As a {ahem} 40-something mom of three, I loathe the 5th season of the year:  Bathing Suit.  In case you weren't aware, it falls smack dab between Spring and Summer and is often overlooked as an official season simply because women over the age of 30 have repressed their recollection of it.  Completely understandable because right about the same time "things" start happening to your body and subjecting ourselves to public humiliation putting it on display in front of God and everybody is not high on our list of priorities.

In the interest of full disclosure, here's something that makes it even more difficult for me now:  when I turned 41 I was in the best shape of my adult life and–PLEASE don't judge or hate me–started wearing bikinis again.  It came at a huge cost, however.  We had moved to another state where I knew NO ONE, I had no friends, no life, no job, had not yet discovered blogging, so I started exercising and stopped eating during the day.  Normal meals with my family in the evenings and on weekends, but because I couldn't control so many other things, I delighted in the control of my body. 

Fast forward five years and everything is reversed–I have a full, busy life with plenty of distractions, but somehow, magically, exercising went by the wayside.  Eating did not.  It's absolutely frightening and bewildering to me how ALL my clothes shrank over the past year, too. 

Perhaps that is why several weeks ago, with expression a mask of weighty concern, my daughter stumbled over her words and asked, "Ummm, Mom…are you planning…to wear…a two-piece this year?"

Her worrisome look coupled with holding her breath for my response confirmed what I knew a year ago:  my bikini ship had sunk sailed.

So, armed with a positive attitude and my daughter, the "mirror-that-never-lies", we set out for a day of tankini and one-piece shopping.   Keep the following in mind and you're sure to have a successful shopping experience.

  1. You've gotta play the numbers game!  I'm sure I tried on close to 100 suits, taking into account different sizes for the same style.  Eventually you'll begin to see those styles that most flatter your figure, accentuate your best features and minimize your worst, and believe me:  all bathing suits are NOT created equal!  You can look perfectly wretched in one and rival Miss America in the next.  Seriously–there's that much disparity among suits, so DON'T GIVE UP!!  Take away point:  You'll do well to consider that swim suit shopping is a marathon not a sprint.
  2. Close your eyes to size.  Start with a size three times your pants size and work down if necessary.  This will give your ego a boost IF you happen to find a suit equal to your pants size, but if not, let this be the one time you give no regard to that tiny little tag with a number on it.  It's liberating.  Take away:  Swimsuit sizes don't mean a thing.
  3. Don't be a snob!  My favorite places to shop are Ann Taylor and J. Jill–they're small boutiques and I don't get lost in 'em like department stores; it's amazing what you can get 50% off or more if you're patient.  However, when it comes to bathing suits?  Try EVERYWHERE! {See #1 above.}  This year, we started at Target (where their primary demographic is "teen") and I actually found a darling, conservative tankini top (I already had black bottoms) and it was only $17.99 not even on sale.  Typically I have luck at Kohl's, but this year our store had a very narrow selection.  In spite of that, I sucked up my pride and sucked in my stomach with one of their Trimshaper Suits.  Two bonuses?  It was on sale for 1/2 price and it delivered what it promised–it slimmed me down and boosted my esteem.
    The biggest surprise, though, was Sears!  I went there in search of Lands End suits (highly recommended by friends); yes, I found those, but oh! my!  So much more!  I tried on suits for 2 1/2 hours and liked many!  DO YOU HEAR ME?  I HATE BATHING SUIT SHOPPING BUT I FOUND MANY–MANY, I REPEAT–I REALLY LIKED AT SEARS!!  The only problem was they didn't have my size in my favorites, but my second choices were pretty cute, too.  Take away:  Be willing to shop outside your normal venues and you might just find a gold mine when you least expect it.
  4. Need a little more privacy?  Consider online.  Most all retailers in your hometown have an online presence with more styles and sizes available than possible in-store, but consider sites dedicated strictly for bathing suits.  You're more inclined to find great prices, varied selection and styles, and realistic, attractive suits.  Seriously, does the majority of buying America look like a Victoria's Secret model?  Me thinks not!
  5. When in doubt, over-buy with the intent of returning.  If you don't have "rules" in your family that would prohibit this, I find it helpful to get the suits home, re-evaluate them on my own turf, and take advantage of my husband's critical eye.  As long as you leave tags attached and don't lose your receipt, most stores honor suit returns these days.  Take away:  It's STILL a numbers game!
  6. You get by with a little help from your friends.  No matter how much it hurts, take someone with you.  I had fun with my daughter and we laughed…a lot.  Whether it's a friend or relative, transform this chore into a delight with the company of another.  A true-blue will be honest and help you to see yourself in better light, and maybe prevent you from spiraling into dispair when you discover cellulite in places you didn't know it could grow.  Take away:  Misery loves company–no one over the age of 30 enjoys bathing suit shopping!  {unless you're a super model or a sadist}

What other advice can you offer for reluctant bathing suit shoppers?  Comment your most helpful hints and I'll add them with a link back to you!

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