Suit yourself: Or don’t. Selecting a swimming 
suit can be dangerous waters

It’s at times like these that a gal really misses Cathy.

Cathy Guisewite’s perpetually-single-until-she-wasn’t cartoon heroine, she of the “Ack!” and the chocolate addiction, could be counted on each spring to spend at least a week ack-ing through comic dressing rooms, in a Dante vision of swimsuit hell.

Say what you will about her, but that was relatable. Few experiences are so emotionally fraught, such psychic minefields, as standing under those fluorescent lights, trying to tuck hints of underwear into invisibility and thus get a better sense of how things look, trying not to fixate on dimples or droops, trying not to cry.

And even though an estimated 26 percent of swimwear purchases happened online last year, according to the NPD Group, up from 18 percent in 2015, that still means 74 percent involved the in-person, tactile and possibly traumatic.

There’s nothing that hasn’t been examined — annually, and often with liberal exclamation points — about the indignity of swimsuit shopping.

(Plus, don’t forget the headlines promising help attaining your best beach body or getting you bikini ready or whatever. Listen: If you are a corporeal human, you have a beach body and you’re bikini ready. The end.)

But there’s an added wrinkle these last several years: Swimsuits for women seem to be getting stupider.

Sure, you can always buy a trusty Tyr or meander over to the likes of Land’s End and get something sensible, but take a gander at places such as Urban Outfitters or Forever 21 or any store that’s even slightly more trendy than Chicos. The maze of straps! The side-boob! The crocheted insets and inexplicable keyhole for belly button exposure!

Lest this be mistaken for some moralizing screed about modesty and the decline of western civilization, or a manifesto on gender inequity, it’s merely to point out that these collections of strings are not for swimming. They are for walking very carefully, and possibly with the covert assistance of double-sided tape, to a lounge chair and posing artfully.

But… the swimming! The splashing and frolicking! The reckless abandon that cool water on a hot afternoon engenders! It is difficult to cavort when straps are pinching or a halter neck (on a swimsuit! This exists!) is choking or everything gets all twisted and stuck in untoward places.

Therefore, a few tips on how to know whether that swimsuit you’re considering is actually for swimming:

It features metal hooks, insets, 
chains or other adornments.

For swimming.

You have no choice but to get in the water with that swimsuit, because lounging in the sun means hot metal that will end up branding you in unfortunate spots.

It exposes more than an inch 
of side-boob or under-boob.

Not for swimming.

Look, things happen in water, everything gets all loose and free, and only gravity can decide where everything will be once you surface.


It features a criss-cross lattice 
of straps that most closely 
resembles a spider web.

Not for swimming.

This is because you will be so exhausted from getting into it — seriously, HOW??? — that it would be too dangerous for you to get in the water, lest you fall asleep and drown.

It resembles a Herve Leger 
bandage dress, but with 
every other panel missing.

For swimming.

Eh, why not. If you don’t mind the possibility of uncomfortable pinching and binding, then get your mermaid self into that water!


It lacks sufficient real estate to 
avoid public indecency charges.

Not for swimming.

Yes, America is Puritanical and hypocritical and confused and blah blah in Europe blah hopeless provincialism blah. That thing is done for the second you hit the water and do anything more vigorous than stand stock still and think of England.


It features fringe longer than an inch 
or fake fur or leather or intricate, 
hand-sewn rhinestone detailing.

Not for swimming.

Seriously. Just call it loungewear, don’t besmirch the good name of swimwear with this frippery.


It sports novelty appliques or designs, such as a one-piece that looks like a diagram of the organs (this exists) or a bikini whose bra features a grabbing hand on each side (ditto).

For swimming.

As long as you don’t mind the fact that sartorial whimsy tends to be a one-note joke that’s funny only the first time.


It was once featured in the 
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

Not for swimming.

This is because it’s either body paint or is made of $2 million worth of diamonds or can only be measured in micrometers.


It makes you happy and you 
feel buoyant and lissome in it.

For swimming.

Get in that water already!


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