Where to buy swimwear that fits in London
Get to know the best swimwear brands for your size and shape
With summer holidays shimmering just over the horizon, now is the best time to shop for swimwear – it has already arrived on the high street and will be all but sold out by the time school holidays actually start. And it doesn't have to be painful, that's a promise.
The first step is to get out all the swimwear you already own, and try it on. Doing this in the harsh light of day can feel a little cruel, so instead choose an evening when you've got plenty of time for a little changing room session. A relaxing bath beforehand can help, as can removing any body hair you would for the beach in order to get the full effect.
For every costume you try on look for the three 'Fs': does it fit? Is it flattering? Has it faded? If it doesn't tick all three of these categories then it's not going to help you feel perky pool-side. As you try each one on, think about how you felt last time you wore it: did this one's strap dig in painfully, or did that one threaten to expose your chest every time you swam? If so, even if it still ostensibly fits, it shouldn't make the cut.
Once you've identified what you have you can then decide what else you need – think about activities on your holiday – swimming and sunbathing are the obvious ones, but you might also find yourself running around with children, or even surfing and trying water sports.
When it comes to swimwear most high street brands have nailed the trends, but they're not always the best place to turn when it comes to supportive sizing or good coverage, especially as many still offer bikinis as two-piece sets rather than mix and match sizes (Zara and Mango offer mix and match). If you find yourself in-between two sizes opt for the smaller one, as swimsuit fabric stretches slightly when damp.
Whether you're looking for a bikini or one-piece, trying on a variety of styles is the best way of finding one that fits and is flattering. A department store is a good place to start – it will offer a range of brands, styles and budgets, with staff on hand to advise on the way each fits different shapes.
For fashion forward and sporty styles head to the Body Studio at Selfridges where you can also find the one-size-fits-all approach from Hunza G. John Lewis can be relied upon for supportive yet pretty styles in a wide range of sizes, while Fenwick of Bond Street has a good selection of control swimwear and cup-sized bikinis from the likes of Chantelle, Panache and Seafolly. Bravissimo boutiques are many women's secret weapon, and the brand has worked hard to improve its swimwear offering of late.
By now most of us know that a fitting consultation is the best way to make sure we're getting the right support from a bra, but how many of us would apply the same logic to swimwear? At Debenhams the personal shopping experience includes a 'holiday wardrobe update' including a bra-fitting service to ensure the correct shape and size of swimwear.
French label Eres is a brand built on innovation, and it takes the fitting experience to another level with rigorously trained brand advisors, who study the collections and experience fitting all body types before they begin working in store. All customers can take advantage of a fitting appointment, but book a personal shopping experience and you might find yourself nudged towards a style you would never have considered. Training includes learning about specific fabrics and the ways in which they support the body as well as how to enhance different silhouettes and what colours work best for different skin tones.
Speaking of which, if you usually tan on holiday you might feel a lot more confident if you apply fake tan before you go shopping. Didn't have time? Head to Heidi Klein in Westbourne Grove to take advantage of the Mystic Tan Booth, an automated fake-tan application system, where bronzer can be mixed in for an immediately visible quick-drying glow.
Image: Heidi Klein
The Heidi Klein experience is actually rather like a mini beach break all of its own, all white-washed wood, palm trees and coconut scent. Technical innovation and fit are highly prized by the design team, while staff are well-trained in order to help advise on fit (including styles designed for D-G cup) and style, as well as point out clever features such as adjustable coverage on some styles, and adjustable and removable straps and padding.
Both Eres and Heidi Klein are known for their technically innovative fabrics, and though neither come cheap, investing in high quality swimwear – that won't sag, bag, fade or bobble – is a price worth paying, especially if it means you don't have to go swimwear shopping again next year.