Is there any worse nightmare than trying on swimwear? The dance of the seven veils going through airport security is nothing compared with divesting oneself of all outerwear down to the briefs in a strange enclosure to test whether a skimpy bit of clothing (or two skimpy bits of clothing) will make us feel confident, armoured for a pool or seaside dip in a sunny place. Still, this is the time of year when beach holidays are on many a post-pandemic mind after long, cold winters of comfort and covered-up dressing. Trying on is a must for the fit to be right, since many of us have acquired extra poundage during lockdown.
Trends this summer aren’t geared towards the hardy, year-round sea swimmers with their wetsuits, towelling robes and booties. Sweaty Betty caters well for this hardcore cohort, as does Helen Steele at Dunnes Stores with long sleeves, high necks and rash vests.
The modern summer swimsuit has a dual role that has to combine leisurely ocean plunges with glamorous versatile daytime or night-time wear. The latest trends are for more decorative detail – one-shouldered affairs, ruffles, cut-out tops, gold hardware, chain belts and wraparound straps not that conducive to a speed-breaking stroke.
Primark has led the charge with inexpensive fashion forward pieces, though sites at the other end of the spectrum like Cossie & Co offer super elegant styles (wonderful ginghams and great colours) with the most ornamental element being a minimal tie shoulder.
Deakin & Blue claims to offer the perfect fit for any body shape using standard sizing but with added curve options. That means that each style comes in the traditional dress size format 8-20, but with added elements for those with AA-B cups and for F-HH cups (its fabrics are sustainable too, made from regenerated nylon fibre produced from post-consumer waste such as old fishing nets and industrial plastic). Well-known lingerie brands like Chantelle and Fantasie also offer supportive cup-sized swimwear.
Popular colours have always been navy and black, but “don’t shy away from colour”, advises Grace Kennedy, swimwear buyer for Brown Thomas and Arnotts. Pink in particular, she argues, is flattering for women “even in the early days of tanning”. Good investment pieces include those from French brand Eres that are “smooth and contouring with no boning or padding”, Kennedy says, and the swimsuit from Hunza G in its signature soft crinkle rib fabric with low back and high leg, “a one size fits all from a small to maternity” in a range of colours.
Ruching or chain belts at the waist suit the hourglass figure, found in brands like We Wore What from the US and Self Portrait, highlighting curves in the right places. For the fuller figure, along with Chantelle and Fantasie, Kennedy recommends Anita, a German brand on offer at the new Beach Hut in Brown Thomas Dundrum. High-waisted bikinis tend to serve the longer torso and well-defined waist better than the traditional low-cut styles.
Elsewhere, Marks & Spencer is always a reliable mainstay for well-priced, well-structured swimwear for every body shape, and this season colours are vibrant along with easy neutrals. There are flattering black and white vertical stripe halternecks (including one for maternity), lovely leaf and animal print bandeaus, scallop plunges and all sorts of tummy control items along with accessories, hats, sandals, bags and beach shirts. “We have never been more co-ordinated for an Instagram worthy head to toe look,” says Lisa Illis, head of womenswear design.
With so much to choose at prices from €12 to €460, it’s time to take the plunge and find your perfect swimwear for summer.