FBP Swimsuit Edition, Part One: A Former Sports Illustrated Editor Gives Us Her Get-Glam Tips
Just as Sports Illustrated's 2017 swimsuit issue hits newsstands, I thought it would be a good time for you dear FBPers to glean a little know-how on making the best of what you’ve got beach and poolside. As former PR for myriad swimwear lines (Anne Cole, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Speedo and more), I cast a critical eye during my weekly beach visits, looking for women in great suits. I also hone in stuff that's just so wrong it hurts my eyeballs, like bikinis that don’t cover an ample derriere, boosies falling out of their cups, glaring colors, and wtf prints. I could go on.
(FYI, boosies = swimwear speak for boobies. Or at least in my office...)
My good friend Diane Smith, SI Swimsuit’s editor emeritus and author of the keeping it chic on the beach blog Swim a la Mode, believes elegance should be your goal. If you’re residing or snowbirding in a ritzy area (talking to you Palm Beach ladies), this should be a priority.
Before her 13 years at SI, Diane was a fashion editor and stylist for Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Mademoiselle and SELF (RIP, print edition). Exuding sophistication and classic style, Diane reminds me of Grace Kelly. And isn’t iconic style what we’re all after?
When asked what swim styles she personally wears, Diane joked how she’s not one to don a suit, “especially after being surrounded by such gorgeous models for 13 years.” Instead, you’re likely to see her wearing a stunning cover-up from Bleu Rod Beattie, Letarte, CoolChange or Vix by Paula Hermanny, who happens to be her summer house neighbor.
But after some prodding, Diane confessed she does own a suit.
If you’ve never seen SI’s swimsuit selection process, here’s the short version: every swimwear company around the world sends contenders for consideration, as do many high-end fashion designers, often submitting one-of-a-kind numbers that will never see the light of day in any store. Seriously, thousands of options are sent each year with the hope something will make its way into the issue.
No one knows swimwear like Diane. Think of her as your personal stylist for the next five minutes.
She Knows How To Pick 'Em:
Dive In To Di's Top Tips
Invest in designer. Diane’s personal picks: Norma Kamali, Carmen Marc Valvo (the one she actually owns) and Michael Kors. Why designer? Because, “like their ready-to-wear collections, greater attention is paid to details such as shirring and draping - the best styling trick in the book.”
Get touchy-feely with fabrics. Designers use much higher quality fabric blends. When shopping, feel the fabric of an expensive suit vs. something under $100. Quelle difference.
Opt for dark solid colors. Black, navy, brown, grey and the like which ooze more sophistication than printed suits. Then again…
Not feeling solids? Find a pattern. Look for “couture-inspired details like t i n y graphics,” recommends Di. (Think checks, dots, gingham. Not a massive, wild print.) Tiny patterns camouflage body imperfections.
Tread carefully with hardware. You’ll see hardware details on designer suits too, but be careful when you’re in direct sun, as it can heat up rather quickly. Sunburn is enough to avoid; you don't need to worry about an actual burn on top of that.
Accessorize sparingly. Small sparkly jewelry will elevate your look, but avoid anything clunky or chunky. Diane’s picks include gorgeous pieces from Sydney Evan. (Note: if you ever have the privilege of meeting Diane in person, ask her to share her Elizabeth Taylor/Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot jewelry story. Diane is the expert in the good stuff.)
More Di Great-Fit Tidbits
For many of the athletes' (often mature-ish) wives featured in SI, Diane was very careful re proportion. For example, one-piece suits flatter most body types. Try one with fuller bottoms and designer details. On this front, Marysia should be at the top of your list.
Wide-set shoulder straps add balance and proportion to most body shapes.
Pear-shape ladies should avoid halter-necks. It's like screaming I'M A PEAR WRAPPED IN PEARSKIN. Betting you can visualize this.
If you can rock a bikini with confidence, DO IT. But skip miss-matched separates. “Creativity isn’t what you need at the beach,” notes Diane, “It looks more expensive when the top coordinates with the bottom it was designed to go with.”
Like Diane, I just don’t understand the appeal of tankinis for anything other than convenience when peeing. And here's what I really don't get: women using the top as a shirt. As part of Anne Cole’s original tankini launch team, I have dozens of those suits in my drawer. Twenty years later, I’ve yet to wear one.
FBP’s Takeaway: Florida has an abundance of department and specialty stores with more swimwear choices than northern states offer. This is good. What isn't good: Criticism from your "loved ones." Leave your husband or bestie at home while you shop.
Even amongst my friends with great bods, NO ONE likes to shop for swimsuits. This painful, somewhat depressing experience is common. When traveling throughout the USA with the late Anne Cole for department and specialty store fit clinics, we heard it all the time. And it has nothing to do with your age, body shape or weight. That's why I plagued my dear Di for all her look-great ammo. You're welcome.