Note from Sara: I hit the friend lottery, and one of our good friends from high school has become a fashion adviser for our group of friends. She always looks perfectly put together and has a special knack for finding the perfect thing for your style and body shape without breaking the bank. She also has this philosophy about buying higher quality stuff from good brands (Christie buys expensive jeans that fit her great because she says, when you factor in how many times you wear those jeans if they fit you well and make you feel like a million bucks, it comes out to about 23 cents a wear. We call it the Christie rule at our house). As I’ve become more conscientious about how we spend our money across all budget categories, not just food, I’ve come around to Christie’s way of thinking, especially when I can find something quality second-hand or buy fair trade. Several of us use her as our fashion adviser, and I just thought that she was too good to keep to ourselves. A few weeks ago, I asked for her advice on a “mom bathing suit,” and she gave me all sorts of recommendations and tips. Sooo, then I asked her if she would write up a guest post, so that I wasn’t selfishly keeping all of her great ideas to myself. Welcome Christie!
Recently, a few of my close friends have reached out to me for help with shopping for specific articles of clothing. I don’t believe this is because I have a keen fashion sense or a unique style. Yet, one thing I know that I do well is bargain hunt and online shop. I find I can be a little obsessive about finding the “best” deal online or that I can spend way too much time on my iPad. In the end, however, I believe my hard work pays off.
If you don’t already shop online for clothing, you really should start now. It is the best. Most retailers offer free shipping and free returns. For those that don’t, I have learned their return policies and have calculated the risk/reward for ordering something that’s 90% off of the retail price versus the cost to return the item (usually $5-$10). Another reason to shop online is that you don’t have to drag your husband or children to the mall with you while you stand in a cramped dressing room and they wait impatiently for you outside. Even if you are lucky enough to shop alone at the mall, there aren’t always very many options and it can take all day or weekend to find something that you like.
Lately, three of my girlfriends independently asked me for advice about swimsuit shopping. Two of these friends asked me if I thought that it was “appropriate” for them to wear a two piece as mothers who are above the age of 30. That gave me pause. I have no issue with people wearing one pieces if they find that comfortable or most flattering on their figure, but I am concerned with the notion that my girlfriends believe it is inappropriate for them to wear a two piece.
It is completely acceptable to wear a bikini after you turn 30 or after you have children. Period. My body is not and never will be as fit and trim as Kate Middleton (she is a princess after all). I have accepted that about myself and refuse to let five pounds of baby weight prevent me from wearing a two piece. That’s not to say that I am an advocate for wearing a brazilian cut bikini bottom and a string top to your daughter’s swimming lesson at the local pool. There is a time and a place for everything, right? It is important to identify what you feel comfortable wearing and to feel confident wearing it.
So onward to our swimsuit online shopping! First it is important to identify what type of swimsuit looks most flattering on you. I have forever longed to wear a bandeau bikini, however that style looks terrible on me. Absolutely terrible. I have narrowed down my focus to tops that are halter style or have supportive stretchy or adjustable straps that pull “everything” up. I don’t waste my time looking at or trying on suits that I know won’t work for me.
I am able to extend the life of my swimsuits by buying everything as separates. I don’t think that I have bought a matching top and bottom in 5 years. I like to think of it like buying a perfectly fitted pair of jeans and then alternating my top to achieve different looks. This is the same! I have 2 pairs of nice fitting, plain black bikini bottoms. One pair is old school J Crew and the other was from Victoria Secret both were purchased for under $30. They match nearly everything and one has fun side details. This year, I purchased a pair of plain white Tommy Bahama bikini bottoms from 6pm.com for $17 at an end of the season sale. Afterward, I was able to expand my bottoms collection by adding a marine blue pair made by Mikoh from Nordstromrack.com. I love them and they matched two of my existing tops!
My suggestions to my three friends were to purchase a pair of black bottoms that fit you well and you feel comfortable wearing for a few years and then have fun picking out different tops that go with them. Solids match solids. Black or white bottoms can be paired with patterned tops. I believe it proves less intimidating to start with the bottoms and then take your time picking out tops that go with them over time. You can have a supportive or conservative top for the pool with the kids and a more revealing top for your adults only trips. Thus, 2 different looks with the same pair of black bottoms. Money saved!
This process has allowed me to be more selective. I have never felt like I needed to impulse buy something. It may be necessary to spend a good amount of money on a top that is well fitted, comfortable and is a quality purchase. I am not suggesting that you spend hundreds of dollars on a bathing suit, but if you find one that you LOVE and that brings you joy, buy it.
My shopping secret is that I find a few brands, styles and colors that I love (really, really love) and then I internet stalk them. Yes, I stalk them. I google the brand name, the style, the color and see what retailers are selling the brand at the best cost. If it is one particular retailer, J Crew for example, I wait. I shop for the exact styles, sizes and colors that I want in several options. Then I make a note for myself or fill up the shopping cart online. Then, I wait. Each morning when I’m having my coffee or having a minute to myself at the gym, I check the website and see what sales they are offering today. Online retailers will offer a sale most every other week if you simply keep checking back! Once a sale is in sight, I strike! I fill up my cart with the selections (usually at least four options) and check out before they run out of stock. Then when they arrive, I do a mini fashion show my husband and I get feedback. It seems a little crazy to order ten different swimsuit pieces in different colors and sizes, but it’s absolutely worth it to pay the $5.95 return shipping to try these on in the comfort of my own home without any distractions. I find this to be infinitely more relaxing than trudging around to different stores, even before I had a child.
What if you do not feel comfortable wearing a bathing suit at all? My suggestion would be to spend your time and money on a really incredible cover up! There are hundreds of styles and brands of cover ups that are comfortably chic.
My favorite places to shop for swimwear:
- Jcrew.com: Good selection, conservative styles, nice range from revealing to full coverage, returns are easy*
- Revolveclothing.com: Free shipping & returns*, incredible selection, fashionable & revealing tops, use the filters to narrow down search
- nordstromrack.com: Can be returned in the store for free, popular brands, check often throughout the year for different items in stock
- freepeople.com– youthful tops, has pictures of actual customers wearing swimwear, returns are easy*
- 6pm.com: Zappos clearance section, amazing prices, wide range of options, measurements of models are given in pictures for comparison
- shopbop.com: Amazon Prime eligible, free shipping, free returns*
- Athleta.com: Great selection, conservative styles, athletic styles, boyshorts, supportive tops, returns are easy*
*Be sure to check that items are not final sale
Best of luck!
Sara again. I love Neghar Foonooni‘s holistic take on fitness, healthy living, and body image. Her “bikini body plan?” Have a body, put on a bikini. I think Christie and I would agree! Most importantly, rock whatever makes you feel most comfortable and best about yourself! I’ll report back next week on which bathing suits I bought and liked using Christie’s suggestions…