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Kenneth Cole Ruffle Tankini Bathing Suit
Kenneth Cole Ruffled Tankini Top Bathing Suit

How to Buy a Swimsuit

Summer just wouldn't be the same without a swimsuit. Deciding on a style depends greatly on your personal preferences and body shape. Finding what's most important to you when it comes to swimwear is the best place to start, since everyone's build is not the same. What's more important to you -- color or cut? Will separates give you a better fit or will a set suffice? Is beach fun in the sun the main objective, or are you more the lounging-by-the-pool type? Try these suggestions on for size.

The Basics

Step 1Style: Look for the style that is best suited for your shape, personality, skin tone and other needs. Your activities will be a very important factor when choosing a style.
Step 2Cut: No two bodies are the same, so choose the cut that meets your specific needs. Fuller cuts, such as tankini and full-coverage suits, can hide problem areas, while others are designed to show more skin.
Step 3Colors: Choose a color best suited for your sense of style and personality. Bright colors are fun, but are they going to fit your personal sense of style? Purchase a color that not only looks great on the hanger, but also against your skin.
Step 4Prints, Patterns and Solids: Swimsuits come in an array of patterns, prints and solid colors. The options can be found with matching bottoms or intermixed if sold as separates. Watch for busy patterns or prints on one-piece suits, as they can take away from the cut and magnify areas you are trying to minimize.
Step 5Fit: This is of the utmost importance in a swimsuit. Follow undergarment guidelines to aid in sizing. If sizes are still questionable, get a fitting for bust, hip and derriere measurements.

The Lingo

Bandeau: Swimsuit top that creates a band around the bust and can be found in various styles, such as tankini/bandini, two-piece or one-piece.
Halter: Swimsuit top that leaves the arms and back bare, with straps that wrap and tie around the neck.
Embellished: Adorned with beadwork, grommets, embroidery, shells, buttons or other items to create a design on the fabric.
Bikini: Two-piece swimsuits that can be found in several styles, colors and designs.
One-Piece: A swimsuit that covers the midriff, is held up by shoulder straps or neck straps, and can have full bottoms or be high-cut.
Tankini: Two-piece suit that covers the midriff and has a separate bottom, which provides more coverage than a regular two-piece bikini.
Triangle Top: This is the top of a two-piece swimsuit that covers the bust in the shape of two triangles.
Convertible or 3-in-1: A bikini top that can be worn in the triangle, bandeau or sweetheart style.
Full-Coverage Bottom: Covers the derriere completely and, depending on the type of bottom, may include support panels.
Moderate Bottom: This means the suit bottom will lay 1 or 2 inches below the navel but above the hip bone.
Low Rise: Designed to sit far below the natural waist, usually landing on the hip bone.

The Experts

Marie Claire Trying to hide a larger derriere? Look for swimsuits in skirted styles or swim dresses. Norma Kamali's designs are inspired by the 1940s styles to offer more coverage.
Elle Going Greek? Items such as a shortkini or swimsuits in crisp whites, deep blues and gold hues can create an island-inspired look. Check out the navy one-shoulder swimsuit by Lenny. Trying to hide a larger derriere? Look for swimsuits in skirted styles or swim dresses. Norma Kamali's designs are inspired by the 1940s styles to offer more coverage.

The Brands

Sauvage Swimwear offers luxe suits, as well as sports swimwear in an array of designs and styles.
Mossimo and Merona are two swimsuit brands that come in an assortment of styles for casual swimwear.
Beach Sexy is the Victoria's Secret brand, which is available in an assortment of playful, beach-ready styles.
Beach Belle swimsuits carry sizes for all women, including plus sizes. They also feature swimsuits that are chlorine-resistant.
Hanes markets a line of active wear that includes swimsuits with "trim shapers" for body control.

The Price

$: At the low end of the swimsuit price range are separates. Mix and match tops and bottoms for two-pieces and tankinis for anywhere from $10 to $25 for each piece. Try the Victoria's Secret pink bandeau top.
$$: In the mid-range, look for higher-end separates along with one-pieces, bikinis, tankinis and more. Styles here will feature more unique patterns, designs and colors. Try a Calvin Klein swimsuit.
$$$: High-fashion swimsuits occupy the high end of the price scale. Suits in this category can cost several hundred dollars. They are made to last and impress, with designs and patterns that could be found on the runway. Try the Jean Paul Gaultier Tattoo-Print swimsuit.