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Active & Modest Swimsuits That Make Me Feel Good (Plus, My Thoughts On The “Bikini Industrial Complex”)

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While on vacation up at the mountain house, we were at the lake all the time so wearing swimsuits was pretty much an everyday occurrence. The thing was, I had all these cute suits (all one-pieces—nothing super revealing) but I wasn’t feeling very confident or comfortable playing and being active with my kids. I felt like I was constantly adjusting up and down and felt a bit too exposed. I felt I needed to be more “modest” as a mom being around friends, in-laws, and kids, but was also struggling with wanting to feel stylish and cute. Typical… 

When I started this post, my idea was to find modest but not too “mom-ish” swimsuits that I felt very comfortable in and review them for all of you. But little did I know, this post would become more about a larger culprit, the bikini industrial complex, than about finding the right suit.

So, at first I went on a MISSION to find the suits I actually wanted to wear, and I’m so happy to say I found some that I feel comfortable in while also still feeling young and stylish. Of course, what makes me feel comfortable and stylish could be wildly different from what makes you feel that way, but here are the suit details I’ve found that are working for me: 

  1. I like heavy lining. I look for suits that are either double lined or ribbed so they are thicker, which not only helps the suit itself stay put better, but also keeps more goods in and hides some bumps. 
  2. High necks, scoop necks, and square necks tend to have the best support for my chest. In my real life, I avoid high necks because I think they do make my boobs look even bigger. I thought I needed low necks in a suit as well, but after trying a bunch I can say a high neck is great and still looks cute. 
  3. I prefer to skip the underwire for either just really tight suits or soft cups. Again, I thought that I needed underwire to support the ladies but I found that most of the time with underwire, I’m actually overflowing which is just uncomfortable, not to mention it looks like I don’t know how to dress myself properly. Until they make underwire suits with cups for all frames and sizes, they just don’t and won’t work for me.

In the end, I tried about a million suits to find exactly what I was looking for. The ones you are about to see are ones I will likely be wearing all summer, and feel very good in. I know we have had swimsuit posts before, but this time I wanted to actually show you (yes, on my body), despite the very real anxiety I am having thinking about my body in a swimsuit being displayed on the internet—keep reading to the end for my concluding thoughts on that. Here goes nothing:

Ehd Swimsuits 4

The All Buttoned Up Cover Up, $75: Not a swimsuit, but I love this cover up so I wanted to share. It’s light and easy to throw on, and looks really cute on top of a red one piece.

one piece swimsuits

1. Heidi Klein Zip Detail One Piece, $295: Okay, you are going to see a few red swimsuits in this roundup, but this one is my favorite. I love the ribbed texture, the soft cups give the right amount of support, and the gold zipper detail adds a fashionable element so it doesn’t come across completely sporty.

one piece swimsuits

2. The Current, $95: All my boxes are checked with this one. It is thick, lined, has a square neck, a cute cutout in the back, plus GREAT support. The site says to size up if you are a bra size D or larger, but my normal size was fine for me and I didn’t feel like I was spilling out of it. Side note: myself and my staff love love love Summersalt and as we were preparing this post, everyone was ogling over everything on their site. They just have really cute swimsuits that are super flattering and have lots of fun colors. I would definitely go check them out if you haven’t already.

Ehd Swimsuits 1

3. Underwire Swim Dress Set, $175: This suit is pretty, and I always wanted to try this shape swimsuit on me (because who doesn’t love a good twirl moment), but ultimately I didn’t fall in love with it. I can say however that it is high quality so for those that like this style, I think it’s a great option. Although, the underwire isn’t nearly as supportive as it could be. 

one piece swimsuits

4. Beach Break Paddlesuit, $128: Wetsuit definitely comes to mind with this one, but in a cool way. It is VERY comfortable and obviously less revealing with the high neck and cap sleeves, but the red color and the mesh detail actually make it feel stylish and flattering. Even Brian said “that’s a cool suit,” which is saying something.

one piece swimsuits

5. Zuma One Piece, $120: Even though there isn’t built-in bra support in this one, the fit is tight enough that you feel supported. It is great for paddle boarding and kayaking because of how much coverage it gives in the front and back (it’s almost a wetsuit), but the scoop neck and color block, it feels stylish.

one piece swimsuits

6. Sofia Flutter Sleeve One Piece, $250: My team loves this one and I really like it, too (hello, ruffle sleeves!). The only problem is that I feel it does not have enough support for me. There are no soft cups or bra support and it isn’t as tight fitting as the others so I feel it wouldn’t keep everything up top in place, but it is SO CUTE. The woven ribbon detail is really special.

one piece swimsuits

7. By The Bay Skimpy One Piece, $128: Again, the cap sleeve and high neck create a sort of wetsuit/lifeguard vibe, but this one has a really cute hole cut out in the back that I love. The bright red adds a bay watch sexiness element, without being too loud about it. The bottom is a bit cheekier than the others but I still feel comfortable in it. 

one piece swimsuits

8. The Mesh Diver, $95: This one feels sporty but not too “swim team.” It is also by Summersalt so it is high quality and thick lined, and has soft cups so it is supportive. I like the racerback and mesh detail that adds a stylish element.

one piece swimsuits

9. Kiki One Piece, $135: I love the scoop neck and T-shirt style swimsuits that are very in right now. They are so flattering and look cute worn with cut-off distressed shorts. The only issue I have with this suit is I wish it came in more fun colors and I also really would love if the pocket details weren’t just details and actually functioning pockets.

Ehd Swimsuits 20

10. Doss Demi Underwire One Piece Swimsuit, $240: Brian really likes this one and I do too, but the underwire pushes up the ladies in a way that could cause a slip at any moment, plus the little cut-out, though cute, does make me feel too exposed. I don’t feel completely comfortable in it because it doesn’t fit perfectly up top, but I do like the overall shape and the floral pattern.

one piece swimsuits

11. Lipsi One Piece, $228: Here is another underwire one piece, but this one still doesn’t work cup-size for me and is kinda uncomfortable. So many of the others really are more flattering.

So, there you have it. These are the swimsuits I will be considering keeping, but as promised, I wanted to share my thoughts and process about this post. When I first decided to do this, I had tried on a bunch of suits in my room by myself in front of my mirror and felt good in them. I told my team, “sure I’ll shoot them on my body, no problem.” Then the day of the shoot I was on my period, felt bloated, and as I looked at the photos on the camera screen I said “nope. Not going to do this.” All I saw were the fat pockets in my armpits and the slight bulge outside my thighs (things that I’m sure only I notice). But then I asked myself why? WHY would I be ashamed. I’m healthy and strong, and those are the words we use in our house to teach our children to use (we NEVER use “skinny” or “perfect”). But I fell victim to the visual story/lie that I have been told my entire life: that of Photoshop and retouching and perfect lighting. I don’t really have any shame or embarrassment in any other aspect of my life, so why would I let the least interesting part of me, my looks and physicality, dictate how I feel about myself in photos and, more importantly, shift this story??

It seems no matter what size you are (be that “too skinny” or “not skinny enough”), no one is safe from the unrealistic, unattainable standards we see perpetuated in advertising and fashion every single day. Don’t get me wrong, the industry has come a very long way, and it is refreshing to see the shifts towards REAL body positivity and inclusivity, but we have a long way to go. I muse with my friends all the time that hopefully someday there won’t be a “modeling” industry. It seems so dinosaur and archaic that we allow one version of the female body show us how we should all look. It is so dated and last century. High fashion can do what they want, but it seems to me that designing clothes for just one small one size seems SO cheap and easy. I wish brands would do the harder job of dressing bodies in all shapes and sizes, celebrating healthiness, and caring about happiness.

I joked with our photographer, Veronica, “have you ever shot for Sports Illustrated, because get your olive oil brush ready.” I’ll be honest trying on 10 swimsuits was embarrassing to shoot and even more-so to “OK” the photos that I liked.

Hilariously as I’ve been writing this post and reflecting (per usual) I see the irony that someone who is a size 4-6, has both hair and lash extensions, and a spray tan isn’t exactly the beacon of “realness”. We all struggle with our own vanity issues and frankly its hard to to de-learn years of mass-media (which, no surprise, is often driven by men) telling us we have “too many” curves or “not enough.” So, hopefully, posting un-retouched photos of myself online is step one in the right direction. That’s not to say that I think doing things that make YOU feel good about yourself are wrong (like putting on make-up or getting a spray tan). But we should be aware of why we’re doing those things, and making sure we’re doing them because WE like the way they make us feel and look, not because we’re trying to live up to some pretty unrealistic body standards.  

Fun fact: all companies have “fit models” which means models that are in every size they offer their clothes in (which frankly is often embarrassingly non-inclusive) to ensure that indeed those sizes will fit. They have size 8, 10, 12 (and often more) fit models AND YET MANY STILL ONLY SHOOT SIZE 2. It’s the easiest solution EVER to simply shoot their clothing in every size. I realize this will cost more resources, but scale it down, don’t bother with photoshopping or retouching. Just shoot like we did in one hour with a cannon. It’s not that hard to be real. It’s actually pretty easy.

Now looking at this post in its final form, it shouldn’t have been that hard, and I shouldn’t have been that hard on myself. When I’m being healthy I feel good and feel that I look good. I’m not embarrassed. I understand I’m considered small, so if I’m “small” and I feel this aggressively self-critical then how the heck does the industry make other people feel? 

I can’t wait until the status quo catches up with this generation that has so much body pride, that promotes body positivity and knows that the picture of one size that every woman should aspire to will be absolute thing of the past. Feeling healthy is what should we should all strive for. To be pressured to look and feel happy while comparing yourself to the ubiquity of perfection is absolutely demoralizing. I believe we can change that. I want to start by buying from companies that don’t photograph one size. If I see a company hiring real women of all shapes, colors, sizes, and ages to model their clothes and suits (which more and more are doing) I want to buy their product. I’m done with the bikini industrial model. Hopefully, you are, too.

***Photography by Veronica Crawford

**The “Bikini Industrial Complex” was coined by  +  I’ve only listened to a podcast about it, but i hear the ted talk is GREAT.

Fin Mark
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katy

That first red swimsuit is SO CUTE! Thank you for this post, Emily. It really does help to see swimsuits on a real body, as scary as that is to post. I hope you do this again next year, but earlier in the season. I’ve already bought my suits for the season but there are some good ones here I wish I would have seen earlier.

Hilary

Bravo for being able to do this! I can barely wear a swimsuit at the beach, let alone display on the internet. I will say one thing that is hard for me with swimsuits is justifying the higher price, I’ve always been a Target swim suit kind of girl. Even with bikinis, I’m like why is one piece $50+ ?? But I’ve wondered this since my teen years.

KB

Way to F’n go mama!

I love this post in so many ways. The suits are so great and I just love this post for the authenticity and joie de vivre it inspires in me and for all of us.

Thank you!

Christina

You look great in all of them!!!

Lia

I think you look great! Thanks for sharing, it is nice to see this content! I’m slowly coming to terms with my post-kids body and getting to the point where I just don’t care…I have what I have and I am just going to embrace it! And I am a former athlete and eating disordered/body dysmorphic person, so this represents a real shift for me.

I have found a few suits from Athleta that work well for me. They have athletic support for women of all chest sizes. For what it is worth, that floral Doss Demi suit looks AMAZING on you. You should keep it, if only to wear in the hot tub after kids are in bed and won’t accidentally yank on your top, ha. Seriously, if I found a suit that flattering I would not pass it up.

Kate

Seconded on the floral! I stopped scrolling because it looked SO GOOD on you, EH!
Thank you for this post ❤️

Rachelle

You are gorgeous and brave! Thank you for this post – I love all the red suits especially!

Erin

You are gorgeous in all of them!

hannah

Red is definitely your color! I love the first one!

Juliet

This is my favorite post you’ve ever done. (And I’ve loved a lot of your posts!) It’s brave and wonderful and so refreshing to see a normal human body modeling swimsuits. And also very helpful!

Loveley of honeymoonvintage.com

Hi Emily, I was so excited to see this post. I also have secret boobs (before kids, not so secret, but more playboy playmate, “come and get it!”, but now post kids with a middle age belly, they’ve become less noticeable and gone into hiding 🙂 in normal clothes) and find bathing suit shopping hard because i’m looking for the same thing – something i can wear with my kids and other moms and other kids, so kinda modest, but not a muumuu, but with legit support. Anyway, so my question is, with the two red suits that are #4 and #7, I really like those for the modesty, coverage, color, and they’re cool. What kind of support do they have? Also, have you tried looking at bathing suits from Bravissimo (i believe they’re a British company)? all of their stuff is specifically made for for-real big boobs and based on their catalog (which I get, but I still haven’t taken the time to try anything), it looks like they have some great suit choices. And i believe that for many/most of them, the tops actually are very bra-like, with the adjustable hook-eye closure in the back. Anyway, I have… Read more »

ah thank you 🙂 Those two red ones are really tight so they kinda smash them down but not great support. I’m almost tempted to take them to a tailor and get some soft cups sewn in. its just so easy – why don’t brands wake up and put soft cups in? when would a one-piece ever NOT want a soft cup? 🙂

Rochelle

Especially when swimming in cold water haha

Erica

I love Bravissimo! I was intrigued by the catalog, and now I’ve gotten several bras, bathingsuits and tops from there. I’m a convert.

Liz

I have so many things to say! First, thank you for this post. The ones that come straight from you are so refreshing and honest, and it is very brave of you to put yourself out there in a way that is about your *image* and not about your *work*. Personally, if you chose to NOT model swimsuits on a website about interior design, that would also be cool with me. Second, as a mom, I had that same moment a few years ago of “this super cute suit is not working for my beach life”. I realized my tush was always sunburned because I spent so much time bending to dig, to hold my son in the water, to… whatever and that I needed another solution that I was comfortable and felt good in, while accounting for how I was actually using my body. So thank you for this post! My own solution is more a collection of two-pieces and rash guards, but it’s so helpful to hear how someone else worked through this! For me the Mom element also helped to offset the social pressure on how to look in a swimsuit. While I’m also in that Small… Read more »

ah, thank you. and I just switched out the link to the red suit. Totally agree about caring less once i had kids. I just want to be able to play with them.

Mudrick

I love that you were brave and did this!

Nicole

Beautiful suits! Thanks for sharing your real photos and your thought process about posting them. I especially love suits #1 and #2; they look amazing on you!

Rachel

Beautiful!! You look WONDERFUL, loved all the suit options too. I didn’t even know sleeves were a thing! 😊

Lydia

I recently was browsing Aerie swimsuits and was so pleasantly surprised and encouraged! If only I could have seen those unretouched images as a teen. My bum stretch marks might’ve not felt so shameful.

Always appreciate your honesty and openness – thank you, Emily!

Michelle

I’ll second this shout out for American Eagle ae.com. They show real bodies and offer reasonable prices. If you pool swim or buy for a growing teen these are easy 1-3 season purchases, especially on sale. That said, I bought a “high end” suit from Anthropologie that has held up nearly ten years now. Not all expensive suits are quality but the quality of lining and material varies. Just sharing for those (like me) who throw up a little bit at triple digit swimsuit prices.

Brooke

Who makes the Beach Break Paddlesuit? (#4)
The link brings up something different and I need to find that suit! 🙂

Grace

Ahhh you need underwire in cup sizes. Places like Figleaves have good selections and it is a total game changer. I’m not sure why random sizeless underwire suits are even made… yuck!

But anyway, thanks for actually posting the suits on your body. It’s nice to see them on an actual person.

Aimee

I was going to say the same thing. Bra manufacturers also make swimsuits. With bra sized tops. that’s the way to go! From someone who does not have secret boobs.

Emily

Number five and number seven look particularly amazing on you!

Christina

You look lovely! Thank you for braving the cameras and the internet. More than that, thank you for being thoughtful about sharing your insecurities. xoxo
(p.s. summersalt is WINNING summer 2019, amiright?!)

Carla

You look amazing in ALL of them! My two favorite STYLES are 4 (so Baywatch!!!) and 6 (I’m a sucker for blue and feminine).

Veronica

Great post! It was really fun to see the suits on a real person. You look strong and healthy and beautiful Emily! I enjoy all the fashion posts so much. Would love to see more posts like this with the whole EHD team modelling (if they’re up for it)! Every person on the team is SO beautiful and you guys all have great style so it’s always a joy to see you all in photos. And EXCELLENT reflection at the end. 🙂

Addie

Yeah to positive body courage! It is encouraging to see swimwear on a real woman. Thank you! The red ones really suit your complexion (spray tan or not) and hair. I particularly like the styles with high necklines and sleeves. They are kinda hard to picture until you try them on. I also tend to get overexposed in the upper chest and shoulders areas so having those areas more covered would actually help me enjoy being at the beach more! I agree with previous people that for underwires you have to get a larger cup size and that’s not the easiest to find. I have also sometimes been lucky at TJMaxx in years past, finding DD cup one piece suits of great quality. You gave me some new styles to consider, thank you.

Amanda

Thank you for posting, Emily! You look great, the content is useful (although not to me quite yet, lol, but still an enjoyable read I can archive for the future), and I really appreciate your insights at the end. I like this type of post as a design break on Saturday morning.

Kelly

Love the ruffled one. It’s so interesting how our ideas about modesty differ from person to person. I feel very….exposed? …..protective? about the bikini line area but not about my midriff. So I usually opt for a swim skirt (the shorter version) and a bandeau top. But then again, my girls are quite manageable. I think you look great in all of the them and it sounds so nice to be living in a suit by a lake with your family. Enjoy!

Abby

You seem to look the happiest in the red ones, but they all look great on you!

Mariya Zafirova

All of these swimsuits are amazing!

Mariya | https://www.brunetteondemand.com/

Jen

For the record I think you think fantastic!

Tanja

Wow! Red is definitely your colour and one you should wear more often. You are beautiful!

faith

Preach it, sister!
PS you look so happy in the photos:)

Rachel

You look stunning! Which ones did u keep???

Katie

Full disclosure: I just scrolled through to look at the pictures, so maybe you mentioned the brand in here, but I really love Lands End as source for good quality, reasonably priced suits that are flattering for not-quite-fitness model bodies. Yes, some of the designs are simple, but there are also some really cute designs available, and they sell talls and larger bust sizes. I always wait and take advantage of their sales for the best price. I think it’s a great resource for a great, comfortable suit.

Debbie

I second this, and actually encourage Emily to look at the tankini styles. I love the boyshort bottoms and I just get tankini tops to mix and match. So many flattering ones. I’m finding the ones without underwire to be much more comfortable, and the high necks I just wear all day with shorts in-between swimming. We have a lake house and a teenaged son with friends rotating in and out, so modesty is a must!

Molly

I like lands end too. Not super fashion-y but good quality and cute enough. Thank the Lord I haven’t needed this option, but I noticed once that lands end offers not only various cup sizes but also tops for women who’ve had a mastectomy. I am just so touched by a company that would recognize all women, including those who have survived breast cancer. Makes me seriously want to support that company.

Lesley

I’ve so had success with Lands End, and they offer one pieces in a Long option for those of us with long torsos. I’ve even found some fairly stylish (in a retro way) suits there.

Katie

Way to go! As I was first reading and seeing your pics; I thought about how brave you are. As a mom in the same boat, I’ve started feeling uncomfortable with the swimsuit options and really appreciate your perspective and willingness to bare all—especially your vulnerability—to be real and share with us. Thank you for finding and sharing so many options and for for your honesty!

Em

love that first red one on you. We have fairly similar body types so I’m guessing it might work for me. Just kinda wish it wasn’t 300 bucks. I just ordered a bunch of suits too. Was going to try the high waisted bikini this year but not loving it so far. Might try that red one.

Artyk8

Thank you for this post. I know as a real woman it is so hard to put yourself out there like this, but honestly, it’s so needed and appreciated! I’m short, blond, curvy, with boobs and thighs and I never see women who look kind of like me model swimsuits. So, from the bottom of my heart… THANK YOU!

Rusty

Congratulations! You are being an Influencer in the best way, by sharing the REAL stuff about being a REAL WOMAN who does real life!

I have had some issues finding suits that are supportive for my “ladies”, but also with a bottom half that isn’t too big. I tried snd fried to find one-piece suits that would work and eventually gave up. I don’t like having my middle exposed, evrn yhough it looks okay. I ended up with a TANKINI, time after time.

That way, I can get my boobs supported and also a bottom half that isn’t too big, and have my middle covrred, because the top if a tankini goes down lower than thd ‘top’ of the bottom. This style is also so much easier to wear when one needs to go to the bathroom! 😉

corie

That sofia flutter sleeve one is AMAZING!

Nina

Thank you so much for this post. As I read it, I kept saying, out loud, “Yes!, Yes!” because are saying everything I think and feel about this topic. It’s so important for us to feel like we look great when we are healthy and feel great.

It certainly helps that your body looks an awful lot like mine! So it’s wonderful to get an idea of what swimsuits could look good on me. I dread swimsuit shopping, but I’m feeling like I could handle it now after seeing you. Thank you so much for the pics and your we’ll put words.

Sgh

Wow! You look fabulous in every suit. Hard to believe you’ve had two children. Obviously, souping, running & working out have paid off in spades. You go, pretty mama!

Lisa

Hi guys. You were so great about asking for feedback that for better or worse I feel empowered to offer some now;). As one who began to read this blog for the styling/home design content, I have a limited tolerance for the clothing posts. I’ve already chosen my style blogs, I am not at all wanting another one. Raising my hand to vote for only one post/week about clothes, possibly on a set day, so that those of us who share your house design tastes and demographic but not your clothing style, can set our expectations. Thanks in advance for listening.

BTW, this is surely because I am a) over-50 b) astringent rather than chipper in my personal style

Jeannet

Agree. The blog used to be must-read for me and now many days I don’t even bother to glance at your headline in my feed reader. For me, this quest to post every day has resulted in you being lost in a sea of mediocre content.

Lisa

BTW, you look absolutely beautiful and I am sure this particular post serves the community very well.

K

You look great in all of these. Have you tried on the retro-style Esther Williams suits? They’re so comfy, modest and cute and they come in lots of colors. They’re double-lined too.
https://esther-williams.com/

Rebecca

This made me love you even more.

Jill

Check out June Loop – woman owed swimsuit company that are flattering, comfortable, great quality, and STYLISH! Fit women of all ages and body types – win/win!

Kara

Love both the red high neck ones! And they look great on you! As a new mom I’ll be looking for a higher neck to chase after my toddler.

Sally

Thank you for this post!

G

They are all really good! Fave is #7. Also where is that tile from? It’s so pretty

Betty

You look great in all of them, congratulations! I also love the floral one – maybe you can wear it for sunbathing only…so adorable on you! It’s indeed very difficult to find the right suit. I have a long torso and also plenty of
cha-chas to protect, but finally found a red-white checkered on on JCrew a few years back and that’s my go to ever since. I just ordered a beautiful floral one and I keep my fingers crossed it fits me – I will have to make it fit because it’s so darn cute. Thank you for showing us mom bathing suits that are so hip and cool.

jps

Thank you for doing this! You look great. I especially love you in the By the Bay. Very flattering! Happy swimming.

Katie

Okay so first I love you. I love that you did this post which I feel is so brave, and I think you are awesome. I have a question and feel free to ignore me because it’s personal. I am large breasted, 34 G, mercy. You talk a lot about making sure you are choosing clothes that hide that fact. Can i ask why?

Emily H

I agree with you Emily! The industry has to change. So many cute swimsuits you found!! I love them!! Thank you for being brave!

Kelly

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!! For your authenticity and honesty. It’s encouraging to see that we all have the struggle and relationship with our bodies, no matter our size. You look fabulous, but the realness and discomfort is still there. Thanks for making the rest of us feel normal and encouraging the world to embrace real bodies as beauty. You are beautiful and this post is perfect!

Rebecca

This is a beautiful roundup.

You might check out bathing suits from Athleta as well—it’s all I’ve bought the last two years and got rid of every other suit in the drawer too. There’s something to be said about an athletic apparel company making bathing suits. High quality material and tons of options for one and two piece, as well as lots of board shorts and rash guards depending on what you’re looking for.

I swear I don’t work for these folks, just love their products. 😊

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