Life with the Girls

10 Steps to the Perfect Swimsuit

Laura Lifshitz has found that all it takes to get into the right swimsuit is time, patience, humility, self-tanner, her daughter’s approval and a total alignment of the stars. See if this month’s “Life with the Girls” sounds like an all-too-familiar process.line

There are few decisions more anxiety-inducing in life than buying a bathing suit. Deciding whether to swipe left or right, signing a divorce agreement or choosing the right time for a colonoscopy might be roughly equivalent to the level of thought that goes into whether I bring a given tankini home with me. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of doing any of the above activities like I have, well bless your heart.

Bikinis, bottoms, one-pieces, cup support, cover-ups…the options are endless. I so envy a man’s toughest decisions: blue bathing trunks or red? Clean pair or out of the hamper?

Of course, with all the excitement that goes with swimsuit shopping—summer, you came back!—I’m also furrowing my brow way too much and earning serious Botox units on the road to choosing the right suits. By the time I finally plunk down my credit card, here are the deciding factors that have already come into play:

1. My child

Much to my chagrin, my daughter is often a key stakeholder in my swimsuit shopping.  She’s only eight, but the feedback started last year. What she lacks in tact, she makes up for in candor, which comes in spades; she has zero qualms about crushing her mom’s Spandex illusions.

“You’re not going to get that one, are you?” she asked me recently, eyeing me up and down as if I was wearing litter I picked up off the street. (This reaction was actually better than what she served me with when I tried mixing-and-matching a bikini: a grimace that looked an awful lot like my former mother-in-law’s default expression.)

Apparently, I embarrass. That’s okay, I remind myself. Her teenage years, and my wardrobe vetoes, are coming.

2. My cycle

Sorry, progeny, but on second thought, my menstrual cycle seriously has more pull on the bathing suit trigger than almost anything. Am I bloated? Yeah, I’m gonna have to pass on that low-cut bikini bottom in favor of the high-rise. Are my breasts nearing Coast Guard-approved flotation device status? Then I’d better look for a 5-hook-and-eye underwire supreme.

3. My vacation destination

Okay, come to think of it, it’s the destination that decides everything! Do I really want major boobage while hanging out at the town pool? It’s hard enough to find the courage to wear a bikini when your cup size sounds like an algebraic equation (U.S. DDD-cup = E.U. F-cup = U.K. E-cup = meltdown), let alone while worrying about other moms—or, heaven forfend, dads—looking at you. But if I’m going to the beach alone or with friends, well, then it’s balls to the wall. Or boobs to the shore. All I really need is an adults-only tropical resort…single, straight male readers of this ladies’ lingerie blog, are you picking up what I’m putting down?

4. The company I keep

It’s not just about the age or life stage of the humans with me but often, the level of judgment those humans exhibit. So before I say yes to a suit, I try to take into consideration the comrades who may be along for the ride. Showing up to the beach with my sarcastic and somewhat emo eight-year-old requires a different strategy than say, a really hot man. Or a family member. If children are present, I’d rather not have someone’s tweenage boy judging my boobs, be it out of trauma or fascination. If I’m with my somewhat conservative girlfriend, I will put on a moderately cute tankini so as not to offend. If my New Age-y girlfriend is with me, I’ll take risks, depending on whether my aura is feeling hot or not.

5. My blood sugar level

Going to a store and trying on in a dressing room is enough to give me hives or pull my hair out in chunks, whichever is faster and less attractive.

Personally, if I shop online with the moral support of a really empathetic, dedicated Bra Fit Expert, I’m know I’m bound to come away with a decent purchase. But if I’m left to my own devices, wandering rack after rack of suits hung without rhyme or reason, willpower fading, I’m typically back in the car faster than you can say, “Grande vanilla non-fat chai latte, please.”

6. My shopping destination

Once I finally realized I had way more options online, my swimsuit game changed. It was like that giddy happiness I got when my divorce was finalized, but better. The first time I found Bare Necessities, I could’ve cried. Options, options everywhere! Sizes, styles and silhouettes for summers until I retire. All it requires is a bit of self-control. Okay, a lot of self-control.

7. My skin tone

Since my only complexion settings are barely alive or burned to a crisp, I know I need to lean heavily on the power of both a good pattern and diligent reapplication of bronzer. If I had the forethought and the time to use self-tanner, I might take a shot on a teeny bikini. But if I’m my normal shade of “two weeks into a morgue visit,” I’ll play it safe and pick out a jewel-tone tankini.

8. My bikini line

Let’s be honest, my haircut downstairs also determines how I’m gonna turn up at the beach or pool. A clean look is always best, but sometimes time constraints (mom life, amirite?) or razor burn get in the way. And that, my friends, is when I reach for a pair of boyshorts. Now you know.

9. The price tag

When it comes to buying swimwear, my dollars inform my choices as much as my derriere does. How many times have I cringed at the cost of a suit I just had to have? But still I would argue every time that a good bathing suit is worth the spend.

My strategy is to pretty much stalk a suit online and obsesses over it, remembering all the details and visiting it regularly until I’m absolutely sure I’m in love with it and feel prepared to commit. (Side note, maybe I should try this approach with dating?) Usually, I nab the suit at the right time, but there’s a chance you take. I have returned to the link to find that my size is sold out in the top or bottom, dashing my dream look. The pain is unending, I tell you. Spare yourself if you can.

10. The stars

Sometimes, my astrological chart is out of whack, and my plans for what to pack are dashed against the proverbial rocks. Other times, my celestial house is in order and I score big: That maillot and bikini top are on sale, in my color, in my size. They look damn good on, and it’s all been worth it.

By Laura Lifshitz

Laura is a writer, comedienne, former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate. You can find her work in The New York Times, Worthy, Working Mother and others. Read her work on and cruise on over to her portfolio. Kids thought she stuffed her bra in the seventh grade; she didn't and would like to formally clear her name.