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How to Choose a Flattering Bathing Suit After 50

I try to avoid wearing a bathing suit whenever possible, and I don’t think I’m alone. I’m not a swimmer, my skin won’t tolerate the sun and I’m not overly fond of going in the water, which I consider excellent excuses reasons to avoid wearing one. There are still times when I need a bathing suit so I’m sharing some tips for choosing one that flatters your shape.

Embrace Ruching, Color Blocking, and Pattern

Those little pleats can be invaluable for camouflaging any lumps or bumps you may have. Pattern distracts the eye and color blocking can visually slim your shape. This suit is a perfect example of color blocking at it’s best. It slims the silhouette by focusing attention on the dark center.

Choose a flattering color

A common choice for bathing suits is black because it hides a multitude of sins. Unfortunately, black can look stark and unflattering against pale, bare flesh. Other dark colors also hide sins and might be more complementary to your skin tone. A medium or pale color that provides less contrast is often more flattering. Beware of opacity and check it in all lighting conditions. No one wants to come out of the water and realize their suit has become transparent.

Choose the right shape

Looking to camouflage your tummy? Choose a one-piece. Minimizer suits really do slim your middle so they’re a great option. Tankini’s also cover your tummy but can “float up” in the water.

Have heavier thighs? Avoid boy shorts or leg openings that are horizontal.

Short legs? Choose higher cut leg openings that are on a diagonal which lengthen the look of your leg.

Small Bust? Look for tops with a ruffle or detail on top to help balance your hips.

Large bust? Be sure your suit offers strong support. Look for designs with adjustable straps to personalize your fit. Molded cups and underwires help to maintain your shape.

Consider a Swim Dress

A swim dress is a traditional bathing suit with the addition of a skirt. It provides more coverage than a tankini and less than a muumuu. They tend to be mid-thigh length or shorter because they are meant for you to wear swimming.

Cover-Ups

Wrap sarongs are an easy way to cover your lower portion. These look best when color coordinated to your suit.

Caftans are a cool and colorful option offering maximum coverage. Full-length options look more elegant and can take you from poolside to dinner, in the right fabric.

I haven’t bought a bathing suit for many years and am not looking forward to it. Changing room lights seem the most unflattering in the bathing suit section and the greenish lights don’t help.

Do you dread buying a new bathing suit?

Thanks for reading and remember to wear what makes you feel confident.

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57 Comments

  1. We had a pool for many years and we enjoyed swimming with our kids and grandkids so much. The house was huge so now we have a smaller house but I found I miss the pool more then I thought I would. All the pools here are now closed which is so sad for all the kids. Haven’t had much opportunity to swim anymore. I had many cute swimsuits, wondering if I could even get into them now, lol.

  2. I love the water and happily swim naked in my backyard pool most summer days. We often vacation in Hawaii sometimes with the grandkids. There I snorkel for a mile or so most mornings and even swim with the wild dolphins. So it makes me so sad that you and many readers are so self conscious and/ or do not enjoy the magic of effortless floating, the beauty beneath the waves and the safest exercise on earth. I always wear sunscreen, hats and seek shade on emerging. For suits, I like the extensive selection at swimsuitsforall.com. Have about ten or so in my wardrobe. Never travel without one. You never know when you might find an inviting lake or hot tub. Dive in ladies!

  3. I’ll be 75 next month, here’s how I shop for swimsuit. I’m a size 10 but hav poochy tummy . Don’t laugh this works: shop in maternity swim section. Gives one a bit more belly room. Several of my finds are from Target maternity. Love shorts w a “skirt” attached w cute top piece

  4. Even though I am short, Longitudes work best for me, because my big boobs take up the slack. They come in lots of beautiful colors. I am a grandma who still loves to swim and especially with my granddaughter. Jergens makes a cream that gently tans your legs.

  5. Oh Jennifer your post made me sad. There is nothing nicer than a swim. Even a wallow is lovely and your grandchildren don’t care what you look like but they do care that you are in the water with them. Get in you will love it. Cheers Linda

  6. I’m in the market for a swimsuit. My aging body doesn’t look so good naked anymore so I think I’ll look into a wetsuit. Maximum coverage and all.

  7. A friend introduced me to H2O Wear for durable suits and swim shirts and shorts for those of us who need sun protection in the water. They even have split suits for those who struggle to pull up a swimsuit.
    I always chuckle over what Erma Bombeck said: The best swimsuit would be an overcoat. ????

  8. So sad to read these comments about women in their sixties and beyond ‘never wanting to wear a bathing suit again!’ I come from a swimming centric family. My great Aunt wore a two piece(!) well into her eighties, my own mom ( not a slim woman but a powerful swimmer) wore her bathing suit in Florida at ninety-one. My friend, at seventy-eight, swims every week at her local pool for exercise (two knee surgeries) Dad always said there are two things you can always do when you’re old..play the piano and swim!!! (He’s ninety three and loves his swim!) All this to say that swimming is THE best exercise for the aging body!! If you don’t like to reveal your upper body please check out Land’s End’s collection of swim shirts which also provide sun protection and they have swim bras too. The also have board shorts and prostheses friendly bathing suits….no excuses not to get into the water!!
    Having had a run in with melanoma I like the idea of a swim shirt and board shorts ( I have just discovered the joys of paddle boarding) at almost sixty-three water has and always will be my go to exercise pal be it a pool, lake or ocean! Frankly, I have never cared at all for what ‘other’s’ think of me in my swimming attire. I live at my beach house five months of the year. I am 5’1 and 170lbs for reference. I am in MY happy place …..they can swim or sink!!!

  9. I’m with you on getting into the water. But my grandkids want company. So, of course, I want to have fun with them. So I was surprised at how much better I look in a patterned suit. I bought a polka dot suit last year. I hope it fits this year. But the polka dots hide a lot of sins. Pattern it i for me in the future.

  10. I like to swim and go to the beach but hate shopping for swimsuits. Lands End slimsuits have been my favorites. I wear the skirtini, slender tunic , and underwire Carmela. They all come in the DD cup size I need. There seems to always be some kind of sale at Lands End. Right now it is 30% off. If you are unsure of size there are some questions to answer for correct size. Returns are easy by mail or at a Sears store.

    1. I love Lands End swimsuits! They are well made and last forever. I like that I can buy separates because I am bigger on top than on the bottom. I have black bottoms and a black swim skirt, then I mix and match tankini tops.
      I am 58, chubby around the middle, and I buy what covers me and is comfy.

  11. Coolibar makes swim shirts and swim jackets that have UVF 50 protection and long sleeves. Bonus: they’re really cute, and sold online. Plus you can find surfwear like the rashguard shirts, and even cute burkinis for those of us who want to cover up and swim. It’s about time!

  12. I’m with you Jennifer, I’m not a huge fan of the water and only go into the water to cool off – then its back onto the lounge chair with my book. I have a tankini with a skirt, but a couple years ago I happened upon a cute pair of swim- shorts on clearance at Athleta. I absolutely love them. I can pair them with my tankini top or throw on a sports bra and workout top (perfect for boating). I also have a couple of long sleeved coverups to wear when we are on the boat in Arizona.

  13. Dark colours and the highly elastic shaping suits will be very hot and uncomfortable if you are going somewhere tropical. Comfort is key and I find a nice airy coverup is invaluable! Love your blog!

  14. I am very careful about the sun. When I go in the pool or to the beach, I wear swim shorts, a bikini top (as a bra) and a long-sleeved, high-necked rash guard.
    I like the shorts because (1) they have pockets, (2) are comfortable–I don’t burn my buns when I sit and (3) look more sporty than a skirt. Also, a skirt floats up in the water.
    A rash guard saves me from reapplying sun lotion. Better for the pool (less grease) and doesn’t make sand stick at the beach.
    Win all around.

    1. I’ve been looking at rash guards lately because the sun gets me even u Dee a sun umbrella wearing a string sunscreen. Thanks for the encouragement.

  15. At the health club pool one day I saw a “plus size” woman wearing either a workout jumpsuit or Capri workout pants with a matching top (can’t remember now whether it was sleeveless or short sleeve) but it looked so smart and comfortable on her! I thought it was a great idea!

    1. That’s my beachwear:
      Capri yoga pants in a thicker fabric
      and
      a rashguard top with long sleeves.

      Provides sun protection and hides a multitude of ‘problems’

      🙂 Chris

  16. I swim every day with a big group at the Y. Many sizes of gals and guys and all so fun. No worry we say “what’s happens under the water stays under the water “
    We buy suits on line looking for chlorine resistant!
    I used to shop for style, now duribility !
    Have fun! Don’t worry!

  17. We are beach, boat people and my daughter and 4 grandchildren are 2 blocks from the ocean. Bathing suits are a necessity in my life and I have found Lands End to be the answer. They have a huge assortment of tankinis, one pieces and other beach/pool wear. I buy one or two new suits every year with matching/cordinating coverups and I like that I can mix/match tops and bottoms. I order them online and try them on in the comfort of my home. I don’t go for ‘fashion’ suits but ones that can withstand pool chlorine, sitting in a kiddie wading pool without getting pilled and ones that hold me in and not let anything fall out!! At 66 I want to enjoy the kids and I really don’t care what people think of how I look. Even as a teenager I was never bikini made but I embrace my body these days for what it is and not for what I never will be!

  18. Spray tan or self tanners are the best to help us ladies of a certain age look better in a swim suit! Also I needed to find a couple for a vacation and went to a shop that only handled swim suits and resort wear and the staff was so good at helping me find the right suits for my body type. Another plus they weren’t all “young thin” sales people so they knew how uncomfortable I was to begin with and soon had me ALMOST enjoying myself!!

  19. Bathing suits are the great equalizer once you reach a certain age…..they leave you without camouflage —I have veiny legs and short stocky legs and upper arms. No way to hide all that! I figure, just smile big and enjoy the beach, pool, whatever and figure…..nobody else really cares how you look.

    1. I have to agree, Martha. Once we got to the resort, I was happy to be in warm weather and didn’t really care what I looked like after joining others at the pool. And when you look around, you can see no one else does either. It was quite freeing.

  20. Thankfully, I have a heated pool in my backyard, so I don’t worry about what I look like. However, on my last holiday to a resort in Thailand, I wore a caftan over my bathers (bathing suit) and made sure I did’t sit nesar any of the gorgeous, svelte young women – my beautiful 22 year old niece included.

      1. There is an Australian made Caftan designer called Camilla. They are very embellished, expensive but extremely popular.

  21. My challenge is having more than one problem area, so it’s hard to find something I feel good in, not to mention my white white skin. When one area is solved another seems to jump out at me. Aging. What fun.

    We did a warn weather vacation in February with friends. I have one bathing suit that’s about 6 years old and, since we were visiting a tropical resort, I needed more than one. What an experience…ugh. I ordered and returned at least 12 suits and ended up with another one piece, giving me two of them for the trip. Most of the suits didn’t have enough support for the “girls”, and when I finally found some that did (underwires with specific bra sizes), they looked absolutely orthopedic. I found a cute one with a little skirt and my husband REALLY hated it. (Quote: Can you cut that skirt off? It might be cute then.)

    I wear a bathing suit as infrequently as possible, so I can’t imagine myself collecting a wardrobe of them, but if we vacation with the same friends next year, I definitely need to start looking earlier for a new one (my friend had three and looked adorable in them) but they’re not something I like to spend money on. And the ones that worked for me were really pricey. I think tankinis would solve the problem, but the tops seems to ride up and gather at my waist because of my tummy. Ugh. Hope I don’t need one again for a good long while.

  22. This year I bought the tankini with the skirt. Chuckling as it arrived in the mail …..bikini , to two piece, to one piece to tankini, now tankini with skirt. However there’s nothing worse than seeing someone wear a swimsuit they absolutely shouldn’t be.

  23. Well, I’m WAY over 50 or 60……76 to be exact and I won’t be caught dead in swimsuit!! Now, if they made one that covered the upper legs and arms, THEN I might reconsider. Hahah! Seriously, good advice but hoping I never have to own another swimsuit!!

    1. I love that Jennifer is so carefully picking flattering suits for those of us at a certain age but, I hear ya, Sondra! I am 67 and am still a size 2 but the skin just isn’t what it used to be and the support of swimsuits in the bust area just isn’t comfortable for me. I love watching the grandkids jump off our boat and I love going to the beach with them but I am so happy just wearing a t shirt and shorts that are more comfortable and watching them play in the water.

    2. There is a brand of Modest Swimwear called “Hydrochic”. They sell a line of swim separates which include various lengths of cute swim skirts, briefs, boy leg or bike shorts, capris, and tops with sleeves or sleeveless. Many can take you from a stroll on the beach, into the water, and dry quickly afterwards. I bought a set for a cruise where we swam with dolphins and stingrays. I didn’t need a coverup, just a towel, and I felt comfortable and confident even though I am in my sixties and loathe swimsuits now. They are fairly pricey, but the fabric is quality that has lasted well and stayed looking new. Very cute!

  24. I find a colorful tankini and then a board short because they are long enough to cover my heavy legs. Then go have fun! Thank you for the post!

  25. Oh my goodness. I was going to skip this post because I don’t need a bathing suit…..until I remembered our family trip to Disney World next year. Like you, I hate bathing suits, have the same issues (intolerance to sun, don’t like water, etc) but the grandkids will be going along so what are you going to do? Great tips, So I am going to archive this post until I need it. Thanks!

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