Civility: Bathing suit trauma

For a woman, looking for the perfect bathing suit can be traumatic. Finding a fit that flatters takes much time, effort and self-critique.

The search entails going online, through catalogs, or shopping at many stores. While feeling frustrated and defeated, there is also a feeling that something was wrong with your body. Even the most genetically blessed women can feel stressed.

Many of the suits are made for the X and Y youthful generations. Women 40 and older may feel limited because their bodies aren't as perfect as they were in their youth. Actually, there may be nothing wrong with your body, but it definitely may be the way that the bathing suits are designed. Also, there are often fewer choices.

Lately, Spandex has come into use with the new swimwear designs. Land's End, Miracle Suits, Spanx and others have more possibilities for the different body shapes.

Most women are unaware of their actual body shapes, assets and liabilities. Education and knowledge about your best colors and figure assets are a definite advantage. This information helps to make the best decisions and saves money that may be wasted with poor purchases. Thanks to Mary Duffy, who developed the HOAX body type theory, we know the following:

Generally, there are four basic body shapes, the Ruler, Apple, Triangle and Hourglass.

Rulers are straight-up-and-down body structures, with no clearly defined waist and smaller to medium busts. Best features are slim hips and thighs. High-fashion models are often Ruler types. A goal is to be stylishly proportioned, and have the emphasis on the legs or face. Avoid horizontal lines, and minimization of hips and shoulders. Suggestions for bathing suits are the use of vertical lines and hip or waist emphasis. Bathing suits that are strapless, V-necks, sarongs, boy Legs, blousons, tank or halters can be flattering to the Rulers.

Apples' body structures are defined by their round figures with larger busts, full torsos and waists and flat hips. The goal is to visually deemphasize the upper torso, while putting emphasis on the face and legs. This creates an illusion of length and balance. The most flattering bathing suits are blousons, French cut, tanks, V-necks, sarongs and strapless maillots.

Triangles are those with narrow shoulders, small busts, a flat tummy, full hips and thighs. They need to put emphasis on the midriff, waist and shoulders, while minimizing hips and thighs. These are the feminine romantic/class personalities. Bathing suits that are flattering will create emphasis above the waist with ruffles, prints or ruching on the bust, wide straps, light tops and dark bottoms, A-line skirts and one-piece/two-piece suits with deep curved or V-necks.

Hourglass: This womanly type of body structure is curvaceous with balance in the bust and hips, with a defined waistline. High drama or soft dressing is indicative of these sophisticated romantics who have balanced proportions. The goal is to emphasize the curves, waist, de-emphasize the bust and visually broaden the shoulders. The best bathing suits are two-piece, bikinis, surplus, strapless, deep scoop or V-necklines, diagonal, wraps and peplums.

Next week, I will share specific bathing-suit figure challenges.

DIANA OLSON, MA AICI CIP, is an image/etiquette & civility specialist. Contact her at or (626) 584-9761.

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