Style Guide

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Bikini for Your Body

We put ourselves through the bikini bathing suit bottom ringer to see which options work best for different body shapes, skin tones, comfort levels and ages.

By Beth Levine July 18, 2016

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Bikini researchers Itzel Jaramillo and Beth Levine in their favorite bottoms at The Beach Tulum Hotel.

As we head into the intense heat of summer (and in Houston that is some serious heat) like most Houstonians we find ourselves flocking to the pool, the beach or any place with water. Which means we are knee deep in bathing suit season.

Ah, bathing suit season…the time when you learn just how unforgiving dressing rooms lighting is and how, even though tanning is not a healthy pastime according to every dermatologist on Earth, that everything looks better with a tan. (The saying 'if you can’t tone it, tan it' didn’t come out of nowhere.)

On a trip to the beaches of Tulum, we put ourselves through the bikini bathing suit bottom ringer to see which options work best for different body shapes, skin tones, comfort levels and ages. Luckily for me I was vacation with one of my best gal pals, who owns literally every bathing suit on earth. (Yes, we brought a trendy one-piece; no, it didn’t make it into the water.) Unluckily for me I was also traveling with a girl who would look great on the beach wearing a paper bag. 

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The bikini options (some of them).

The String Bikini

We all know this bathing suit cut. The top is usually a triangle cut with string ties and the bottom is usually designed the same way, tied together with minimal coverage. This is a pretty standard bikini cut and almost every girl reading this likely owns one. The trick to this look is first to make sure the bottom really fits—this style has a tendency to wrinkle around the butt, which can make you look less in shape than you really are. The second trick is to make sure if you choose a pattern/print that it works with your body shape and skin tone—horizontal stripes do not work on everyone. Then just make sure the bottom string ties are tied tight and stay tight!

Things to keep in mind:

  • The smaller the swimsuit bottom, the fuller and curvier the derriere appears.
  • Side-tie bikini bottoms enhance curves and adjust perfectly to your size.
  • This style works really well on those with who have a butt with some curves to it.
  •  If you are tan, go for colors or patterns that really pop. If you are paler go for more solid colors and neutral patterns (this advice goes for all the suit types below as well).

The Boy Short Bikini

I admit I get a little shy about bearing all of my bum on the beach, so I am biased towards this look as one of my personal favorites. This suit is primarily defined by its bottom, which is usually similar to the cheeky cut of underwear that is currently popular and can be paired with a string top or strapless bandeau top. It has a regular front, no ties, and the backside falls somewhere between old school full coverage bikini bottoms and string ones. These type of bottoms work well on those with petite butts (like me) or those with narrow hips.

Things to keep in mind:

  • If you are swimming in the ocean, the oceans have currents and your boy shorts, much like underwear, can come off!
  • Look for a suit that has some pinching or ruching detail on the backside as this enhances your bum’s shape and size. 

The Brazilian Bikini/Thong

This style of bottom (which comes in standard and side-tie versions) was my traveling companion's favorite style. She is from Mexico, very tan, and very toned. For the rest of us this cut is a little intimidating. We were in Mexico for almost three days before I had the courage not just to try one on, but actually go outside in it.

The verdict? If you can dare to bare, this cut can actually be quite flattering—I admit I felt pretty sexy wearing it. Even if you don’t have the world’s best derriere, this cut when done right can add shaping and the less-is-more cut takes the focus away from the area where the butt meets the thigh that so many of us women worry about looking dimpled.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The best accessory for this type of bikini is self-confidence. If you are going to bare your bum, own it!
  • Give this type of suit a test run first to make sure you aren’t going too small on the sizing.

The Full Coverage Bikini (also known as “The Hipster” cut)

We only brought one of these bottoms on our trip, and yes, it was mine. I am a pale girl from Jersey and sometimes my bum needs a little more coverage. This cut works really well for those with fuller hips or who are wider on the bottom than they are on top.

Things to keep in mind:

  • If you are on the shorter side, this style can make you look boxy as it is more of a bulky cut. My advice is to balance it out with a string bikini top.
  • If you are planning to tan on the beach this cut can give you a pretty thick tan line, bottom wise.

Remember the best bathing suit tip in the world—wear what you feel good in, as nothing is sexier than a confident woman!

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