The swimdress – another beach alternative for women over 40

Further to my article on swimwear I found these babies the other day – swimdresses.

Wearing a tankini, high-waist bottoms and a swimskirt is a great chop-and-change option for the beach, but if you can only pack one cossie and you like a bit of cover, you could think about a swimdress. As you can see, a swimdress is a more forgiving alternative to a swimsuit, and if you pick your design right, you can have rather looser coverage than wearing a swimskirt – useful if you’ve got tummy issues.

Somewhere in my heart I knew these things must still exist (I remember my mother wearing one back in the 60s), but it took me a while to find them.

blog imageblog imageblog imageWith a swimdress, you get what you pay for, as with any other costume. Those from Sears (sadly not available in Europe) are at the cheaper end of the market. Sears has numerous designs of swimdresses (I count 24, plus another 10 or so from sister company KMart), offering different features. Some have moulded cups while others have a shelf bra: you can choose ruffles, thick straps, thin straps, tie fronts, halternecks, backless and bandeau. Those that aren’t empire-waisted have vertical princess seams and a sewn-in brief. Prices (for the KMart range) start at just under $25. The regular size is US 8, 10, 12 and there’s also a plus-size range.

This batik suit (far left) is the type with a separate tank underneath an empire waist overlayer. There’s a string tie in the front, the cups are moulded and there is bead trim on the straps. The tank suit underneath has a mesh panel across the midsection for better ventilation, which strikes me as a great idea, given that you’re wearing two layers. Sadly, the size range is limited to US sizes 8, 10 and 12. But at $54.60 it’s a bargain.

This floral number (middle left) is one of the plus-size models, available in 18W and 20W. It has vertical princess seams and a sewn-in brief rather than two layers and costs the same price – $54.60. My personal fave though is this halter-neck swimdress (left) with contrast bust section (great for women who are small on top but heavier on their lower half) and loose, floaty plain skirt. $47.60.

Best of all at Sears, the firm is linked with My Virtual Model, so you can log on via the Sears site and dress your actual figure in one of these suits to see what it looks like.

blog imageblog imageblog imageIf you’ve got deeper pockets, check out Orvis, which also has a range of swimdresses, with nicer styling and more features than the Sears dresses, averaging about $90 a pop. This floral one (right) has a faux sarong skirt, which is a very feminine option, a built-in softcup bra and adjustable straps. Many of their models have a built-in tummy control panel, including this soft green and brown batik option (middle right). My favourite, though, is this v-neck version, where the thick straps balance the flirty skirt (far right).

blog imageblog imagePriced in between the two are suits from Spiegel, which offers about 15 designs of swimdress for the mid-70s of dollars, but are currently on sale for about $55. They include moulded cups and power-mesh tummy- and butt-smoothers and some interesting designs, such as this contrast-border black one (far left). Crucially, for British readers, Spiegel will ship to the UK. For more US offerings, check out NexTag.

We Yurrupeans seem to get a bit short-changed generally when it comes to swimdresses, and they are much more expensive. The UK version of Orvis offers the same swimdresses as the US company but for TWICE THE PRICE. The best is this one from Miraclesuit (left), which offers all the usual Miraclesuit goodies, is 32 per cent lycra, so will suck you in, in all the right places, and promises to take 10 pounds off you, but at the moment it’s out of stock.

But why, I ask you, should we pay twice the price for the same bloody thing anyway? Log onto Spiegel, or get yourself an American friend instead.

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