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Suiting Up: Swimwear for Your Shape and Style

Jul 16, 2013

by Aleksa Brown

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

For many women, swimsuit shopping ranks right up there with root canals, terrible blind dates, and waiting in line at the DMV on the spectrum of unpleasant life experiences. Small, badly-lit fitting rooms with warped mirrors; racks of tiny spandex fragments with perplexing ruffles and incomprehensible sizing — finding that perfect suit is no picnic. Shopping online eliminates some of that stress, but it has its own anxieties. How do you know a style that looks great in a photo will suit you?

For help with this perplexing dilemma, we turned to a pair of experts: best friends Karen Donaldson and Vanessa Warrack, the creative talent behind cult swim label Minnow Bathers. Their suits are inspired by nostalgia of youth, summer rebellion and first love, and they’re known for pairing bold colors and patterns with classic designs to create contemporary pieces with a subtly vintage vibe. We chatted with Karen and Vanessa to get the skinny on all things swimsuit.

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How did you get started in the swimsuit business?
When we first met, we were both studying fashion and loved making our own clothes. We started making bathing suits together for ourselves and our friends for fun and never expected it to grow into a small business.

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Jeremy Jansen

A suit from Minnow Bathers’ 2012 collection.

Today, we specialize in making bathers that you feel comfortable in; bathers that you can run around in on the beach but also look good in. We really like to use bold prints and classic cuts that flatter the female body. We are inspired by vintage cuts which span decades but exude a sense of energy and liveliness not often explored in the swimwear market.

What’s the number one thing a woman can do to get that perfect fit?
Make sure you know your measurements, especially when purchasing a suit online. Bathing suits are one of the hardest garments to buy and it is so important that they fit perfectly.

Any tips for taking your own measurements?
A good trick is to take your measurements in front of a mirror or have someone with you to check that the measuring tape is in the right place. Often when you are taking measurements of your own under-bust or hip circumference, the tape can slide down and give you a less accurate measurement.

Let’s talk about body types. What tips or suggestions can you make for specific body types?
For a larger bust, I suggest a top with wider straps to give extra support. To accentuate your bust, try a top that criss-crosses or has gathers at the center front. Bandeau tops are great for women with a smaller bust.

One-piece bathing suits are always good for athletic builds. If you have broader shoulders, a suit with thicker straps won’t accentuate them.

If you have full hips or thighs, bathing suits cut really low on the legs will often make your legs look fuller. High-waisted bottoms are ideal for hiding little bellies. Plus size ladies might consider wearing a one piece or high-waisted bottoms paired with a top that has wider straps for support.

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Jeremy Jansen

Suits from Minnow Bathers’ 2013 collection.

Once you find the perfect suit, how can you make sure it lasts more than one season?
Take care of it appropriately. Wash your bathing suit by hand and lay it flat to dry. Washing machines can be really hard on spandex and the high heat of dryers can remove the elasticity of the fabric over time.

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