Last weekend, I went bikini shopping. I thought this would be an enjoyable, simple task. I’m not particularly fussy when it comes to patterns or style – all I wanted was something fun and colourful that fit well. But after three hours and two breakdowns on the high street, I realised that this was no easy ask. While the new season of swimwear is all about fun and colour, the fit is an entirely different story.
Most women will already relate to the pain of bikini shopping – from having to take off all your British summer gear (always so many layers) in the changing rooms to the warped logic of one-size bikinis that aren’t sold separately. How are you meant to buy the size-12 bikini when your bum is a 12 but your boobs are a 14/16? Or when you have 32A boobs but a size 14 bum? It’s a nightmare that the high street has only recently started catering for.
But that’s nothing compared to the latest bikini struggle: finding a pair of bottoms that actually cover your bottom.
I found dozens of bikinis I liked across a range of high-street stores – from H&M to Urban Outfitters to Topshop. But every time I put the bottoms on, I was too embarrassed to leave the safe curtained-off enclosure of my cubicle, let alone take them on holiday with me. This isn’t because I’m a total prude – I happily go topless in Europe and I’m comfortable with my body – but I don’t exactly have the confidence of a Brazilian model jogging down Copacabana beach in a G-string. All I want is a normal-sized pair of bikini bottoms that hide all the relevant parts and don’t make me feel like I’m in danger of falling out.
Instead, I found bottoms that looked fine on the hanger, but, when I tried them on, were more or less a thong. Or some that were fine from the back, but were cut so low at the front that I would be terrified to move for fear of flashing the entire beach. Then there were my personal worst – the 80s-style high-cut that assumes every woman has a Hollywood wax before she goes on holiday.
The bikini tops weren’t much better. I’m relatively small-chested and often wear bralettes as opposed to underwire bras, so I was on the lookout for something simple without padding – but that was another struggle. Every bottom with decent coverage seemed to come with a top that was more foam than cup.
Every time I put the bottoms on, I was too embarrassed to leave the safe curtained-off enclosure of my cubicle, let alone take them on holiday with me
The whole ordeal made me run straight to the safe, understanding arms of Marks & Spencer in search of some coverage – surely M&S would have bikini briefs bigger than a cocktail napkin? But, even there, I accidentally picked up a low-rise pair of bottoms. The store does, however, stock a sturdy selection of “hipster” bottoms for a fail-safe holiday bet. And, though many of them are covered in palm tree and flamingo prints (which are really not my style), this simple navy pair caught my eye.
Warehouse has a scallop-edged bottom with decent coverage that can be paired with a traditional bikini top or a bandeau, for £17. While Whistles’ Santiago range is a simple yet elegant option with decent coverage – be it the athleisure-style black bottoms or the high-waisted “high-rise pant” for £40.
A slightly more budget solution exists at Accessorize, where I found plenty of the bright Aztec-style patterns I was searching for, all with bottoms bigger than hankies – like this kiln-print crochet number. US-based brand, Triangl, specialises in classic triangle bikinis and has dozens of various colours and styles, including my personal favourite combination of tie-up tops with pull-on bottoms.
If all else fails, there is always the option of going for a swimsuit. In the last few years, these have drastically improved on the high street. I always pack a classic black cossie with an interesting back – like this from Mango – and & Other Stories also has a tempting V-cut swimsuit available in a range of bold, block colours.
But, even with swimsuits, do beware the cut of the bottoms. I tried on an unassuming athleisure-style design, only to find that it was so high-cut, absolutely everything was on show. Dear high street, please sort it out.