When it comes to the most dreaded shopping experiences, searching for swimsuits tops the list for ladies (followed closely by denim and bras). But don’t let the fear of unflattering fluorescent-lit dressing rooms keep you from updating your swimwear this summer. TODAY style editor and Bobbie.com’s Bobbie Thomas is here to give you a confidence boost with some tips to help you find the suit that’s right for you. Get a game planWomen loathe bathing suit shopping for many reasons. It’s intimidating to strip down under unflattering lights, or to have to step out in front of strangers to see a full-length mirror or get a different size. The experience can be overwhelming. As a result, we often avoid it until the last possible moment — the day before vacation or the morning of the pool party — and are then forced to choose from what’s hanging on the rack. However, if you take a little extra time to figure out which styles, colors and fabrics work best for you, it will be well worth it in the long run. Start at home in front of a familiar mirror and get to know your body. If you have bras or underwear you like, take note of their style. You can also explore your options from the safety of the Internet. Online retailers not only offer a larger selection and more flexibility than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, they also include lots of great body-shape information. Spend some time figuring out your favorites and then you’ll be armed and ready to dive into the suit search. Surf the WebOnce you know what you are looking for, you can literally build your own bikini online, with color, style and size choices for separates at sites like JCrew.com and Spiegel.com. While JCrew.com ($38-$55, Jcrew.com) is all about mixing and matching styles from among their signature color palette, some of Spiegel.com’s ($29-$49, Spiegel.com) most popular suits focus on support and control in all the key places. Other sites, likegingersisland.com (approximately $120-$150 per custom suit), zenaswimwear.com and loricoulter.com will help you customize a made-to-order design. In addition to specialty sizing and more than 100 fabric selections, Ginger’s Island will send samples directly to your home, allowing you to “try on” different styles and sizes based on your exact measurements, and will even replicate old suits that have seen better days.
Have a pre-pool partyIf you’re looking for a little more support (literally and figuratively), I’m a big fan of the bathing-suit buddy system. After all, it’s all about your girlfriends — in more ways than one. Gather your friends together and book a fit appointment at Everything But Water ( www.everythingbutwater.com ), where you can meet with a specialist who will help you choose your best cut, color and fabric. Or, throw your own “DYOB” (Design Your Own Bathing Suit) party. Carla’s Closet ( www.carlascloset.com) specializes in throwing DYOB parties across the country that allow you to build a custom suit from the comfort of your own home. They have created special suits for Sports Illustrated magazine and tailored cuts specifically designed to flatter every figure. It’s a great way to interject some fun into an otherwise frightening fitting.