Good news! Whether you're a shapely 8, a voluptuous 18 or a Rubenesque 28, swimsuit makers have made size inclusivity their new goal. Every size and weight now gets coverage, lift and support (not the frumpy “girdled” kind either), styles that feel sexy and sassy (but not silly) in sizes we “women of substance” really wear. Many swimsuit sites are filled with more authentic-looking models — complete with rolls, roundness and ample curves — to make the online search less intimidating and more informative about fit. Here are 10 terrific styles and the suits to dive into:
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PHOTO BY: Lands' End; Swimsuits for All; Amazon
1. The one shoulder
This asymmetrical style combines sophistication with coverage, so cleavage displays or spills are never a problem. It's an elegant swimsuit look that started as trendy but is now a keeper category and a favorite of women 50-plus. But be careful. Some styles lack the “extras” we appreciate. Look for suits like the Swimsuits for All One Shoulder One Piece in Black Cream ($48-58, swimsuitsforall.com) or Lands’ End Women's Plus Size Chlorine Resistant Tummy Control One Shoulder One Piece in Classic Cobalt/Turquoise or Compass Red/Prism Pink ($90, landsend.com), with flattering color blocking to minimize the bottom and max out your top half, or the Hilor Women's One Piece One Shoulder Asymmetric Ruffle Swimsuit in Aquamarine Blue ($33, amazon.com) and 43 other shades and prints. All have light power-mesh tummy control, too.
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PHOTO BY: Old Navy; Cacique; Amazon
2. The self-tie halter
This is a smart shape-enhancing choice for those with a generous or saggy chest. The adjustable strap is a big deal for controlled lift so always look for this feature first. High-neck styles like the underwire Old Navy Secret-Slim Plus-Size One-Piece Halter Swimsuit in Chimayo Red ($55, oldnavy.com) or wire-free Cacique Tie-Neck Cutout No-Wire Swim One-Piece in Global Batik ($95, cacique.lanebryant.com) have flirty keyhole cutouts. Or for a retro pin-up look try the Smismivo Tummy Control Halter in Yellow or Leopard ($31, amazon.com) with ruching (see tip number 5 for more on this) and removable pads.
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PHOTO BY: VENUS; Swimsuits for All; Torrid
3. The cool swim dress
This formerly frumpy category has gotten a makeover. You may be a grandmother, but this isn't your granny's skirted swimsuit! Try a black version with a V neck and asymmetrical hemline like the Torrid Black Wireless Asymmetrical One-Piece Swim Dress-Short ($75, torrid.com) and Swimsuits for All Handkerchief Halter Two-Piece Swimdress Set in Black ($50, swimsuitsforall.com) or a slip-style with soft molded cups and metallic stud details like the Venus Plus Size Bandeau Swim Dress ($79, venus.com). All have a minimalist modern vibe that looks edgy and cool.
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PHOTO BY: Everlane; Swimsuits for All; VENUS
4. The big V
Whatever your body proportions, the inverted triangle of a wide V neckline instantly makes you look better. Your shoulders suddenly seem broader to balance your hips and thighs, a big bust gets a separation boost, and your waist appears smaller. Choose a modified V plunge like the Swimsuits for All Lattice Plunge One-Piece in Beach Rose, Black or White, Everlane's V-Neck One-Piece in Herb or Black ($65, everlane.com) or the Venus Slimming V-Neck One Piece in Hawaiian Hottie ($79, venus.com). All show a little extra cleavage for a sexier, more updated dip. Just say no to super deep plunges — a big trend — that show the mid-midriff.
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PHOTO BY: Swimsuits for All; Kohl's; Old Navy
5. The ruched suit
Whether you call it ruching or shirring (lingo varies from site to site, brand to brand), tiny folds of fabric strategically added to a swimsuit's design have a blurring effect. Suits like the Old Navy Deep V-Neck Underwire Secret Slim Ruched Plus-Size One-Piece Swimsuit in Deep Fuchsia Dye Effect ($55, oldnavy.com), Swimsuits for All Ruched Twist Front One Piece Swimsuit in Beach Rose or Black ($42, swimsuitsforall.com) and Lands’ End Women's Plus Size Grecian Slendersuit Tummy Control One-Piece Swimsuit in Turquoise Aqua ($91, kohls.com) feature ruching at typical curvy and untoned areas like the belly, hips and midriff to put them on mute. Take advantage!
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PHOTO BY: Amazon; Old Navy; Swimsuits for All
6. The curvy wrap
You've got hourglass curves or used to? A swimsuit with crossover styling up front emphasizes what you've got or brings it right back. Those with a straight-up-and-down torso or a wiggly waist also benefit here from the suggestion of shapelier design details. Look for suits that remind us of our favorite (and flattering!) wrap dresses, like the Old Navy Wrap-Front Secret-Slim Underwire Plus-Size One-Piece Swimsuit in Multi Floral ($60, oldnavy.com) or the color-blocked Cupshe Women's One Piece Wrap Color Block Tie Side Swimsuit in Green White or Blue Black ($33, amazon.com) among 14 possible shades. For extra lift at the bust and a classic effect, try a halter wrap like the Swimsuits for All Faux Wrap Halter One-Piece Swimsuit in Black ($50, swimsuitsforall.com).
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PHOTO BY: Target; Lands' End; Cacique
7. The off-the-shoulder one-piece
As I keep saying, every woman over 50 has shoulders worth showing off and this is a perfect opportunity to do it. Ruffle-topped off-shoulder suits like the Kona Sol Women's Off the Shoulder Flounce High-Coverage One Piece Swimsuit in Bright Blue ($45, target.com) and Lands’ End Plus Size Off the Shoulder Ruffle One Piece in Black Ditsy Floral ($77, landsend.com) are actually effective at balancing top and bottom body proportions since the ruffle creates a strong horizontal line and flatters a large or small bust. Ruffles not you? Try a minimalist off-shoulder suit like the Cacique No Wire Crossover-Neck Swim One-Piece in Black ($95, cacique.lanebryant.com) for a sleek alternative.
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PHOTO BY: Swimsuits for All (2); Amazon
8. The high-waisted bikini
Before you say “No!” hear me out. Not every woman over 50 wants a one-piece suit. If you're in shape, getting there or just have an enviable degree of self-confidence, check out the new high-waisted bikinis designed for grownups. A duo like the GabiFresh Cup Sized Tie Front Underwire Bikini Top in Aloe White Stripe ($46, swimsuitsforall.com) and GabiFresh Tie Front Bikini Bottom in Aloe White Stripe ($18, swimsuitsforall.com) checks all the boxes — a top with a functional tie front, back closure with three hooks, wide adjustable straps and full cup coverage, and a bottom that tucks everything in. Or try the Cocoship Retro 50s Halter High Waist Bikini Set in Blueprint ($25-$30, amazon.com), a halter with self-tie neck and back, a high ruched bottom for movie star glam.
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PHOTO BY: Target; Lands' End; Torrid
9. The fashionable tank
Some of us prefer a streamlined suit with a relatively higher neck for active days of swimming, beach sports and boating. Snag a suit with all that and a UPF 50+, like the color-blocked Lands’ End Women’s Plus Size Chlorine Resistant Scoop Neck Soft Cup Tugless Sporty One Piece Swimsuit in Ginger Peach/Paradise Aqua ($54, landsend.com), an on-trend green suit with square neck like the Kona Sol Women’s Basket Weave Classic One Piece Swimsuit ($45, target.com) or fashiony animal prints like the Torrid Cheetah High Neck Active One Piece in Multi ($54, torrid.com). A fresh change from purely functional tanks.
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PHOTO BY: VENUS; Swimsuits for All; Target
10. The flowy tankini
This is a good option for women who want a looser look through the midriff with no waist definition. (Some tankinis are frankly frumpy so choose carefully.) Updated halter styles like the Venus Plus Size Goddess Ruffle Hem Halter Tankini Top in Aqua Reef or Cobalt Blue ($40, venus.com) and Swimsuits for All Shirred Halter Tankini Set in Mosaic ($48, swimsuitsforall.com) offer a modern A-line shape. Or try a trendy print top like the Aqua Green Women's Tiered Tankini Top in Blue ($33, target.com) with a skorty bottom like the Kona Sol Women's Plus Size Skirtini in Black ($25, target.com, not pictured) for a mix of fashion and athleisure.
Lois Joy Johnson is a beauty and style editor who focuses on women 50 and older. She was the beauty and style editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and a founding editor of More magazine. She has written three books: The Makeup Wakeup, The Wardrobe Wakeup and The Woman's Wakeup.
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