7 things you need to know before you buy a swimsuit online (plus my favorite swimwear for this summer)

7 things you need to know before you buy a swimsuit online (plus my favorite swimwear for this summer)

I know I’m not alone when I say I love to shop online.

But I’m surprised how many devoted online shoppers say they’ll never buy swimwear online, because they think they have to try it on first.

They have a good point: swimwear is hard to shop for. It’s tough to find a suit that fits your unique body.

But I’m here to convince you that shopping online has many advantages, if you do it right. You get to avoid hideous dressing room lighting, an overwhelming sales floor, judgmental (at least in your head) salespeople, and the pressure to decide right then which suit to take home.

But to find a great suit that fits online, you’ve gotta play by the rules—and choose your retailer with care. Here’s how to buy a swimsuit you love—and that actually fits—online.

How to buy a swimsuit online

1.Know what you’re looking for. This post will help you clarify what you’re looking for in a swimsuit.

2. Determine your (ballpark) size. Take your measurements and study the size chart on the website. Read the body type recommendations and check out the reviews to get a feel for sizing. Great retailers encourage you to call or live chat if you have any questions. If you have questions, ask.

3.  Order your favorite suit in at least 2 sizes. Order the size you think you need according to the size chart, then order the next size that’s most likely to fit. If you love the suit, but are really unsure what size is for you, order 3 sizes. This is the time to go overboard.

4. Just try it. You can’t know how it will look until you try it on. This is truer for swimsuits than for any other piece of clothing. It might look awesome or it might be downright embarrassing, but if a certain design catches your eye, you have to try it to find out. So just order it. It’s much easier and cost-effective to place all your orders at once.

5. See how they look. Try your swimsuits on in good lighting, when you’re in a good mood, in the privacy of your own home (yay!). See how you look, see how you feel. Do a little dance and make sure it stays in place.

6. Return the suits that don’t work by mail or at the local bricks-and-mortar location. This works great if you follow rule #7…

7. For a satisfying online shopping experience, the most important thing is to choose your retailer carefully. Not every store is great for online shopping. You want to order from an established company that makes returns easy and inexpensive.

The stores highlighted below want you to be happy. They want their swimwear to fit you, they want you to love it, and they will help you get there. Online.

Where to buy bathing suits online

Tugless One Piece // Squareneck Tankini // Bandeau Bikini Top

Lands’ End was a mail-order business before the internet existed, and they are pros at helping you order a suit you’ll be happy with—without trying it on. Some of their swimsuits (including the first two above) come in special cup sizes for women who have had a mastectomy. You can live chat or telephone with a swim expert. Returns can be made to any full-line Sears store, or mail order returns for a flat rate of $6.95.

Bandeau One Piece // One Shoulder Stripe // Ruffled Scoopback

 J. Crew consistently offers stylish interpretations of classic suits, in a wide range of on-trend colors. They have completely complimentary personal shoppers available online or by phone. Make your returns to any store, completely free.

Wrap Tankini // Plunge One Piece // Bandeau One Piece

Athleta. This member of the Gap family has athletic, high-quality, performance-based suits in a variety of cute styles. Their prints are especially awesome, and their fun online tool helps you mix and match your two-piece. All orders over $50 ship free, returns are free to stores, and return shipping is a flat $6.00, regardless of the number of items.

Jungle Bandeau // Vintage Swim Bottom // Mesh One Piece

Zappos. Think of Zappos as your infinite personal department store, loved for its phenomenal customer service and killer selection from top brands like Tommy Bahama, La Blanca, Roxy, and Speedo. Zappos has tons of helpful customer reviews to help you zone in on the right size and shape for you, and they always have free (and fast) shipping both ways.

My favorite swim accessories

These aren’t swimsuits, but you’ll always find these in my beach bag:

Charline Sun Guard // Monaco Rashguard // Solid Long Sleeve // Long Sleeve Polka Dot

Rashguards. I have super sensitive skin: sensitive to the sun, and sensitive to sunscreen. That’s why I always stake out a shady spot at the pool, and wear a rashguard when I’m in the sun. Luckily the options are a lot cuter than they used to be. (Currently in my bag: the black one from J Crew, above.)

Pom-Pom // Hooded // Floral // Tunic

Cover-ups. A good cover-up should be easy to wear, easy to wash, and make you feel comfortable. I am dying of cuteness over those pom-poms!

Do you have a tip or tricks for making swimsuit shopping a little easier? Please share in comments!

P.S. 5 things I love about shopping online, and 3 things I wish I’d learned sooner. And don’t let a swimsuit challenge your worth

54 comments

  1. Jamie says:

    Great post! My two thoughts are (1) start shopping early because it might take several tries and (2) remember that when it doesn’t fit the problem lies with the suit, not you!

    It honestly took me a couple years and grudging willingness to spend more money than I thought I should need to find a suit that fits and that both my husband and I are happy with. On the bright side, at least I’m good for a while now! 🙂

  2. I buy my suits from Swimoutlet.com. I swim for fitness, and they have great prices on a variety of high performance brands. I will often buy “grab bag” suits for under $30. Read reviews. If they say that the sizes run big or small-they probably do. Order accordingly. You may find this odd, but I have no problem ordering my suits for my lap swimming. Just pick one, you know. But for my summer “lying about” suit, that’s a different story. Maybe because I am going for something a bit more cutesy rather that utilitarian. Anyway. This summer I will be looking for a tankini that is flattering for a full figured mother of four.=)

    • Anne says:

      I completely agree about the reviews–I love it when sites provide those to give me guidance, especially with choosing the size. Good luck finding a flattering tankini–you can do it 🙂

        • June says:

          John L. Spears Spears…you found the sizing useful for you? Interesting….

          My experience is that Cuspshe has is the worst – products not as they appear, products that simply never arrive (for months) and then months of wrangling in order to get your money back. Then only a partial refund because they don’t refund shipping….on items they never delivered in the first place. They reply to emails but just try to exhaust you into gving up.
          Stay away from Cupshe unless you enjoy parting with your money with nothing in return.
          Watch out for the reviews are clearly written by Cupshe – surname first (as the Chinese do) and they only every reply to thank or address genuine reviews…no response = a fake review.
          There are plenty of alternatives doing a much better job than Cupshe!

  3. Fun post, Anne! Lots of good tips in here. Are you ready for my essay on bathing suits and my experience with them? 😉

    L.L. Bean also offers free shipping (and if you have their credit card, they also offer free returns), but their suits are a little expensive. However, they are good quality and will last for years, so it’s a toss up.

    Two summers ago we were headed to the beach for the first time in years, and Peter told me it was time to update the swimsuit. YAY! However, I had a horrible time trying to find one that didn’t let it all “hang out” where I would rather be covered. I’m a one-piece girl from way back, but most of the one piece suits were worse than the two-piece tankinis (not to mention, I’m one of the cheapest people around and the thought of paying $100+ for a tiny swimsuit was giving me heart failure!).

    In the end, I went with a Speedo suit (high neck, no tugging) from Dicks for around $50, and then I found a really cute red and white polka-dot retro suit from Target.com for $27 – score! The suit from Target was great for the beach, and since I don’t get the opportunity to swim a lot, the fact that it wasn’t quite as well made as suits from Beans or Lands End didn’t matter to me. It did the job.

    This spring, I was browsing around Talbots.com (of all places) and discovered that they had swimsuits marked down 90%!!! I didn’t even know they sold swimsuits, but I ended up picking up TWO for around $15 TOTAL!! {Happy Dance} We’re headed to the beach this summer, and now I have a plethora of suits to pick from for the price of ONE suit from some stores.

    My tip? If you can make it through the summer with a suit you already own, hit the sales in the fall to stock up for next year. Not quite as fun, but planning ahead will certainly save you some money. 🙂

  4. Maggie S. says:

    Very informative. One day I hope to feel the confidence to plunk down the clams for a suit I haven’t already tried.

    Land’s End in Sears is my current go to.

  5. Tim says:

    Eddie Bauer has some of the best customer service people to call while you’re looking at their stuff on-line. The swimwear is good. If anything doesn’t fit, you can return it to a store without paying shipping. You can also catalog order from a store by using their special telephones there, and they won’t charge shipping to mail it to your house.

  6. Christina says:

    I love love love Land’s End for swimsuits! The great thing about online swimsuit shopping is that you can find things that fit you if you are hard to fit. As an *ahem* curvy girl, I was never able to find a swimsuit that fit me well until I tried bra-sized suits and found this gem: http://tinyurl.com/78353sw. I bought a two-piece last year that just didn’t fit me as well as I’d hoped, and after wearing it several times, I decided to take it back and see if they were serious about the Satisfaction Guarantee. They sent me a full refund via check within a week. Happy online swimsuit shopper for life here.

    Thanks for the great post, Anne!

  7. Sarah Beals says:

    I buy several online via Lands End and then return the ones that didn’t work, too. Peter loooved when I do this. So much so that he has written “Emergency” on my credit card. lol

  8. Alia Joy says:

    Lands End is awesome. I need a swimsuit with a lot of support and I rarely find suits that have bra sizing. Or the ones that I do find look like old lady suits. They have the best fit and great service. Thanks for this list. I hate shopping for swimsuits in a brick and mortar. I need to be at home so I can curl into the fetal position after and rock myself ever so gently while chanting, I’m never going to eat cake again….

  9. Grace says:

    Oh my, how I wish I had read this article earlier. I thought I’d take the risk and buy a bathing suit online, and it was a big mistake because it didn’t fit, and now I’ve found out that I cannot return it. I had vowed to never waste my money in that way again, but your steps sound pretty good. I might work up the courage to next year. For now, I will be wearing my old, worn out bathing suit for another season.

  10. I’ve gotta echo all the other ladies– Lands End is the BEST for swimsuits. I found the most adorable one-piece that doesn’t look grannyish, but still nips and tucks in all the right places. And their returns process is easy and no questions asked.

    Great idea for a post, Anne!

  11. Joani says:

    I love Lands End. I love Boden, too, and have never ordered from them without a coupon code from RetailMeNot – usually 10-15% off with free shipping and free returns. I’ve used them enough now I generally get my own coupons to share. Just do a Google search for ‘Boden Coupon’

  12. Anne says:

    Thanks for the tip, Joani! I think Boden’s suits are sooo cute–and I’d feel more confident ordering from them with a coupon code. (Coupon codes ALWAYS help!)

  13. Up until about 2 weeks ago I always said “I will NEVER buy a swimsuit online.” HAHA 2 weeks ago my mom was looking on Amazon’s website at their swim suits and they were having a HUGE 60% sale…ONLINE ONLY! So we took a chance and ordered some super cute swim suits! And guess what? I took all my measurements and looked at the sizes of past swim wear and I took a chance and it FIT!!

    My moms didn’t fit but she just drove to kohls and bought something else! Win-Win!

  14. Pingback: Summer Sundays
  15. Anne says:

    Beth Anne, that’s awesome! I love not having to deal with the dressing room–but online AND for 60% off is even better!

  16. Julia says:

    Great tips! Online shopping can be frustrating, especially when it comes to swimsuits. Figure out what style works best for your body and then you’ll have more time to focus on fun prints and fabulous sales.

  17. Lizzie says:

    One of my favourite website for swimsuits if swimsuitsforall.com. Great prices, easy return policy, sales all the time and LOTS of sizes, from 8-30.

  18. Jolly says:

    Excellent tips. When going to shop swimsuits online, choose the right online store to purchase it that’s most vital thing to keep in mind to make your deal perfect. Choose the right swimsuits that is also one important thing when shopping swimsuits online.

  19. I don’t think I’d be able to order three sizes of swim suits at once, although it’s very tempting. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to figure out what swim suit I wanna buy before summer comes around the corner. I’ll have to ask my friends for any referrals that they might have for bikinis.

  20. Brandyn says:

    Anne, do you ever have problems with the length of one pieces? I’m 5’10’, but I barely need longs in pants. My height is all torso.
    I really wish more suits were offered with a long torso option. I understand why they don’t – it’s not the extra inch or two of fabric – it’s the additional pattern and waste. I am forever falling in love with one pieces on blogs and then finding out they won’t fit. I’ve tried sizing up, but in my experience suits are designed stretch out not up.
    Anyway – love some of the Athleta short options so maybe I’ll give those a try with a tankini.

    • Nichole says:

      I highly recommend Lands End if you’re looking for long one pieces. Many (most?) of their one piece suits are offered in long options. That’s actually what drove me to them years ago. I’m more of a tankini girl these days…I like the coverage of a one piece, but the flexibility and ease of use of a tankini. I also find that suits just fit me better when I can order a different size on the top and bottom. I’ve been a Lands End swimsuit loyalist for almost 20 years…and I’m not yet 40, so over half my life!

    • Sarah says:

      I have that problem and I am only 5’5″. I have a tiny cup size so there is no way I can wear any swimsuit bigger than a small. However, I recently bought the stripe J Crew suit shown in this post and it fit well. It ties at the shoulder so there is a little bit of forgiveness in the length that way.
      I have several tankinis from Lands End. They are good quality, but I find them horribly uncomfortable.

  21. Guest says:

    My biggest piece of advice for online swimsuit shopping is to keep in mind if you are an Amazon shopper that many of the companies are based in China. Imagine my shock when, as a Medium American, the size that ultimately fit me was a 3X. Make sure to look at the measurement charts!

  22. SoCalLynn says:

    I had great luck with swimsuitsforall.com when I needed something to cover my overweight beach bod for a girl’s week at Hilton Head Island a couple summers ago. Stylish, fit well and not expensive.

  23. Heather says:

    Great post!! Shopping for bathing suits online is the way to go! I have to brag about lime ricki..I have ordered 3 suits from them in the past (while pregnant and not pregnant) and they fit perfectly! Super modest and keep everything from hanging out and cute fun styles and lined really well..I could go on..haha! Love them..and if you follow their online size chart you shouldn’t have a problem..it’s the only way I buy my suits anymore! 🙂

  24. Melissa says:

    This is a great post! I have always struggled with swimsuit purchases and have always been too intimidated to buy one online. This will be a great reference tool. Have you thought about writing a post for ordering jeans online or purchasing jeans in general?

  25. Ruth Ann says:

    My go to’s are Albion Fit (their stuff is gorgeous, flattering, and well made) and Esther Williams one pieces—flattering for anyone, look at measurements and size up.

  26. Hannah says:

    Why are you deleting comments that are asking for an explanation and some kind of response about why you’re releasing a book with the same title, similar concept and cover, and same target audience as one recently released a year ago by Guinevere de la Mare? It’s a completely reasonable expectation from people who are now questioning why they have followed your blog and your work for so long. I’m really disappointed in the lack of response from Anne and the MMD team

    • Anne says:

      I understand how confusing this must be. My publishers are involved, and the most professional and kind way to respond is to leave it to the publishers. I know that’s not a very satisfying response when you are seeing all kinds of accusations online, but I believe it is the best way to handle this situation. Thank you for asking and being part of this community.

  27. Mary says:

    I really love Lands End. Be sure to chat with them as they have given me great input. Returns are seamless. They also have great rash guards an cute cover ups.

  28. Nichole says:

    I just spent a week at the beach with my family and was slightly shocked by what some other beach goers were wearing as bathing suits. I’m far from a prude, but even my young kids commented on the amount of people with their bottoms hanging out of their bottoms. 😳

    I’ve been a Lands End loyalist since high school…close to 20 years ago! I was originally drawn to them because they offered long torso options which I needed in a one piece. I’ve stuck with them because my suits last and now allow me to play with my kids without worrying about feeling exposed. I’m more of a tankini fan these days and they have several options that are easy to wear and cover everything I want to cover.

    I’m planning to make the rash guard plunge this year. We spend a lot of time at our neighborhood pool and I need something to keep the sun off! Thanks for the suggestions!

  29. Vanessa says:

    I took the plunge and ordered online from Lands End last fall during a sale (abother commenter also mentioned fall sales, yay!) and I love it! When it arrived it looked like it wouldn’t fit. Put it on and I was glad I followed their sizing chart exactly instead of sizes I usually order. It’s perfect and beautiful! Also ordered some of their rash guards. I’m actually excited to wear my swimming gear this summer!

  30. Mary says:

    I LOVE Lands End suits because they are offered in larger cup sizes. I now have four! Often 30 to 40% off, so I just watch for the coupon or sale. They last more than just a season without fading, too.

    • Heather says:

      Try lime ricki..they aren’t maternity suits but the coverage is great and I used one of their tankinis all through my pregnancy…the one where I gained like 80 lbs..soooo..just sayin’..haha!! Good luck..hope you find one somewhere:)

  31. Dawn says:

    I bought my latest bathing suit from Athleta and I loved the material. I did buy a couple of sizes to try and I was able to return what didn’t work for free. Also liked that I could order from Old Navy in the same order.

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