Top of the list of things women dread — after finding the right thing for the wedding which starts with church, ends with a disco and may be sunny or hailing — is shopping for swimwear.
But these days there’s so much choice it’s no harder than shopping for jeans. And, let’s face it, post-40, a woman’s swimwear requirements are pretty similar. The big three are: support up top, coverage on your bum and figure-flattering all over.
I would add to this that I like to be able to wander about in my swimwear without necessarily having to cover up frantically.
That’s a bum coverage issue, but it’s also about fabric that doesn’t show your tummy button outline. I want slimming tricks — draping or eye-deceiving panels — inbuilt support and glamour. Because you not only don’t want to feel naked in a cossie, you want to feel well-dressed.
Boden has any number of can’tgo-wrong cossies including the chic V-neck Corsica style in French navy (£70, boden. co.uk) and the Kefalonia (pictured above, £65) in deep blue with pink straps or frog green with blue
Happily, the sales are already on, so there is no time like the present to upgrade.
Starting with the one-piece (we’ll get onto bigger bikinis), you need a decent strap width — for support and because it looks better — and nine times out of ten I wear a halterneck because they’re flattering and they give you extra hoist.
Obviously you need cups and underwiring. I’m practically flat-chested, but, whatever your cup size, this is what gives you a figure — a back that stops at your bra line (low backs offer no support) and a thick under-braline strap.
High at the back, low at the front is a good rule. Boden is a brand that provides all of the above, support in all the right places, and styles that cut the leg height just right (not straight across, which makes legs look dumpy, and not high, which makes you feel too exposed and reduces bum coverage).
Rash choice: Nancy Shevell. Shane Watson says that thanks to Nancy she would like to do away with the classic bikini
It has any number of can’tgo-wrong cossies including the chic V-neck Corsica style in French navy (£70, boden. co.uk) and the Kefalonia (£65) in deep blue with pink straps or frog green with blue.
The big secret of a sexy onepiece is to keep it looking like something Carla Bruni would wear (please note: she easily could wear a bikini but these days usually prefers not).
A Carla Bruni swimsuit choice would typically be strong purple with a U-bend neckline, so if you’re looking for something similar try Marks & Spencer’s ribbed U-shaped plunge-neck swimsuit in khaki (£29.50, marks andspencer.com). Block colour always looks more modern than pattern, in my view, and plain plus bright bands or panels is where I always end up with a one-piece.
I swear by Marks & Spencer because why wouldn’t you buy your swimwear from the place you buy your bras and knickers? Marks does everything from trompe l’oeil colour-block suits (£49.95, marksandspencer.com) to an elegant, ruched tummy-control style (£28).
SWIMWEAR: THE NEW RULES
Pain de Sucre is another of my go-to labels. It does a flattering red ‘sports bra’ swimsuit with a triangular gap under the strap at the back (£54.99, boujeepeople.com).
If you’re in the market for a bikini, Pain de Sucre bikini tops are great because of that extra wide under strap (£89, vitkac.com) and the high-waisted bottoms are cut to flatter (£49, vitkac.com).
I also like — you will not be surprised to discover — Boden’s high-waisted bikini (£40 for the briefs, £45 for the matching top). The colour-blocking makes the bottoms look far smaller than they are, and the whole effect is cute and sporty.
Otherwise, for good bikini bottoms and bra sizes that range from 32DD to 38FF try ex-fashion editor Tona Stell’s collection (from £75 for a bikini top, tonathelabel.com).
Personally, I thought I’d said goodbye to the bikini, but recently I’ve come around to the idea of the bigger bikini bottom. (Is it thanks to Nancy Shevell, often pictured walking hand-in-hand in the surf with Macca in bikini bottoms and a rash vest?)
They don’t always work, but they do with a rash vest/guard, which these days I like to wear as an alternative to endless applications of factor 50.
The other thing about a rash guard is you can indulge your inner Bond Girl, and get one with a zip neck in hot block colours. My favourite is pink and aubergine from Boden and it’s in the sale for just £25, or try Cossie+Co (£100, cossieandco.com).