Put me in a fluorescent-lit dressing room to try on bathing suits and I’ve entered my personal idea of hell (coming to grips with your insecurities in the middle of a department store in not an ideal situation). Every summer, in an effort to arm myself with all the bikini-buying information I thought I'd need, I would devour magazine articles so that I wouldn’t walk into the swim department entirely blind.
That is until I started to grow tired of reading the tips that basically told me to hide, conceal, and create optical illusions with my swimwear. Designer Malia Mills must have felt the same way: She was one of the first designers to start selling bikini bottoms and tops separately for real women's bodies. Malia acknowledged that not everyone is the same size on top as they are on bottom and turned the industry on its head when she started to sell bikini tops by bra sizes (everything from AA to E cups with F and G coming soon!), and used basic colors so that it was easy to mix-and-match. Her motto: “Choose to see the beauty that is you, get out there and carpe diem. Hell yes you can.” Because Malia spends her days navigating what looks good on just about everyone out there, I asked her to show me how to embrace the assets we often try to hide…an idea I liked a whole lot better than cowering behind my cover-up.
If you have a pear shape, the circumference of your hips is greater than the circumference of your bust.
TIP: "Instead of trying to hide your backside in a full-coverage bikini bottom, try out a one-piece suit cut with a lower leg line and cheeky back to emphasize, yes! emphasize your curves," Malia says.
OUR PICK: J. Crew Italian Matte Gold-Trim Tank, $125.00
TIP: Malia says, "a deep v-neck maillot provides a sensual look" and puts your slim shoulders and tiny waist front and center.
OUR PICK: 6 Shore Road Kokomo One Piece Swimsuit, $138.00
TIP: Don't buy your bikinis in a set: Feel free to mix and match your prints and solids but purchase the sizes that fit your top and bottoms appropriately.
OUR PICK:Malia Mills Bikinis (sold separately), prices vary
If you have an athletic shape, you have broad shoulders that are often wider than the hips.
TIP: Think tankinis are old news? Malia makes a good point: "A tankini show off just enough skin on top and draws attention to your great upper back and arms by covering the rest of your torso".
OUR PICK: Malia Mills Lovely Tankini, from $230.00
TIP: Mills also suggests investing in a suit with double straps: "they will accentuate your Cindy Crawford collarbones", she promises.
OUR PICK:Vix Swimwear Sofia by Vix Strap Back Bikini Top, $56.00
TIP: Show off your svelte hips with something daring. Might we suggest Brazilian cut bottoms?
OUR PICK:Mara Hoffman Ruched Brazilian Bikini Bottoms, $58.80
Va-va voom, you're voluptuous.
TIP: There's no need to shy away from colorful or printed bikinis in interesting shapes. Show off that badass figure with bikini tops that have wrap detail beneath the bust that showcase your hourglass figure. Malia makes the best bikinis for plus girls, because "the Margot top is as comfortable as a tankini without losing the sex appeal of a bikini."
OUR PICK: Malia Mills Graphic Jacquard Margot Top, $260.00
TIP: We think one-pieces are surprisingly good for highlighting the parts of your body. Different cuts like scoop back, plunging neckline, cut-out, or Brazilian show off your back, décolleté, waist, or behind.
OUR PICK: Forever 21 Midnight Mesh Swimsuit, $24.80
If you're chesty, you have a slim waist with bust and hips at about equal circumference.
TIP: Break out the string bikinis, busty ladies. Instead of stretching out the ruching on the bottom of the triangle all the way out, push it together a bit so that a sliver of skin is exposed on both sides of the triangle. It's flattering and shows off some of your best assets.
OUR PICK:Becca 'Color Code' Triangle Bikini Top, $36.00
TIP: Don't be afraid of bandeau tops. If the cups are sized appropriately made in a quality stretch fabric, then you won't be spilling out. Malia says, "this bandeaux style top provides support big busted gals need without looking like a bra."
OUR PICK: Malia Mills Danceteria Top, $235.00
If you're boyish, then your mid-section is close to straight between your bust and hips.
TIP: You have a long, lithe form: Embrace it! Malia swears by skin-tight bralettes for those itty-bitties that'll eliminate any extra fabric hanging that can make you look saggy in all the wrong places.
OUR PICK: Triangl Arizona Sunset Bikini, $79.00
TIP: Buy boy shorts in spades: They'll show off that sexy bum. Cheeky!
OUR PICK: Sperry Top-Sider Aloha' Boyshort Bikini Bottoms, $26.13