Bathing Suits for Women Over 40 (Or Anyone, Really)

When you get to a certain age, bathing suits are more of a necessary evil than a fun fashion topic, can I get an amen? But hey, it must be done. Never let it be said that I shy away from discussing sensitive subjects on this blog. Ha!

I wrote this post last summer, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I thought I’d update it and republish. Have a great weekend!


Bathing suit trends always spark a big debate in mom circles. For a while, the question was to skirt or not to skirt. Lately I’ve heard it said that tankinis are the new mom uniform. I have to take umbrage with that. Them’s fighting words.

I love my tankinis, but there are definitely some tips to choosing tankinis without the frump factor. (Same goes for skirts, by the way.)

Tip #1 is to consider ditching the swim skirt. That’s not to say that there aren’t any cute swim skirts out there, but when you pair them with a tankini top, they can look matronly.

Swim skirts that are long or have a lot of volume are more matronly than the ones that are shorter and/or fit close to the body. I particularly like a swim skirt with a bikini top. I think that look is easier to pull off than the skirt with the tankini top, but it can be done.

The Kata Skirt at Athleta is an example of one that is flattering and not frumpy. I also like their Scrunch Skirt, but it doesn’t seem to come in any solid colors, which is too bad. It would be a nice basic to pair with tankini or bikini tops already in your wardrobe. I do love that tie dye print, though.

kata skirt vs scrunch skirt

Swimsuit bottoms have come a long way, and there are all different levels of coverage these days. It’s important to find the style that works best for your body type.


If you aren’t comfortable in bikini bottoms, consider swim shorts. Again, the closer they fit to the body, the less frumpy they will be. I am a huge fan of the Athleta Scrunch Shorts. They’re very flattering, but they give you more coverage than a traditional bikini bottom. Try different styles to find what works best for your body type, but this pair works well for me. I wanted to like the Shirred Shorts, but they cut across the widest part of my hips and weren’t flattering at all. The Scrunch Shorts work better for me, but that might not be the same for you.

shirred shorts vs scrunch shorts

When in doubt about which style looks best, take a selfie and then compare a few. You can delete them as soon as you make up your mind, but something about seeing yourself in a picture makes it easier to tell what works and what doesn’t. I recommend this for figuring out what looks best in clothing as well.

Tip #2 is to make sure your tankini top has adequate support. This is easier said than done if you’re larger on top. I’ve ordered a bunch of swim tops this summer, trying to find some to recommend, and I’ve returned every last one of them. I am super picky, though. I want something with the support of a built-in bra that doesn’t look like something my grandmother would wear, and that is much easier said than done.

My go-to swim top for the past few years is the Bodacious Tankini at Title Nine. (I also have their Boy Brief.)


This top has the best support of any swim top I’ve found while avoiding the frump factor. It comes in cup-band sizes with side seam stays and an external sling system for extra support, and it has a built-in underwire bra with the entire band that hooks in the back underneath the bathing suit top. Others I’ve tried that are designed this way look matronly, but this one does not.

Athleta also has bra sized swim tops, although I don’t find them to be as supportive as the Title Nine Bodacious Tankini, probably because the bra straps on Athleta’s tankinis don’t go around and hook in the back under the suit. The cup sizes don’t come as large as the Title Nine ones do either, but if you’re a C or a D bra cup, you might like these.

I ordered this and loved the print, but it had to go back because it didn’t have enough coverage and support. If you’re a little smaller on top, it will probably work great.

twister tankini

I ordered a few Fantasie and La Blanca tankini tops that I thought looked cute online, but they didn’t work for me. It looks cute on the model but it aged me at least 10 years. That doesn’t mean they won’t work for you, so feel free to give them a try. They’re at Nordstrom, so the free shipping and free return policy is your BFF!


I love the convenience of a two-piece bathing suit, but one-piece suits are making a comeback, and they can be very flattering, especially if you carry extra weight in your middle. A one-piece suit smooths things out in a way that a two-piece can’t.

I’ve seen a lot of women in Land’s End’s Grecian One Piece Swimsuit, and it’s incredibly flattering.

Lands' End Slender Grecian One Piece Swimsuit

Miraclesuit is another brand to consider when you’re looking for modest, flattering bathing suits.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 1.48.34 PM

The other trend I’m seeing that is fun and flattering is the high-waist bikini bottoms. If you’re not opposed to showing your middle, this is a great way to do it in a trendy and modest way. It also has a retro vibe that is fun. Modcloth has several in this style.

modcloth high waist swimsuit

My belly hasn’t seen the light of day in 40 years, so I’m not starting now, but I know a lot of women do not share my inhibitions. All of the shops I’ve mentioned so far have nice choices for bra-sized bikini tops that are flattering with swim shorts, skirts, briefs, or bikini bottoms if you’re so inclined.

Bathing suit shopping definitely is a challenge for many of us. I prefer to try on bathing suits in the comfort of home, so it is my habit to order a bunch and return what I don’t like. The key is to try, try, and try some more. It’s tempting to give up after the first one or two don’t work, but sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.

So dish. Where do you like to shop for swimsuits? What is your preferred bathing suit style right now?

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69 Responses

  1. I agree with you totally — the boy shorts are great. They look cute, give good coverage, and don’t float around in the pool. I love that suit you’re wearing. I need to get something like that. I bought 2 one-piece suits at TJ Maxx just before I started losing weight, so I’m still stuck with them. They were a huge step forward from days when I was wearing skirts and such, wanting not to show my thighs. I have this icky feeling about wearing something that essentially doesn’t cover up any more than my underwear does, you know? So I think boy shorts are a good option. Thanks for the pics!

  2. Great post. I’m not 40 yet but all women can benefit from learning how to dress their best in a suit. I like coverage but don’t like to look dated. Modest suits are for me. I love the tankini because for years I breastfed and that’s what worked. I still love them and this year went with the boy shorts which I LOVE!! Great picks and words of wisdom. 🙂

  3. Hmmmm…you might just have sold me on the shorts idea. I am definitely going to try one on and see how it fits. I’m a skirt bottom girl, but I’ve never really liked them completely.

  4. I went with a fitted swim skirt this year (ironically my first in years, but I have been having boyshort envy at the pool. We live at the pool and tankinis are my thing for sure. Love your suit and great choices you shared!

  5. Well done on compiling this post — it took a lot of work with all those options! I have to say that my mindset it quite Italian when it comes to swimwear — I want to get as tanned as possible and don’t care what other people think about me, even though my belly isn’t the flattest in the world. After a couple of minutes at the beach/pool I’ve completely forgotten about it anyway, as so many others’ are worse. 😉 I wear smallish bikinis and reserve the swimsuit for the pool. I actually bought high-waisted bikini briefs this year, but haven’t worn them yet, as I feel they cover too much. My belly looks much trimmer with a tan… 😀

    Anett | Tall Girl’s Fashion

    1. I understand. it’s definitely up to everyone’s comfort level. But you make me laugh… I had a nail technician that used to say, “tan fat if prettier than white fat.” It’s not PC, but your comment about your belly looking trimmer with a tan reminded me of her. 🙂

      1. I totally agree. Each to their own bathing suit, right? Your nail technician and I would get on like a house on fire, I’m sure! And we’d be really tanned as well. Haha!

    2. I totally agree! 🙂 I still wear a bikini, and I am not a fan of the high waist suits. They actually emphasize the slight mom belly that I have. LOL I look best in a regular cut two piece…it takes some of the emphasis off of my thighs, which are my “trouble spot”. I eat relatively clean and work out, but you just cannot fight aging as quickly as it happens. Enjoy those bikini suits ladies. 🙂

  6. You make rethinking the boy shorts possible! I don’t like skirts at all. They balloon up in the water then stick like glue when you get out of the water. I have been a tanking girl for years now. Even with them it’s tricky. Some are shorter and really tight and I feel constricted. And what’s up with bra tops!?!?. I find the perfect suit on the rack then it has this little liner in it or those foam inserts that never stay put. I’m not busty but prefer a top that gives some structure. Love your ideas! Your suit looks really good on you!

  7. Hi Jo-Lynne,

    I have a rather athletic build, not too curvy. My friend calls me long and lean. I was wondering if the tankini would make me look too boyish? Like, hide what curves I have? Maybe a rouched one -piece is better for me.

    Any thoughts?

    Thank you.

    1. Hey Sara. I’m not very good about figuring out what works for other body types, lol. Maybe another reader can chime in. I see a lot of women in different body shapes wearing tankinis and looking good in them. I think they key is finding one that enhances the chest area and the booty area in the right ways. 🙂 A lot of the models in the Title Nine suits have athletic figures – maybe get some ideas from what looks good on them? I feel like I should be more help. What type of suit do you typically wear?

      1. The last on I bought was a bikini with good coverage. Kind of large bottoms and top. Not a string! It’s not bad. I just don’t love showing my stomach anymore! Sometimes I think a bikini is OK, if the bottoms sort of come up high on the hips to accentuate what (little-ish) curves I have.

  8. My friend – you look DYNAMITE in that suit – those boy shorts are great on you. I have to confess, they are not a fit for me…I’ve tried them and feel awkward, but this is what I DO love about swimsuits – there are so many options (As there are body types) so we can find what feels comfortable. I do still wear a two-piece, but this is the first year (ever?) that I haven’t purchased a new suit …I just wasn’t feeling right about anything I saw (or maybe how I looked in them). Motivation to work a little harder, I think 🙂 I so love all of your suggestions – thank you for this. xoxo

    1. Aw, thanks. You’re sweet. I do love that suit. And girl, you can rock a bikini like no other. I meant to include a few pictures under that comment I made about these sites having nice bikini options as well. I particularly like the ones at Athleta.

  9. I have a bikini. And then some bits and pieces, among them a pair of shorts. I just am not in the water often enough haha.

    But some of these tankini options look nice 🙂

    Alex – Funky Jungle

  10. Great post. Thanks for the ideas. I may just try the shorts. I do like my swim skirts, but would enjoy something new. ( Sara, I don’t have a lot of curves either, but do really like tankinis on me.) Thanks Jolynne for keeping us modest and in style! Love it.

  11. We were at the beach and the pool in Galveston last week and I was the only one I saw in a one piece! I have two now, one from Target and one from TJMaxx. Definitely going to look for a tankini next year. If all those other women of all shapes, sizes, and ages can wear a two piece in public, why shouldn’t I?!?

  12. I’m so NOT European – less skin the better. I hate that bikinis look like you’re wearing underwear outside. I love your swimsuit – very cute. I currently wear a skirt from Land’s end but know it looks a little frumpy. I struggle with larger hips and thighs that are getting so old looking! (even though I exercise – nothing seems to help the jello legs) Maybe I’ll try the boyshorts – the looser ones. I think the tighter ones just wouldn’t be attractive so not comfortable on me. THanks for the ideas!

  13. Call me crazy, but I’m totally a skirt-bottomed girl! Yes perhaps it has to do with being a larger woman but mostly I just feel extra feminine in it and I find that fun. Loved the red-orange one you shared! It I were ever to branch out (and lose weight of course) I would love to check out that high waist-ed number!

    1. I don’t think it’s crazy. I think you should whatever makes you feel confident and pretty. 🙂 I like the skirts, but I hate how they float up in the water. Not that I get in the water that often, lol.

  14. Great post! My belly has seen light in quite some years either, but I really do love the high waisted bikini bottoms. I may try it someday! But I have 2 new swim suits already which I feel pretty confident in…with the cute matching cover ups! Thanks for the link up. I would love you to stop by and join my link up as well!!! Have a wonderful holiday weekend!


    1. I actually do sort of want to try one. I guess I should just order one and try it and see what I think. I am short waisted so I’m not sure it would be a good look on me, but I’m curious enough to try.

  15. I’ve had the lands end Grecian bathing suit in dark purple for at least 4-5 years now and it has held really well. I did have to size up to it would fit in the chest area but it still fit well everywhere else and is very flattering (I’ve had 3 boys and am still work on losing some baby weight from 2 year old ????). Got it on sale. Looks like it is on sale now too!

  16. I think you might like Freya brand bathing suits, especially the tops as they are sold in bra sizes. I’m also larger chested, but just picked up a gorgeous Freya bikini with a halter style top. Normally, a halter style would NOT provide support for me or be flattering, but being able to buy the top in my bra size (32E) made it absolutely perfect! Nordstrom carries Freya and there are styles currently on sale. Another great brand of swimwear to check out is Clover Canyon. They make stunning suits, even one-pieces. Whenever I wear a Clover Canyon one-piece, I get compliments on it from women of all ages (something that has never happened to me before 🙂 Lastly, I think the most important thing when choosing a suit is to feel comfortable in it and have it flatter your own body. Nothing to do with age at all in my humble opinion. But, I loved this post anyway, thank you!

    1. Thanks, I’ll check them out! And I agree that the most important thing is to feel comfortable. I think I had that in my original post, and it got cut and not pasted, lol. The over 40 thing is really more for Google and Pinterest search purposes – definitely women under 40 can wear these too. 🙂

  17. Title Nine and Athleta are my go-to stores for bathing suits. I discovered several years ago that the shorts are the way to go! I pair them with a bra-sized bikini top that has good support. Now that I’ve discovered what works for me I no longer feel self-conscious at the pool or the beach. Great post!

  18. I know just what you mean about the La Blanca suits. I bought one this year and it totally aged me. I sent it back. I found that the Victoria’s Secret tankini works best for me, this year. I love that it has good coverage and support while giving us smaller on top girls a boost. I also love Vix brand for bikini’s. Good coverage, long-lasting, well -made suits that highlight an hourglass figure.

    Great post!!

  19. Happy Birthday, Jo-Lynne!

    Love your swimsuit post! I prefer a tankini swim suit. My favorite brand of swim suit is Profile by Gottex. The quality is exceptional and fits like a dream! The styles are very slimming as there is a bra built right in! Size the suit by your cup and band size. Bottoms are purchased separately. The purchase will be worth the investment!

  20. I want to add that Profile by Gottex swim suits can be purchased at Nordstrom, Von Maur, Everything but Water, and Bloomingdales.

  21. Swim suits are hard! Great ideas here and I love the one you wear- stylish, bright, just looks good! I do water aerobics for my exercise- our gym pool is highly chlorinated……several people in my class recommended looking for “chlorine resistant” feature on label— I have had much, much less fading with this type. I thought that was a good tip…even my more expensive suits that aren’t labeled as resistant fade more quickly.
    Also love Lands End for high neck, racer back tankini tops for sporty look without looking too matronly.

  22. First off, Happy Birthday!! And thank you for all the hard work with another fantastic style series. It has to be exhausting, but we are so grateful you guys do them!
    Now, swimsuits…yuck. Tankinis are my go-to and I actually haven’t bought a new one in several years. I’ve always bought them from VS, but now I know there are probably better options out there to get a good fit. I’m curious to see if I would like the high waist bottoms and bikini top since my biggest hang up is my lower tummy. If I could find something to cover that, I may not be so self conscious. I’m a little late in the game to be looking now though, lol. Thanks for the tips and links!

  23. I buy my bikinis from Debenhams here in the UK – I either buy Debenhams’ own brand or Freya. I have to choose a top in my bra size rather than buy a set in a dress size because I need a bit of support up top! I don’t usually get on with one-piece bathing suits because I have a long torso but I recently found the perfect one from Speedo. Even though I don’t swim much I prefer a one-piece when I’m in the pool at the gym – definitely a bikini on holiday though!

    Emma xxx

  24. I didn’t see any pics of Jo-Lynn in a suit—-did I miss them? The whole time I was reading the post I was thinking it would be nice to see it live. 🙂

    As for me, I’m a shorts girl! I still have youngish kids so I’m up and down a lot and bending over a lot. With shorts I feel like I”m appropriately covered with all the motion. Plus I don’t have the blooming effect or the clingy effect when I”m in/out of the pool. My tankini top isn’t super tight so it has a smoothing look–which is great–I’ll take all the help I can get!!

    My trouble is finding a top that works–I’m small on top and so many tops end up gaping. I do a lot of bending over when I try on swim suits! 🙂

  25. Last year, I purchased a striped dresskini top with matching bottoms from Lands’ End and loved it. I was even able to order it in an extended bra cup size! It gives me extra coverage but isn’t frumpy. -Melissa

  26. I tuck tankini into high waisted retro bottoms.
    I have all black one one that’s red and just tuck various tankinis

    I like your go-to
    I may need to look into that..

  27. I’ve been a one-piece gal for quite a few years now. At 57, nobody wants to see my belly. I tend to carry my weight there now and they do make me feel MUCH more confident. I’ve bought my last few at Costco because they carry their own brand Kirkland by Miraclesuit. It now only fits well but it’s NOT expensive. I think they were only about $40!

  28. Great tips for swim suits, women have different shapes and sizes and not all look like VS models. Those would be flattering on pretty much everyone! Come pin your styles and stories on my WW linkup! Have a great long weekend!

    xo Sheree
    IG: @poshclassymom

  29. I just got back from a vacation in Hawaii where most girls and women wear bikinis, no matter their age, shape or size. It’s very liberating. I am 48 and have decided to accept my body for what it is, even though I have a belly and a AA cup size! This is the only body I have, and why not just enjoy the sun and water without giving a hoot about what I look like or what anyone else thinks of me! Life’s too short for such self-consciousness!!!

    1. I agree with you to a point. I definitely think we need to accept our bodies the way they are, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with caring what we look like. I’m all for enhancing the positives and downplaying the negatives. Personally, I can enjoy the sun and the water a lot more when I feel confident in what I’m wearing. That said, I do not advocating hiding under a coverup (or avoiding the pool) because we don’t like how we look in a bathing suit. No one is perfect, and accepting ourselves the way we are is essential to contentment and happiness. 🙂

  30. I never thought about trying boy shorts before – but now I think I need to check them out 🙂

    PS – Happy birthday! Hope you had a lovely day – cheers!

  31. I’ve been on a bit of a swimsuit shopping binge lately. I’m fortunate that I can still wear a two piece but like you, need more coverage on my bottom than underwear! Never been a fan of the skirts, but I actually did get that tie-dye scrunch skirt you posted and I like it. Got the matching bikini top & thought it might be cute to go from beach around resort when I go to Mexico later this year. I should just do what you do and order a bunch at one time, instead of the 3-4 orders I placed. Swimsuits fit everyone different – you liked the scrunch shorts but when I tried them on…ick! LOL Happy 4th of July!

  32. I have a suit very similar to the Grecian one piece from Land’s End. I love it, and it’s starting to look a little worn. I was just wandering the other day if I could find something similar. I agree about the boy shorts, too. I have a black pair, and I feel like they add coverage without looking like too much. I also have a swim skirt that I wear with a tankini top & a shirt over that when we have multiple people swimming in our pool in Mali. I do feel really frumpy in it, but it’s still a little scanty for the setting.

  33. Hi Jolynne,

    We not only share a love of fashion, we share a birthday! Happy Birthday to you!


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