There's a swimsuit out there for everyone, but even for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models, finding the right one can take a little time.
For the annual beach-bonanza issue, which will debut its 47th edition on Wednesday, hundreds of bathing suits are collected. For every model who feels most comfortable in a string bikini there's someone else who prefers a bandau, says Diane Smith, Swimsuit editor.
The trend this year seemed to be more Hollywood-siren, pin-up styles than teeny-weeny silhouettes. "The girls loved it. It brings out a glamour in them."
Of course, the models are starting out with an advantage that many other women don't have: They are professional posers, and Sports Illustrated chooses only those at the top of their game. Cheryl Tiegs, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum and Marisa Miller are among those who have appeared on the cover.
Models say they ramp up their workouts, but they don't necessarily "diet."
"Sports Illustrated doesn't want us skinny," says model Julie Henderson, who is making her fourth appearance in the magazine. "They want us to portray a woman's body."
When Damaris Lewis showed up in Palm Springs, Calif., for her shoot, the first stop she made was an In-N-Out Burger fast-food joint.
Smith says eating on the set is encouraged, noting that they're often in remote locations with not much else to do but work, visit the hotel spa — and enjoy a good meal.
SI veterans Henderson, Lewis and Hilary Rhoda share some swimsuit wisdom:
"I've learned a lot about swimsuits over the years, actually, and the smaller the better for tan purposes," she says. She also likes an adjustable-tie bottom so there isn't an elastic band to worry about any muffin-top effect.
Henderson, a Texas native, spends any free moment she can at the beach. Her favorite swimsuit was a white string bikini with seashell embellishment — probably because it was a reminder of the sun and surf.
When she's not wearing body makeup and oil for a photo shoot, Henderson says her beach beauty routine is simple: sunscreen with SPF of at least 15.
Posing for S.I. in a bikini is very different than a fashion magazine shoot or runway show, says Rhoda, who has modeled for Rag & Bone, Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera and more. These photos, she says, really look like her and convey more of her own personality. "The hair and makeup is so natural . that's my favorite part of it. In high fashion, sometimes you look weird or unrecognizable."
For years, her bathing suit of choice was a Speedo racer as she was on the swim team growing up in Maryland. She's abandoned that for a triangle-shaped bikini, though.
Rhoda says she never tries on bathing suits while she's out shopping. She buys them, brings them home, tries them on her own terms and returns what she needs to. "In stores, dressing rooms and lights are so unflattering," Rhoda says.
Lewis says she's just getting used to the title of "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model" even though this is her second year.
She also, over time, has learned to become more comfortable with her own body — and its evolving more voluptuous and feminine shape as she gets older — and how it looks in a bathing suit.
Still, she says, she preferred this year's suits, which weren't as skimpy. Her go-to silhouette is a halter-top bikini, string bottom and anything with ruching. Because she has a short torso, finding a one-piece suit is trickier — some crease in the middle because she doesn't have the length to fill it out, Lewis says.
She also has a favorite pose — one she said that would work for anyone who feels she's short-waisted: Put your hands above your head and cross them, and poke your hip out. It works when you're not wearing a bathing suit, too, she says.