size 6, 8, or 10, but a 34D,” says Taylor. Bikini tops with underwire or halter-style tankinis that provide more lift are also good options. While you’re at it, avoid these common bra mistakes.

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You play it safe

It’s not always obvious which suits will fit and flatter when they’re on the hanger. So throw your net wide and try on a range of bathing suits, even ones that may not be obviously “you.” “Be open-minded about what will work,” says Laurie Brucker, a certified image consultant and the founder LaurieBStyle.com. “A lot of my clients at our first appointment say, ‘I couldn’t wear that. That’s not for me.’ That can stop us from exploring our options so we can feel confident.”

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You only focus on what you want to hide

Sure, you want to find a swimsuit that minimizes your least favorite area, whether that’s your stomach or your rear. But shopping for a bathing suit is a more positive and productive experience when you also focus on what you love about your body and want to play up, such as your amazing shoulders or strong legs. “Maybe you love your bust, but not your hips,” says Brucker. “You can do a navy or purple on the bottom—it doesn’t have to be black—and do a vibrant color or pattern top because it attracts eyes upward.”

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You assume that all one-piece swimsuits are frumpy

These aren’t your grandma’s one pieces. In fact, one of the hottest trends right now is one-piece swimwear, which are more stylish and modern than ever. “One-pieces are becoming chicer than bikinis these days,” says Taylor. “They’re sexy and functional and definitely the opposite of frumpy.”

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You’re put off by the size on the label

People assume that bathing suit sizes are just like regular clothing sizes, and then get upset when their normal size doesn’t fit. Worse, they may try to squeeze themselves into a too-small suit. “You should go up one or two sizes in a bathing suit,” suggests Taylor. “If you wear a size 6 dress, I often recommend starting with an 8 and maybe go up to a 10. I’ve had clients say, ‘No way I’m going to try a 10,’ but don’t think of this as a regular 10. It’s not. Bathing suits are a whole other animal.”

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You don’t mix and match

Not everyone is the same size on top as they are on the bottom. Thankfully, most swimsuit boutiques and online retailers have caught on and now sell tops and bottoms separately so you can find the best bathing suit for your body type. You don’t have to buy a matchy-matchy set. You can pick a solid color on bottom paired with a fun print or complementary color on top—or vice versa—to mix things up. But if you find a bikini or tankini you love that comes as a matching set, Taylor recommends buying the size that fits the largest part of you. “If you’re busty, the looser bottom can easily be taken in by a tailor,” she says.

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You let poor lighting fool you

Department stores are often the worst places to try on swimsuits because of the harsh lighting, which can make any swimsuit look a lot less flattering than it actually is. “The lighting in a lot of stores comes from the top down so what we see in the mirror is not necessarily what you’d see in natural lighting,” says Brucker. If find a suit you like but aren’t sure how flattering it is (and the shop has a flexible return policy), consider purchasing it and trying it on at home in better lighting.

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You buy more for less

Some people are understandably reluctant to shell out much cash for such a small piece of clothing, but in many cases, when it comes to bathing suits, you get what you pay for. Rather than buying three poor-quality bathing suits that you’re ho-hum about, invest in one higher-end swimsuit that you love. “You’re more likely to get a higher quality material and a better fit,” says Taylor. These fashion upgrades will also help you look expensive.

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You’re not thinking about what you need the swimsuit for

Are you lounging on the beach or snorkeling the day away? Choose a bathing suit that works with whatever activity you’re going to be doing. Sportier one-pieces are great for more active water-based activities, while embellished swimsuits are best for staying poolside.

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You get a bathing suit that you hope you can fit into one day

The best bathing suits are the ones that fit your body the way it is today—not what you wish or hope to look like some day. “Accept your body for what it looks like now, including the flaws,” says Brucker. “You can still work toward changing it, but you’ll wake up with that body tomorrow, so love yourself now.”

Originally Published in Reader's Digest