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7 things you need to know before you buy a swimsuit online (plus my favorite swimwear for this summer)

I know I’m not alone when I say I love to shop online.

But I’m surprised how many devoted online shoppers say they’ll never buy swimwear online, because they think they have to try it on first.

They have a good point: swimwear is hard to shop for. It’s tough to find a suit that fits your unique body.

But I’m here to convince you that shopping online has many advantages, if you do it right. You get to avoid hideous dressing room lighting, an overwhelming sales floor, judgmental (at least in your head) salespeople, and the pressure to decide right then which suit to take home.

In order to find a great suit that fits online, you’ve gotta play by the rules—and choose your retailer with care. Here’s how to buy a swimsuit you love—and that actually fits—online.

How to buy a swimsuit online

1.Know what you’re looking for.

2. Determine your (ballpark) size. Take your measurements and study the size chart on the website. Read the body type recommendations and check out the reviews to get a feel for sizing. Great retailers encourage you to call or live chat if you have any questions. If you have questions, ask.

3.  Order your favorite suit in at least 2 sizes. Order the size you think you need according to the size chart, then order the next size that’s most likely to fit. If you love the suit, but are really unsure what size is for you, order 3 sizes. This is the time to go overboard.

4. Just try it. You can’t know how it will look until you try it on. This is truer for swimsuits than for any other piece of clothing. It might look awesome or it might be downright embarrassing, but if a certain design catches your eye, you have to try it to find out. So just order it. It’s much easier and cost-effective to place all your orders at once.

5. See how they look. Try your swimsuits on in good lighting, when you’re in a good mood, in the privacy of your own home (yay!). See how you look, see how you feel. Do a little dance and make sure it stays in place.

6. Return the suits that don’t work by mail or at the local bricks-and-mortar location. This works great if you follow rule #7…

7. For a satisfying online shopping experience, the most important thing is to choose your retailer carefully. Not every store is great for online shopping. You want to order from an established company that makes returns easy and inexpensive.

The stores highlighted below want you to be happy. They want their swimwear to fit you, they want you to love it, and they will help you get there. Online.

Where to buy bathing suits online

Lands’ End was a mail-order business before the internet existed, and they are pros at helping you order a suit you’ll be happy with—without trying it on. Some of their swimsuits (including the first two above) come in special cup sizes for women who have had a mastectomy. You can live chat or telephone with a swim expert. Returns can be made to any full-line Sears store, or mail order returns for a flat rate of $6.95.

 J. Crew consistently offers stylish interpretations of classic suits, in a wide range of on-trend colors. They have completely complimentary personal shoppers available online or by phone. Make your returns to any store, completely free.

Athleta. This member of the Gap family has athletic, high-quality, performance-based suits in a variety of cute styles. Their prints are especially awesome, and their fun online tool helps you mix and match your two-piece. All orders over $50 ship free, returns are free to stores, and return shipping is a flat $6.00, regardless of the number of items.

Zappos. Think of Zappos as your infinite personal department store, loved for its phenomenal customer service and killer selection from top brands like Tommy Bahama, La Blanca, Roxy, and Speedo. Zappos has tons of helpful customer reviews to help you zone in on the right size and shape for you, and they always have free (and fast) shipping both ways.

My favorite swim accessories

These aren’t swimsuits, but you’ll always find these in my beach bag:

Rashguards. I have super sensitive skin: sensitive to the sun, and sensitive to sunscreen. That’s why I always stake out a shady spot at the pool, and wear a rashguard when I’m in the sun. Luckily the options are a lot cuter than they used to be. (Currently in my bag: the black one from J Crew, above.)

Cover-ups. A good cover-up should beeasy to wear, easy to wash, and make you feel comfortable. I am dying of cuteness over those pom-poms!

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