plus size swimwear sizing and fit guide

Getting Started


If you’ve been giving your newly organized spring wardrobe the road test, you may have noticed certain gaps in your closet. This is good news: You know what your closet is lacking, and you just have to find it. By removing the pieces that were just okay or were taking up space in your closet, you’ve created space for things you will truly enjoy wearing in the future.

As you build your wardrobe, you may need some pieces sooner than later. Summer is just around the corner, and you need the right clothes for the warm weather. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to buy your swimwear for 2015! Not sure what you want, or are you nervous at the thought of trying on a bathing suit after being holed away all winter? It’s easy if you have the right plus-size swimwear guide! Once you know your shape, what you like and what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find the right bathing suit, at any size.

Swimwear Through the Ages

The way that fashion has evolved is deeply intertwined with human history. Swimwear itself has changed in interesting ways over a short time. Although the bikini has existed at other points in human history, it didn’t appear in modern society until 1946. Bathing suits alone didn’t exist in recent recorded history until around the early 18th century, and they looked unrecognizable to the modern eye. Until then, swimming and going to the beach was mostly unheard of, which is why the first bathing suits had more class and modesty.

It was because of modern transportation — most importantly, the birth of the train — that society and its fashion needs began to change. This was an era when travel and leisure were a new possibility, and it opened up a new market for summer fashions.

By the time the 1960s rolled around, the bikini became the symbol of stylish swimwear. Hollywood actresses often modeled for pictures or appeared in movies wearing bikinis. Fashion was no longer ruled by modesty but by practicality and glamour. Women could be sexy and comfortable without risking arrest. There was no going back. The bikini was here to stay.

Bikinis and bathing suits have continued to change over time, but now, fashion dictates design. Today, there are thousands of styles, colors and looks to choose from with new styles coming out every day. If you need plus-size swimwear that’s flattering and in a style you love, all you need to do is know what works for you.

The Emergence of Plus-Size Swimwear

Currently, fashion is experiencing a new wave of change. This time, consumers are demanding more plus-sized swimwear fashion options that are stylish, fun and sexy — and designers are responding.

Until recently, plus-sized women had few options to shop. They had to shop at specifically designated “plus-sized” stores and hope the stores offered stylish pieces. Some stores offered did offer plus sizes, but these pieces were often cut the same as the smaller sizes — simply larger, without accounting for the necessary changes across the bust, legs, waist and arms that a plus-sized body needs. These larger pieces were often hit or miss, and women had to go by word of mouth to find pieces that worked for their bodies, or resort to tailoring the pieces to fit correctly.

In recent years, shopping for plus-sizes has been facilitated by the growth of the Internet and media. Consumers can interact with designers directly online. There are dozens of plus-sized fashion bloggers with their own websites, showcasing their favorite styles and looks, and plus-sized women are gracing the covers of popular magazines and starring in their own movies. The plus-sized woman is out and proud, and she wants what the other girls are wearing, in her size.

plus size clothing sales

There are also strong numbers to back up the rise in demand for plus-sized options. In 2014, plus-sized clothing options generated $17.5 billion in sales, a 5% increase from 2013. A study of 1,500 women found that more women report wearing a size 16 than sizes 0 through 4 combined. In the same study, 88% of the plus-sized women who participated said they would spend more money on newer styles if there were more options available.

As online shopping has grown in popularity, brick and mortar stores have been able to offer extended sizes online without worrying about space. They have realized what we have known for a long time: that the average American woman wears a size 14 and she’s ready to buy. Plus-sized women are now free to shop for clothing, try it on in the privacy of their homes, and return whatever didn’t fit.

Selling plus sizes is no longer considered a niche market, but a profitable industry with strong buying power — an industry that has been ignored and underserved for too long. Today, there are hundreds of bathing suit styles coming out every day, and women can choose from any size. Whether you’re a fan of the classic one-piece or the daring bikini, the key is knowing your shape. By keeping an eye on the details that make a trendy plus-size bathing suit work for your body, you’ll be able to choose the right bathing suit at any price.

Measure First

Grab a measuring tape and take your measurements. You should focus on three areas: across the largest part of your bust, your natural waist and the largest part of your hips. You can do this by yourself at home or with the help of a friend. Once you have your measurements, you’ll have a better idea of your shape and your needs. There are four main shapes you will fall into:

plus size swimwear guide

  • Apple — If you measure largest at the middle, you’re apple-shaped. Women who are apple-shaped carry their weight in their chest or midsection. For your waist, look for styles that include tummy control for a waist-cinching effect. Ruching that takes the eye away from the middle will also look great on your body. If you’re looking for a two-piece, go for high-waisted styles that still show some skin but cover your trouble areas. If you’re just a little larger in the middle and have a heavy chest, consider a slightly high-waisted bottom with some interesting details. You should look for a top that provides adequate support, such as underwire, molded cups and adjustable straps. Consider tops with minimal detailing, and avoid small patterns that may stretch over your middle.
  • Pear — If you measure widest at the hips, you’re pear-shaped. You are bottom-heavy and lighter on the top. For your shape, two-piece bathing suits work best. Go for plainer bottoms and tops with interesting details, such as a thick-strap halter that will draw interest to your chest. If you definitely want a one-piece, look for styles that draw the eye upward, such as gradient colors or interesting patterns. Avoid anything that draws particular attention to your hips, such as bikinis with drawstrings or eye-catching bottoms.
  • Rectangle — If your body is straight between the chest and the hips, you’re rectangle-shaped. For your body, choose one-piece bathing suits that are asymmetrical or have cutouts accentuating the waist. This will draw attention to your middle and create the illusion of curves. If you have long legs and want to show them off, look for high-cut bottoms that will accentuate your length. Avoid anything that will create uneven balance.
  • Hourglass — If you have a perfect balance between your chest and hips, with a defined midsection, you’re hourglass-shaped. Your shape doesn’t need to create an illusion, so balanced pieces work fine for you. Patterns that are distributed evenly, as well as bold colors and styles, work best for your body type. Avoid anything ill-filling that hides your shape.

The process of finding the right bathing suit will take some time. Don’t be discouraged. Try on anything that catches your eye and go from there. Keep in mind that you may have to try on many different pieces to find the right look. You also don’t have to feel confined to styles that are suited for another body type. If you like the printed top and you know you can rock it, go for it!

You can also play with bathing suits that have adjustable straps to adjust the fit to your body. When in doubt, pick a smaller size. Bathing suits expand over time, and water makes the fabric stretch, so stick with form-fitting suits.

The Best Designs for Your Body

flattering plus size swimwear options

Want to check out our plus size suits? Click the image!

When you’re shopping for a plus-sized bathing suit, look for certain designs and looks that will flatter your shape the right way. This isn’t about hiding flaws, but highlighting your best assets in a way that will make your look more stylish and will make you feel more confident.  Try some of these fun tips:

  • Play with print. Whether you like big and bold, or a small print that adds a slimming effect, get creative with designs that speak to you. Try it on and make sure the print is flattering on your body shape. If it’s a smaller print, make sure it expands on parts of your body that you want to highlight. If it’s a larger print, make sure it doesn’t overwhelm your shape. If you want to mix and match prints or patterns, make sure they complement each other.
  • Get asymmetrical. Asymmetrical designs are a great way to add a little interest and use your body as a canvas. These include one-shoulder looks, interesting ruching that draws interest to areas you want to highlight, graphics and abstract prints. Cutouts are also a top trend this season, and they can add a sexy, flattering touch. If you’re shy about cutouts, many bathing suit designs play with color in ways that simulate the same look while still providing full-coverage.
  • Add some color. You may be drawn to one solid, bold color or a rainbow of hues. Picking a colorful bathing suit style is a great way to add some interest to your look. Picking out a vibrant color is also an easy way to brighten your day, so if you find a style that works for you, see if it’s available in a color that will complement your soon-to-be sun-kissed skin.
  • Live on the fringe. Fringe, ruffles, and ruching are all great ways to draw the eye to areas you want to highlight. If you have a smaller bust and want to add volume, go for a great fringe or sexy ruffles. If you’re smaller on the bottom, showcase your fringe there. Ties on your hips will also draw attention.
  • Accessorize. Accessories are a fun way to add interest to your look without adding unnecessary volume in places you don’t want. If you want to highlight your bathing suit, wear bold earrings, slim belly chains or bracelets. On the other hand, a stylish sandal may be the only accessory you need. If you want to add more coverage, wear a sarong halter-style top to accentuate your shoulders, or around the waist to highlight your shape. Some bathing suits also have their own accessories like beaded necklines or straps with interesting clasps, so make sure your add-on accessories complement these additions — you don’t want them to hide or clash with them.

Caring for Your Swimsuit

swimwear rules to live by

Now that you have a flattering plus-sized swimsuit for your body, it’s important to care for it properly. Here are some of the best ways to keep your affordable suit looking its best:

  • Consider function. Always wear the right suit for the right activity. If you’re going to be swimming a lot, wear a suit that will hold up well with long-term use. If you’re going to sunbathe, wear a suit that won’t give you uneven tan lines. If you’re going to be in the hot tub, wear a suit that will withstand high heat and chlorine. Wearing the right suit for the right activity will keep them looking great over time.
  • Rotate your suits. If you plan to spend the majority of your summer at the beach or by the pool, wear alternate swim suits daily. This will give your bathing suits time to dry and bounce back into shape.
  • Rinse and repeat. Take any chance you have to rinse out your suit. Chlorine and salt water are corrosive, and they will wear through your suit over time. If you have access to a shower, rinse off your suit before putting it out to dry.  

Where Can You Find Plus-Size Bathing Suits?

Now that you have the tools to find the right swimsuit for your body, shop VF Outlet today for flattering plus-size swimwear. We also carry affordable and high-quality swimwear for everyone in your family, from different sizes in women’s swimwear to men’s and juniors.