How to pick the right swimwear for your body shape

Knowing how to pick the right swimwear for your body shape is key to boosting your confidence this summer so we've asked the experts to help

Three women wearing different swimwear for their body types
(Image credit: J Cew / Next / Monte & Lou)

Summer's almost here and it's time to soak up the sunshine in style. But before you dive in, consider this: how to pick the right swimwear for your body shape can make a big difference to how confident you feel. Whether you're lounging poolside, hitting the beach, or simply relaxing in your garden, the perfect swimsuit will boost your mood along with the sunshine.

The first swimsuit outing of the season can be nerve-wracking, but if you're looking for a sure-fire way to feel your best, then investing in well-fitting swimwear is a great start. Ideally, you want something that's as supportive and functional as shapewear but with a nod to the latest styles. Not such a tall order when it comes to this season's biggest swimwear trends for 2024, which include halter necks, retro styling and monochrome suits.

After you've considered how to pick the right swimwear for your body shape, sizing becomes extremely important. Bathing suits will expand in the water, so if you're going to swim, rather than just soak up the rays, you want a properly fitted style with extra secure fastenings to prevent any wardrobe malfunctions. But fitted doesn't mean tight. There shouldn't be any niggling straps or pinching underwires. After all, comfort is key to rocking your swimsuit with confidence.

Best swimsuits for each body type: Our fashion expert-approved guide 

“Looking great in a swimsuit has nothing to do size, shape or age and everything to do with the confidence that you show when wearing a great fitting piece,” says Jill Palese, founder of sustainable swimwear brand Call To Action Clothing. “Invest time into shopping for your best swimwear fit. When you look good you feel great.”

To avoid making shopping for swimwear a stressful experience, take an evening for a relaxing online browsing session to discover suits that make you feel amazing. After all, trying on swimwear at home is much more comfortable than dealing with harsh fitting room lights.

Best swimsuits for: plus size

Plus-size - size range, built-in bust support

The best plus size swimwear is thankfully much easier to find than it was a decade ago, with plenty of on-trend options available.

“Shop with brands who have a wide size range and shape variety so that you feel you have choices to find your most confident look,” says swimwear and lingerie expert Katie Weir.

Cut and fabric are really important, as you will want something that feels secure. Not all plus-size women have larger busts, but if you do, look for the best swimsuits with built-in bust support.

Miraclesuit Plus Size Swimsuit

(Image credit: Miraclesuit)

Miraclesuit Plus Size Oceanus One Piece Swimsuit

Best plus size swimsuit


RRP: £225
Sizes: 20-26

If your best shapewear and best swimwear fused together, Miraclesuit is one of the best plus-size swimwear labels. The brand focuses on supporting your figure through technical fabric, cut and built-in support details to ensure a sculpting yet comfortable fit that you’ll be happy to wear all day. This particular swimsuit is a real classic, with a plunging v-neckline, modest coverage bottoms and a scoop back that’s perfect for tanning. It’s also available in black and green, but this royal blue shade is one of the big fashion colour trends for 2024 so is top of our list.

Best of the rest…

Best swimsuits for: pear body type

Pear-shaped - halter, scoop neck, detailing on top

Pear-shaped bodies carry most of their weight on the bottom half. To balance out your hips, opt for a swimsuit with extra detailing on the top half.

“Prioritise patterned or embellished tops to draw any attention to the upper section of your body,” says stylist and fashion writer Yenia Hernández Fonseca. “Halter or scoop necks work well, while learning how to wear ruffles, or choosing stylish metal rings and 3D florals add a touch of interest to your entire look.”

River Island Belted Swimsuit

(Image credit: River Island)

River Island Black & White Belted Swimsuit

Best swimsuit for pear body types


RRP: £45
Sizes: UK: 6-18

This swimsuit flatters in all the right places, making it perfect for pear shapes. The chain detail on the straps along with the monotone bra cups adds interest on the top half, while the dark bottom adds balance. The belt also helps draw attention to the middle, creating a waisted silhouette. It’s the perfect swimsuit for a capsule wardrobe for travel – team with your best beach bag. during the day and then throw on a long skirt and heels for after dark drinks.

Best of the rest…

Best swimsuits for: strawberry body type

Strawberry body shape - plunging necklines, high cut leg

Strawberry body types are broader on the top, with narrow hips and slender legs. To balance your silhouette, opt for plunging necklines, as they draw the eye downwards, creating a longer and leaner body shape. High-cut swimsuits meanwhile help to show off pins but are also a speedy way to lengthen legs as it reveals a larger proportion of thigh, giving the appearance of a longer silhouette.

Yasmeen one-shoulder metallic seersucker swimsuit

(Image credit: Net A Porter)

Hunza G Yasmeen swimsuit

Best swimsuit for strawberry body types


RRP: £175
Sizes: One size

In our opinion, it’s worth investing in Quiet Luxury swimsuits as these are the designs and fabrics that are going to stand the test of time. Hunza G swimwear doesn’t come cheap, but will really earn its keep in your summer capsule wardrobe wearable summer after summer. Crinkle swimwear is continuing to be one of the biggest swimwear trends, and Hunza G is the OG. All of its swimwear is available in just one size, as its high-tech fabric adjusts seamlessly to UK sizes 6 through to 16. This means that one swimsuit can see you through weight fluctuations. The asymmetric design will lengthen your silhouette, drawing eyes up and above your shoulder, elongating your upper half.

Best of the rest…

Best swimsuits for: athletic body type

Athletic body shape - ruching, ruffles, prints and cut outs

Athletic or rectangle body types are categorised by their straight-up-and-down frame. Suited to almost any type of swimwear, if you're looking to add curves to your frame, then ruching, ruffles, bold prints and cut-out details help to give the illusion of a fuller figure.

Monte & Lou Ruffle Swimsuit

(Image credit: Monte & Lou)

Monte & Lou Ruffle Cut Out Swimsuit

Best swimsuit for athletic body types


RRP: £125
Sizes: 8-16

This show-stopping swimsuit from Monte & Lou, one of our favourite sustainable swimwear brands known for their quality fabrics and flattering designs boasts statement ruffles that are perfect for athletic body types. The ruffles add a touch of whimsy, while strategically placed cut-outs at the waist visually break up a long torso and create the illusion of curves. Plus, adjustable straps ensure a perfect fit for all-day comfort and confidence, whether you're swimming in waves or lounging poolside.

Best of the rest…

Best Swimsuit for: hourglass body type

Hourglass figure - wrap, belts, cut outs

Hourglass body shapes tend to have a small waist and well-balanced bust, shoulders and hips. To that end, when looking for the best bathing suits for an hourglass, it's all about opting for designs that highlight your curves. Wrap shapes, belts and cut-out details at the midriff all help to highlight your silhouette.

Norma Kamali Ruched Swimsuit

(Image credit: Norma Kamali)

Norma Kamali Ruched Swimsuit

Best swimsuit for hourglass body types


RRP: £185
Sizes: XXS-XL

Channel your inner bombshell with the Norma Kamali Bill Mio halterneck swimsuit, one of the best vintage swimsuits available right now. This retro-inspired piece turns heads for all the right reasons. Made from stretch fabric that sculpts curves, it features ruching that cinches your waist and visually enhances an hourglass figure. The halter neck not only adds to the pin-up feel but also highlights your shoulders, creating a lengthening effect on your torso. Complete the vintage vibes with a pair of cat-eye sunglasses and your best beach bag.

Best of the rest…

Best swimsuit for: apple body type

Apple-shaped - tummy-control, ruching

If you usually shop for the most stylish dresses to hide a tummy, then it's likely you're an apple body shape, carrying most of your weight around your middle. If you're after the best swimsuits to skim and sculpt your midriff, then you'll benefit from the increasing number of tummy-control swimsuits available on the market, that work in a similar way to shapewear.

Ruched detailing across the midriff also helps to subtly disguise a midriff if that's the part you're most conscious of.

Tummy Control Ruched Plunge Swimsuit

(Image credit: M&S)

M&S Tummy Control Ruched Plunge Swimsuit

Best swimsuit for apple body type


RRP: £32.50
Sizes: 8-24

If you’re looking for a swimsuit that won’t break the bank, this one from M&S is a real beauty. Obviously, what you first notice is the bright orange fabric, which makes it feel really premium. While the special control technology sucks you in, the flattering neckline is another bonus.

“A style that is surprisingly good for tummies is a swimsuit with a plunging neckline,” says Laura Jansen, editor on The Mom Edit. “There’s something about that extra peek of skin that distracts the eye up.”

As a bonus it’s also available in sizes 8-24, in regular and long options. Overall, it’s a real winner.

Best of the rest…

Best swimsuits for: bigger busts

Bigger busts - wired cups, bra sizing

When it comes to swimsuits for large busts, support is everything says Weir. “If you are fuller busted, you want to ensure you boobs are getting the best support in your swimwear, this will reduce boob sweat, back ache and offer the most flattering silhouette so that you can vacation with confidence,” she says.

For a spot-on fit, choose swimwear that's available in bra, not dress sizing, as this automatically suggests that the cut has taken bust size and support level into the design.

Not all bathing suits are supportive enough for bigger busts, so to stay comfortable, try one with wired cups. They'll provide plenty of lift and create a flattering shape too.

Bravissimo Koh Samui One Piece Swimsuit

(Image credit: Bravissimo)

Bravissimo Koh Samui One Piece Swimsuit

Best swimsuit for big busts


RRP: £75
Sizes: 30DD-40K

If you’ve been blessed with a bigger bust, you’ll know that Bravissimo is the number one destination for well-fitting, supportive swimwear that doesn’t compromise on design. Its Koh Samui swimsuit, typical for Bravissimo, is available in bra sizing from a 30DD to a 40K, so a spot-on fit is guaranteed. It has balconette cups with hidden, non-niggling wires and a gathered, adjustable neckline which can be tied as tightly or as loosely as you like. The paisley print is a real winner, managing to feel classic and fashion-forward all at once. For us, it has age-wide appeal, as one of the best swimsuits for women over 50, as well as younger women.

Best of the rest…

Best for: smaller busts

Smaller busts - padded inserts, ruffles, prints

Even the best bathing suits can have a frustrating habit of flattening your bust, making an already small chest look even smaller. Boost yours with swimwear with padded inserts, a low scoop neckline or additional detailing at the top such as oversized ruffles, which will add fullness and curves in an instant.

Next One Shoulder Ruffle swimsuit

(Image credit: Next)

Next One Shoulder Ruffle Swimsuit

Best swimsuit for small busts


RRP: £42
Sizes: UK: 6-20

Make the most of having a smaller bust by choosing a one shoulder swimsuit. This one from Next has the benefit of added ruffles to add fullness in the chest area. Eye-catching patterns are also a positive if you’ve got a small bust - they can add vibrancy and take the focus away from bust size. We love the super summery botanical print, which just screams summer. As well as being as being an eye-catching design, this swimsuit has a UPF rating of 50+, which blocks out 97.5% of UV rays on covered areas. Protection and style in one suit – and all for under £50.

Best of the rest…

Best swimsuits for: taller frames

Tall - longer body options

If you're tall, you may find that bathing suits can be uncomfortable to wear, as not every style is a suitable swimsuit for a long torso. In that instance, you may want to opt for a two-piece instead. If you want to stick to a swimsuit, then checking out specific tall ranges should help to negate the issue. Be bold and play around with different styles.

J Crew Long Torso Bandeau Swimsuit

(Image credit: J Crew)

J Crew Long Torso Bandeau Swimsuit

Best tall swimsuit


RRP: £132
Sizes: UK: 4-18

We applaud J.Crew for having a section dedicated packed with some of the best swimsuits for long torsos, meaning you can say goodbye to any awkward tugging and adjusting as this should offer tall shoppers a great fit. This bandeau one-piece is a popular choice for a reason, especially as it ensures you won’t be left with any frustrating tan-lined on your shoulders. If modesty is a priority for you, you’ll be pleased to know that it has a full coverage bottom and high back. There’s ruching to the stomach too, for a flattering finish, as well as the option to add or remove padded cups and straps. At the time of writing, it’s available in ten on-trend shades, so you’re sure to find a colourway that suits you.

Best of the rest…

Best for: petites

Petite - vertical stripes, high cut, plunging necklines

Finding the perfect swimsuit can be tricky when you're petite. You might find regular sizes drowning you in extra fabric, leaving your swimsuit looking baggy. The solution? Look for swimwear designed specifically for petite figures. These will be cut to flatter your frame and avoid that bulky feeling.

Want to create the illusion of extra height? Vertical stripes are your new best friend. The stripes draw the eye up and down your body, making you appear taller. You can also show some leg with high-cut bottoms – this trick will elongate your legs for a more statuesque look. Finally, consider deeper necklines like plunging styles or halter tops. These add verticality and flatter your frame. You can also check out our guide on the best petite dresses to complete your look.

Boden Ruched Halter Swimsuit

(Image credit: Boden)

Boden Ruched Halter Swimsuit

Best petite swimsuit


RRP: £75
Sizes: 6-20

Not only are halter neck swimsuits one of the big trends for 2024, but they're the perfect choice for petites as you can easily adjust the halterneck, tailoring it to fit your frame. Plus, as it’s already ruched in the middle, any excess fabric looks like a deliberate design detail rather than an ill-fitting swimsuit. The plunging neckline also gives the illusion of height. We also love the bright paisley pattern, which will add a touch of glamour to any poolside and also look good paired with denim cut-offs or a bright maxi skirt.

Best of the rest…

How to choose the right swimsuit for your body type

Every body is different, and although we tend to categorise body types into shapes and fruits such as apple, pear, and hourglass, these shorthands are not the only way to find out which bathing suit style will suit you. The three key questions to ask yourself before investing are:

  • Does the swimsuit fit and do you feel comfortable and secure in it?
  • Does the swimsuit accentuate the features you love?
  • Does the swimsuit detract from the areas you’re not so keen on?

In other words, if you particularly love your legs, or want to highlight them, then your best swimsuit will feature a slightly higher cut at the thigh, as this exposes more of that area, instantly making legs look endless.

Want to show off arms or collarbones? Then draw attention to your top half with details such as colour, pattern, or ruffles.

Ditch the fear of prints and patterns! When choosing a flattering swimsuit, strategic use of color blocking and design panels can be your secret weapon. Play with light and dark: darker colours downplay areas you want to minimise, while brighter ones draw the eye to your favourite features. For instance, want to balance wider hips? Choose a suit with a darker coloured bottom and a lighter or brighter top. To create the illusion of an hourglass figure, go for a swimsuit with a central panel of color flanked by darker side panels. This creates a slimming vertical line that highlights your waist.

If you have a big bust, always look for brands that offer different cup sizes (rather than dress sizes). If you’re unsure of what size you need, learning how to measure bra size will help. Just bear in mind that just as weight fluctuates, bra sizing can change depending on where you are in your cycle, so your bathing suit may feel smaller or bigger at different times of the month.

What is the best swimsuit to hide a tummy?

If you're not feeling as confident as you would like and want some extra support, we get it and there are plenty of gorgeous swimsuits to support and sculpt your midriff, with many one-pieces and high waisted swimsuits crafted with built-in control and shaping technology. They work by using double-layered fabric to hold and hone your shape, creating a smoother silhouette. Expect the fit to be firmer than your average swimsuit but not as restrictive as shapewear.

The design of your bathing suit has a big part to play too, so look for the following features:

  • Clever paneling and prints: they create a contouring effect, giving the illusion of a narrower waistline.
  • Ruching: it can work wonders, ensuring the fabric always looks draped, smoothing over bits your conscious of.
  • Tankinis: If you’re distinctly different sizes on the top and bottom half, then a tankini could be a good alternative to an all-in-one. Those with blouson or empire-line style tops will skim over your middle instead of clinging to it.

What colour of swimsuit is most slimming?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: fashion should be fun. And for that reason, colour shouldn’t come into the equation when shopping for bathing suits for body types. Let yourself be drawn to shades, patterns, and prints that you love, instead of being led by what you think will make your shape look a certain way. You'll look and feel better in a colour that brings you joy.

Many believe that black gives the appearance of a slimmer silhouette, by making shadows less visible, but it can be a colour that drains your complexion, especially when worn close to the face. If you’re still keen on the idea of a darker colour, navy is more forgiving, while a print will feel more summery.

If you want to know what colours suit me, think about the pieces of clothing you normally receive the most compliments when wearing. It might be green that brings out your eyes, blue that contrasts beautifully with your hair, or hot pink that pops against your skin tone.

Focusing on what you need to improve about your body before you allow yourself to feel confident is a losing game. Once you realise that your body is worthy, just the way it is, you’ll feel a lot better about putting on any kind of swimsuit. Promise.

How do I know what swimsuit looks best on me?

While you can follow all the body shape rules in the book, at the end of the day, the swimsuit that will look best on you is the one that feels the most comfortable.

"The swimsuit that looks best on you, is the one which you wear with confidence!" says Katie.

"Confidence is boosted when your swimsuit fits the best, so try a few styles of swimsuits from plunge necklines and wrap styles to scoop and full coverage to see which one makes you feel most confident! Of course, a swimsuit which hugs and holds your body, is always going to boost your confidence the most, so the perfect fit is very important!"

Is it better to size up or down in swimsuits?

As a rule of thumb, it's best to stick to your normal dress size. Swimsuit fabric is designed to stretch when wet, so a snug fit when dry will feel comfortable in the water.

Katie says if you're going for swimwear with sized cups, it's best to stick to the same size as you wear in a bra.

"I recommend staying true to size in your swimsuit if you want the same lift and fit as in your lingerie," she says. "Often, women can find that they go up a band size and down a cup size in their swimsuit for comfort, the can allow for any fluctuations on your vacation. I think it is personal preference, if you know your body swells in heat, it is best to go up a band size."

Jill adds that each swimwear brand has a slightly different fit, so it's best to try on as many swimsuits as you can.

She says: "Some brands cut generously while others are a smaller silhouette. It’s also important to note that your swimsuit will relax over time, so it’s best not to 'size up' when selecting your best style."

Jayne Cherrington-Cook

With over 22 years’ experience in journalism, Jayne has written about a variety of subjects. She spent the start of her career within the world of film, interviewing Hollywood stars, attending premieres and lusting after red carpet outfits, and then moved into fashion, launching websites for big magazines such as Look, Woman’s Own and Wedding and working with top fashion brands such as Westfield, LK Bennett and Hunter. 

Career highlights include dressing up as Kylie (in gold hot pants!) for a national newspaper and working on big fashion events alongside Giles Deacon, Henry Holland and Naomi Campbell. 

With contributions from