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How to shop for a swimsuit online (and not have to return it)

From fit to fabric, here's how to buy one of the trickiest garments online.

From fit to fabric, here's how to buy one of the trickiest garments online

Hands up if swimsuit shopping is your idea of a good time. Er, that makes pretty much none of us. Between the confidence-leveling change room experience (could that overhead lighting be any more unflattering?) and the limited in-store options, it's no wonder why the "Add to Basket" approach is entirely more appealing. Still, purchasing swimsuits online comes with its own challenges — wrong fits, buyer's remorse, sticky return policies. Navigate the e-comm route with our guide to getting your perfect swimsuit on the first go. 

Read into the details

It's easy to get distracted by a cute print or a particular silhouette, but there are a few important elements to consider when studying the product description. A more structured swimsuit, equipped with underwire or molded cups, will offer extra support especially for bustier types. Smocked material, on the other hand, might provide a bit more give — something to consider when you're between sizes. Always pay special attention to bum cuts: you don't want to be surprised with a skimpy Brazilian bottom when you were hoping for full coverage. Same goes for fixed straps: if you have a longer torso or like to have some control over where your chest sits, you'll want to opt for adjustable straps. 

Consider the material 

Buying online means you miss out on the all-important hand feel, so take note of the composition and care section. The magic material you're looking for — one that strikes a stretchy-but-body-hugging balance — is a nylon blend with about 20 per cent Lycra or elastane content. Any less means it'll be a tighter, more restrictive fit. If you're being mindful of your own fashion consumption, seek out the increasingly popular material Econyl, a greener alternative that's made from regenerated nylon (think revamped fishing nets and carpet).

Take stock of the model fit

No two body shapes are the same, but don't disregard the on-model images even if she doesn't exactly resemble you; they can often give you clues to how the suit might fit once it's at home. First, give the model a visual once-over: How is she proportioned? Where does the suit look like it has some stretch? Where is it more restricted in terms of design? Then, take your own measurements: bust, waist and, most importantly, the widest part of your hips, and compare them to the given dimensions in the description. Take note of the parallels and discrepancies before you press purchase; it could mean the difference between a slightly snug bather (which will usually stretch a little over time) and one that is totally unwearable (read: return shipping). 

Thanks to its lightweight smocking, this cow-print bikini is figure-hugging but still gives you room to really move. Diving permitted!  

Tide Bikini Top, $120, Ventura Bikini Bottom, $120, Reformation 

Could there be a cooler colour combo? The blush-and-spiced-currant coupling emanates soft feminine vibes from this pretty plus-size option. 

Body Glove Stamina Aro Bikini Top, $94, High Waist Marlee Bikini Bottom, $80, Addition Elle 

There's a reason the itsy bitsy polka dot bikini has been commemorated in song. Get into this throwback suit, complete with a high-waisted brief bottom, stat. 

Evie Bikini in Sylve Dot Print, $235, Faithfull the Brand

This eye-popping coral suit gives you the best of both worlds: the detailing of a two-piece and the comfy coverage of a maillot. Score! 

Tie-Front Halter Swimsuit, $54.99, Old Navy 

This cheery two-piece from Canadian designer Beth Richards takes an elegant, more dressed up approach to swimwear. 

Knot Bandeau Top, $140, Heather Bottom, $110, Beth Richards 

Montreal-based swimwear brand Selfish makes sportier suits look completely refined. Case in point: this UV protectant and chlorine-resistant bikini that wows. 

Marina Bikini Top, $90, Analie Bikini Bottom, $90, Selfish Swimwear

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