How Do I Figure Out My Bathing Suit Size? (Complete Guide)

A swimsuit that looks flattering and fits comfortably is still a myth to many women.

This is why when out shopping for one, you always settle down for something that’s either of the two. After all, hunting down a swimsuit that perfectly complements your body shape, looks chic and stylish, and fits you just right … too much to ask for!

But not anymore. In this article, we’ve rounded up the itsy-bitsy nuances of swimsuit sizes. Read and see how it helps you find your true beachwear size in no time.

How swimsuit size works

When it comes to swimsuit sizes, there’s no fixed global standard or guide that every brand unanimously follows. The only common element is that they all take your bust, hip, and waist measurements into consideration.

Generally, sizes for women’s swimwear start from “XXS” and can go up to “7XL.” Yet, brand A’s measurements may differ from brand B’s. That’s because many factors influence how a particular label approaches it. For instance;

  • Type of brand: Today, almost all swimwear brands are size-inclusive. But some specifically cater to the plus-sized audience. So, even if you go for their swimsuit in an “XS” size, you’ll find its measurements listed under the size “M” or “L” of a regular swimsuit brand.
  • Style of swimwear: A mastectomy swimsuit offers a snugger fit than a normal swimsuit. Monokinis and tankinis are much more relaxed than a bikini or a one-piece swimwear. Swimdresses are tight on the top but flared out toward the bottom. What we mean is that two different swimwear styles will never have the exact measurements, even if the sizes are same. 
  • Country of origin: French swimsuits tend to run slightly smaller in size than a UK or a US swimsuit. This is so because every country follows its own size guide for swimwear. And that’s based on certain attributes that are hyper-unique to that country, like the body type of its people, their idea of comfort, style, etc.

Overall, there’s no precise conclusion on how swimsuit sizes actually work. It’s all a matter of which brand and type of swimwear you choose. 

Are swimsuit sizes the same as dress/clothing sizes?

As mentioned above, swimwear manufacturers follow their own size guide that doesn’t correspond to that of regular clothing. This means, their size “M” might fit you like a size “S” dress. 

So, to answer in a nutshell – no, they’re not the same! Here’s why;

  • Unlike dresses, bras are not worn underneath swimsuits. This makes the bust measurements of both clothing items unalike. 
  • Swimsuits are body-fitting and, thus, run smaller in size than regular clothing. So, even if the sizes are identical, in most cases, you’ll find the swimsuit tighter than the dress.
  • Swimsuits are made of fabrics like polyester and spandex that can stretch up in size. Regular dresses made of cotton, silk, or linen can’t.

Honestly, there’s no land and sky difference between the two. Yet, if you think you can follow your dress’ size label when buying a swimsuit, the best advice is not to. 

Figuring out what swimsuit size you are

Finding your perfect swimsuit size is tough. But getting the wrong one is a much worse experience. So, prevent that by following one of these two simple methods;

Method 1: Measure and match

Mostly, women only care to measure their swimsuit size if they’re shopping from a different brand. But your figure also changes with time. So, if you’re buying one after a long gap, measure your body dimensions and match them with the size guide. 

Firstly, take a measuring tape and measure the fullest portion of your bust under your arms. While doing this, remember to wear a bra that fits you comfortably. Once you have a rough measurement, breathe in and out to ensure the fit is neither too tight nor too loose.

Next, measure the narrowest part of your waist. Follow it up with an acute measurement of the fullest part of your hips. 

Generally, these three measurements are enough to land you to your accurate swimwear size. But if you are concerned about the one-piece running up, measure your torso too i.e., the length between your legs and your shoulder. 

Once you finally have all these measurements, check the size guide and go for the size that closely resembles.

Here’s a video tutorial you can follow.

Note: If you’re heavy on the bust or a plus-size woman, consider your bra size too.

Method 2: Try and buy

If you have a rough idea of what swimsuit size might fit you, go to the store and try it for yourself.

A swimsuit that’s aptly of your size will have a few quintessential qualities attached to it. Look for them.

To begin with, if the size is right, the swimsuit will fit you flatteringly. It will feel the right amount of secure – neither too loose and definitely nor the kind that chokes you. 

Next, do a walk test and check if it runs up or down. If it stays put, it’s the one! Moreover, a swimsuit that’s perfectly of your size will not pull if you stretch your body.

These small signs are the most essential indicators of the right swimsuit size. So, if yours ticks all the boxes, it means you’ve solved the puzzle.

What size bikini top or bottom should I get?

You can keep gawking at the size chart and still buy the wrong size if you don’t know the ABCs of bikini shopping. So, here’s a quick handbook to find the right size bikini top/bottom;

Bikini top

  • Measure your bust and underbust while wearing a fit, not-padded bra.
  • Follow it up with your bra size.
  • Bikini tops are available either in sizes XS to XXL or 30A, 30B, 32A, etc.
  • After considering both, get the size that closely resembles.
  • If you don’t find the exact size, go a size small.

Bikini bottom

  • Measure the circumference of the fullest section of your waist.
  • Measure the front of your panty – from waist to crotch.
  • Measure the back of your panty – from waist to crotch.
  • Refer to the size chart to get the size that closely resembles. Bikini bottoms are generally available in sizes XS to XXL
  • If you don’t find the exact size, go a size down.

If you still feel unsure about the size, try the bikini and see how comfortable it is. Most importantly, make sure it isn’t too saggy or tight. If it’s too loose, it will collect water when you’re swimming and stretch over time. If it’s too tight, it will not only make you feel suffocated but also look unpleasant.  

What size one-piece swimsuit should I buy?

For swimsuits, the easiest way to understand which size to buy is to measure beforehand. Here’s how;

  • Measure the fullest part of your bust under your arms.
  • Measure the lowest part of your waist, a few inches below your bust.
  • Measure the fullest part of your hips 
  • Finally, vertically measure your torso length – from crotch to shoulder.
  • One-piece swimsuits are available in sizes XS to XXL. Refer to the size chart to get the size that closely resembles. 
  • If you don’t find the exact size, go a size down.

Do swimsuits run small?

Yes – swimsuits don’t follow a stringent, universal size guide. Still, you may find that some run considerably smaller as compared to others.

Actually, much of it depends on the brand and its fashion outlook. For instance, size-inclusive labels offer an exhaustive range of sizes.

Running small or large is rarely an issue. On the other hand, brands that prioritize style over comfort are generally more focused on aesthetics. They may not be so attentive to their size-inclusivity, and thus, their swimsuit sizes might run small for some women.

Moreover, the kind of fabric a swimsuit is made from also impacts how true to size it is. If you’re buying a cotton swimsuit, it will most certainly not dig into your skin and be just like you had expected. At the same time, stretchy fabrics like elastane or lycra feel comfy at first but end up suffocating you. Thus, it’s always advisable to go a size up.

But then again, it’s hard to tell the difference at first glance. So, it’s incredibly important to be wary of the measurements to understand whether a swimsuit runs big or small. 

Should you size up or down for bathing suits?

Let’s get this straight – bathing suits are rarely true to their size. So, if you’re buying one, you’ve got to be very careful about it.

While going a size up may be more practical for some women, others may find a smaller size more flattering. But only considering the “looks” is a very limited perspective. 

In actuality, you should consider two main aspects – the style of the swimwear and how you plan to use it. 

One-piece swimwear is wildly different from two-piece ones in many ways. But one of the biggest contrasts lies in their fitting. Generally, a one-piece swimsuit fits more snugly than a two-piece bikini set. So, if you can’t find your exact size but also don’t intend to splash into the water, you can go for a swimsuit size that runs slightly bigger (if you have no other choice). It will still provide you with decent security without looking overly saggy.

However, you can never do so with a bikini top. Whether you actively swim or not, the chances of an “oops” moment will be elevated if you size up. So, when it comes to bikinis, going a size down is more preferable.

Having said that, irrespective of what swimwear style it is, if you have to decide between sizing up or sizing down, always choose the former over the latter.

At the end of the day, the simplest way to understand whether you should size up or down is by going for the swimwear that makes you feel the most comfortable, secure, and confident in your skin.

Do bathing suits stretch over time?

Bikinis, swimsuits, tankinis, swim dresses – most kinds of swimwear are made from fabrics like polyester, elastane, or nylon that are extremely stretchy in nature.

As a consequence of regular or prolonged use, their fibers get weak and worn out. This inflicts a list of harms on the quality of the swimwear, one of the most initial ones being apparent in its fit. It becomes way too loose and sloppy.

While you can control the damage to some extent by not constantly repeating the same swimwear, it’s not the only thing causing the havoc. 

Over time, susception to UV rays, chlorine, body oils, chemicals, etc., also contributes to the swimwear stretching and losing its shape.

Will a swimsuit stretch in water?

The clear-cut answer is – yes, swimsuits do tend to stretch in water whether or not it’s apparent from the beginning. This most certainly happens because they are made of stretchy fabrics that seek extra care. Here’s why;

  • Chlorine in the water hampers the fabric of the swimsuit and causes pilling and loosening over time.
  • Too much use of the washer for washing the swimsuit also damages its delicate fabric and stretches it.
  • If you keep vertically hanging your wet swimsuit for air drying, all the moisture trapped at the bottom of the garment will sag it.

To avoid this;

  • Rinse your wet swimsuits as soon as you leave the swimming pool.
  • Hand wash your swimsuits as much as possible.
  • Rather than using the dryer or hanging the suit, lay it flat on a towel to dry.

Luna Wilde covers the latest swimwear collections, designer collabs, tutorials and industry innovations. She brings over 5 years of digital journalism experience to crafting clever, conversational content about all swimwear-involved things.

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