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4 Swimsuit Trends Designers Can Do Better for Women Over 40

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Swimsuit trends have come a long way from, say, the 1990s. Swimsuit designers are doing a much better job of diversifying… One-piece suits are back in style, tankinis and high-waisted two-pieces abound. Plunging necklines and backs are sexy. Yet, there are a few trends happening right now that discourage women and make the shopping experience more painful than it needs to be.

As an image consultant, I’ve witnessed clients complain of these reoccurring design issues with much frustration. You probably do, too. Consider these for swimsuit trends when trying on bathing suits and determine which one(s) affect you. REMEMBER: Buy up a size in swimwear as it tends to run small.  (SheSpark is an Amazon Associate, so purchases you make from the links below may help support the magazine.) Enjoy shopping!


Forget Removable Padded Cups

“Cup” is a generous term for these flimsy little foam cutouts that look like they came from a scrap pile. What is the purpose of them other than clogging up land fills? They certainly don’t add volume or any kind of shape that’s desirable. And in a white bathing suit? Oy. The inserts rarely stay in place, create unnatural “lines” across the breast, and lose any shape they may have after washing. Once removed, I have to wear readers just to re-insert them– and they never look symmetrical again.

Instead, why not offer the option to buy a permanent padded cup? Swimsuit designers will create less waste and make both types of buyers happy. I understand that trending plunging necklines and backless suits present engineering issues, but when there’s a will there’s a way.




Rethink Halter Tie-Strings

It’s astounding how many tie-string designs are on the market right now for one and two-piece swimsuits.   Most women will have a problem with this design concept. Why?

— Women with large breasts, broad shoulders, large bones, or heavy bottoms (IOW, ~90% of women over 40) will find tie strings too skinny for their body proportions.

— Wardrobe malfunctions. Constantly tying/re-tying the strings, which slip with motion and water and SPF, to avoid a nip slip. Not to mention the pain of the knots digging into the back of your neck.  There’s nothing sexy about being uncomfortable.

Instead, provide wide straps with hooks to assure “the girls” are secure. Wide straps have a visual weight that works proportionately well for most body types. FYI, if you are bottom heavy, choose wide tank straps versus halter straps for a top-down balanced look. It’s aesthetically pleasing!


amazon strap swimsuit


Bring Back Underwires  (or find an effective equivelant)

What’s up with this “shelf bra” sales pitch? I have yet to see one that counter-acts the compression effect that swimsuit materials have on the bust.  If you have breast implants, soft underwires or shelf bras may be okay, but natural breasts don’t stand a chance of looking shapely/feminine unless you buy a suit that is too big. Then we’re back into the wardrobe malfunction arena. Small-breasted women may not feel there’s a difference, but most of them want lift and at least some volume in my shopping experience.

Sculpted, underwire tops were “in” for decades for a reason. They create lift, so we look thinner through the torso. They create a balanced “figure 8” silhouette for women with larger bottoms or tummies. They create security (assuming we buy the right size) for minimal wardrobe malfunction risk. Bring them back!  Amazon offers some really cool retro swimsuits that do a great job of creating that pinup girl figure.



Prints Gone Wrong

Designer Michael Kors loved using the word “vulgar” on Project Runway when a design did sexy all wrong. My husband and I saw a one-piece swimsuit with a lower abdominal print that appears to diagram the female reproductive system with a dark spot right between the legs. He laughed like Beavis and Butthead and said, “Insert penis here.”  In browsing web sites, I see all kinds of prints with similar issues: A big flower on each breast and the groin like Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Or feather prints sprouting from the tush.  (Who thought this was a good idea?) Or the most hideous of all: The faux hairy man suit.

Use prints to detract from the little things that can make us self conscious (not make it worse). Designers do well by you when incorporate diagonal, vertical or surreal prints that appear to elongate or cinch the torso. Adding prints to the bust line draws the eye upward, away from hips and thighs. Adding prints near the bottom with solid/darker colors on top balance out a top-heavy body type. How wonderful that tropical colors and prints are IN right now– they can do all of those things.




About The Author

Thea Wood mona lisa


Thea Wood is the co-publisher of SheSpark.com and a certified image consultant from Austin, TX.  She is a TEDx speaker and wrote the upcoming e-book The Intentional Makeover  and co-authored the book Socially Smart & Savvy. Thea shares styling advice at TheaWood.com, helping women create a signature style that says who they are and where they’re going.

6 comments on “4 Swimsuit Trends Designers Can Do Better for Women Over 40

  1. I cannot remember the last time I bought a bathing suit in a store. I have mine custom made by a local woman. In fact, I have never liked buying from the stores. Love your suggestions.

  2. This is a fun post! Great suggestions to improve swimsuits for women over 40. We do have a variety of different needs than say the 18 or 20-year-olds out there, don’t we? The most relatable point are about the prints. Indeed, less is more. 👍🏼

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