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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