Swimalong: Flattering a Full Bust

What makes a flattering swimsuit on a fuller bust? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Horizontal stripes, for instance. Some think it makes you look wider. Either I don’t care about looking wider or I don’t believe it’s true. I wear them and I feel good in them. Before I start, let me qualify what I’m about to say with my definition of a flattering bust. I’m not into hiding the bust size nor trying to minimize it. It is what it is.

I do prefer fabric to cover the entire width of my bust. I don’t like hanging out the sides but I won’t mind if I’m showing some cleavage. I think I’d feel too covered up if the suit covered me from underbust all the way to the top of my bust. I’d feel engulfed in swim fabric. I also like my bust to be well supported. That will mean an underwire for me. Other than that, I’m pretty open.

Overall, a well fitting swimsuit that you like, that’s made of colors you love, will flatter you more than one that doesn’t meet these requirements. Swimsuits that are too small in one area and too big in another won’t read as a mis-fit. Sadly, they read as our bodies aren’t perfect or ideal or whatever when it’s the suit that’s not perfect and not idea to our shape. And that’s why we sew.

In this post, I will not tell you to cover you stomach or your back or your chest. It’s tricky to stand here and proclaim one thing to be flattering over another. In the 50s, a bullet bra was deemed flattering. Where’s your bullet bra now? Lucky for us now, we can wear what we want and while you may think there are rules- they are there to be broken. I say this because of all the sites I’ve been to where a large chested woman is deemed unappealing because of the fit of her clothes and/or swimsuit. I really hate these before and after shots on this “How not to look fat in a swimsuit” from Oprah’s site. It gets to me because they’re showing suits that aren’t the correct size on the women in their before pictures and then they’re just covering everyone up- wrap them up in a bedsheet while you’re at it! Apparently the only way to fix boy shorts that are too small is to scrap the idea altogether and put a one piece on a woman. Why not give them a better fitting size?

Oprah’s site also give tips on the best suits for a larger chest. However, all I hear them say is conceal, don’t look fat, don’t show your body. The only thing I can agree with is that underwire swimsuits will give you more lift. Some like that. Some don’t care. I prefer a lifted look on myself so I’m going to adding support in the bust.

I am here to say that anyone can wear a two piece. But let’s review: wear a two piece that fits you and is made of colors and a style you love. That will be flattering. Never go off the size on the pattern envelope. Measure yourself and measure the pattern. Make a muslin and you’ll get a super hot two piece that you’ll love.

Check out the gorgeous Georgina of Fuller Figure Fuller Bust blog where you can see her reviews of RTW swimsuits for a fuller bust. Check out, especially, her review of a non underwire bikini (more pics of her below). You’ll see how flattering it is on her and other women- all because the bust cups fit. Had they worn a size too small (ahem! Victoria Secret) then you’d probably shy away from a two piece, too, but with the fabric covering from the side to most of the front you get a great shape and you won’t worry about falling out. Also check out Hourglassy’s roundup of RTW swimsuit reviews by big busted bloggers.

Ultimately, it’s up to you and how much skin you like showing off and I don’t think there should be any rule about that. It’s a personal thing.

More RTW suits, I love this Freya bandeau with hidden underwire (click the image to go to Big Girl Bras). You get the look of a bandeau with hidden support. I love that.

What I love is seeing well fitting swim tops on larger busted women. Check out Georgina from FullerFigureFullerBust- the woman who helped me transition into a well fitting bra!

And check out her adorable tankini

There’s this Butterick swimsuit pattern I told you about in Brooke’s post but I’m not sure it’ll actually lift my bust the way I want. I have had plenty of swimsuits that are incredibly annoying at the bust. I don’t need to sew one of these suits, too.

If you want a suit with an underwire but don’t want to deal with making the bra component, check out this tutorial on transforming an underwire bra into a swim top. Or you can stay tuned for Norma from Orange Lingerie who will talk us through swim support.

UPDATE: You won’t want to miss this helpful post from Sew Forth Now who shows us an illustration on how to add for a full bust. No bust dart on your suit! Also, she has a podcast all about swimsuit making so do listen in.

If you’ve made it this far, I thank you for listening. I hope this has helped in some way. What do you think? You up for a two piece? You interested in learning about adding underwires? What’s your take on what’s flattering and what’s not?

27 thoughts on “Swimalong: Flattering a Full Bust

  1. sewlittletime says:

    wow georgina looks fabulous! i actually prefer the way she looks in the bikini rather than the (probably more expected) tankini – altho she looks fab in both. great post. i have a large scar down the middle of my stomach (vertically) so i prefer to cover it up and wear a tankini or one piece. so there are non-size reasons why people might stay covered up too!

    • Leila says:

      Maybe so but I hate it when it’s assumed that full busted women would prefer to cover up. I hear ya on scars. I have stretch marks all along my thighs and in other areas that covering up would mean wearing a blanket. But I hear ya on other reasons why people would prefer covering up. It’s totally personal preference that shouldn’t be set as a rule for making something flattering.

    • Leila says:

      I saw her pattern came out! I’m so excited that it’s out before our sewalong is over.

      I had higher hopes for Oprah’s website but she can’t control everything that goes on it, I guess.

      • CGCouture says:

        You don’t suppose we can convince Norma(? I’m going to be so embarrassed if I got that wrong!) to use the closet case pattern to show us how to put in some “stability” for a larger bust, do ya? 😉 Cuz, ya know, that would be pretty awesome. 😉

      • Leila says:

        I think Norma’s post will easily apply to the Closet Case pattern. Unless you mean the deep v neck cut version. Then we should ask Norma what she thinks.

    • Leila says:

      I’m so glad you feel that way about the order of the swimalong. Katie and I went back and forth on how to present it and we didn’t include everything that we thought to talk about. That woman is amazing and very easy to work with. I love her.

  2. Theresa in Mérida says:

    Great post! Looking great is not wearing a burkini! It’s fit and proportions that are all important! Being short and curvy it irritates me that short people are always advised to wear blah blah because it makes you look taller, or don’t wear this because it makes you look shorter. Well, if you really want to look taller then move to the Yucatan because at 5’2″ I am tall here!

    I often see young girls here who have gorgeous bodies wearing knit tops that are so tight that they instantly have rolls. No one looks good with rolls around their middle. Clothes that fit and skim are flattering on everyone.

    I don’t like a bunch of ruffles on my blouses, but more because it makes me feel out of balance, and it looks costumey on me. I don’t like to exaggerate my bust but I am not ashamed of it either!

    As for tankinis and little skirts on your swimsuit, those don’t work for me because I actually get into the water. Have you ever jumped into a pool with a tankini? The top billows up! I don’t like halter tops because they are uncomfortable to me, they don’t seem to give me the support that I want. Those skinny straps dig into my neck!

    I think that we are on the same page!


    • Leila says:

      sounds like we are on the same page. It’s a mix of what the culture and the time and your personal taste dictate. And that can all change.

  3. Betsy says:

    That is a great tutorial about converting an underwire into a bathing suit top.
    I’m sewing an old bra into a bad fitting suit now, just by hand and adjusting the back of the suit.

    I may try this adding a sort of empire ‘skirt’ that drops down from the bottom of the bra.

    Back in the 1960’s there were cotton suits with tops made like bras, with push up action and padding. Great fit. No reason why a suit shouldn’t be like a good bra.
    Some knit cami tops have cup bras and could be altered.

    Some nice fitting sports bras are already in bright colors and stretchy. They could have appliques of swimsuit fabric and a matching bottom attached.

    It is said that a print bottom is more flattering than a solid. Breaks up the lines.


    • Theresa in Mérida says:

      Bali bras used to make wonderful swimwear separates in cup sizes! You paid what was then an astronomical amount of money per piece (I think $20 usd, remember minimum wage was $1.25 an hour then, I charged 50c an hr to babysit) but the suits were fantastic! You had a choice of tops and bottoms.


    • Leila says:

      I never knew I could get a swimsuit with a bra inside. Looks like now I can find one RTW but of course, I’m curious to sew one instead of just buy one.

  4. chuleenan says:

    Love the tankini – as well as your thoughtful observations on flattering fit vs. covering up/concealing. Thanks for all the info!

    • Leila says:

      My suit now is a tankini but this year I’m thinking I’ll make a two piece just to have one. Who knows if I’d wear it.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post.

  5. Suheiry says:

    I like her better in the two-piece. It’s actually more flattering. Plus she has amazing curves. I’m psyched about the SwimAlong. I spent the last few weeks shopping around for swimsuits made for full busted girls (I’m a 34DD). I needed them asap for my honeymoon in two weeks. I finally found some brands I like (I posted about it here http://suheiry.blogspot.com/2013/06/5-brands-that-make-swimsuits-for-full.html). I can’t wait to make one when I get back!

    • Leila says:

      Those suits are gorgeous. Great roundup! And yeah, Georgina does look better in her two piece. I think the tankini looks a little tame for her. It’s interesting what flatters. I’d be looking for a 32GG which is impossible to find in town but easier online.

  6. Liz says:

    In Oprah’s staff’s defense, the stores they were shopping in don’t *have* suits that will fit people bigger than B-cups.

  7. Brooke says:

    (Let’s see if I can remember what I wanted to comment right after I first read this earlier today…)

    YES! I totally agree that it is more about fitting and proper proportions than it is about covering up everything you dislike about your body! So many women are still stuck on size labels to the point of not using their eyes when looking in the mirror. (I’ve touched a little on this fact before.) Forget size labels, including those on sewing patterns. (I need to do another blog post about fit/sizing soon…)

    Anyone can look “fat” when wearing something (especially spandex) too tight – if you look like you are going to pop a seam if you sit or move too fast, it’s too small! And that’s never flattering. (You are correct, those Oprah before&afters are awful!)

    Many of the clients I have sewn for over the years bring me the most unflattering for them patterns; and sadly, there is no convincing them of this (it would require many therapy sessions). I always know right away what part of their bodies they are most self-conscious about because that is the most covered up. Over-covering usually brings more attention to the body part they are trying to hide because it is the wrong solution. Camouflage and diverting the eye with details away from disliked body part works so much better!

    I love the fact that you focus on fitting your clothes and don’t try to hide what you are! (Keep preaching it!) You are a thousand times more confident and more beautiful because of it!

    • Leila says:

      Brooke, comments like these are what made me like you when we first met. You’re right! Anyone can look “fat” when wearing ill fitting clothes. So true, so true. The size thing affected me after having my 2nd baby. I had always been one size/shape and all of a sudden I was very different from that. It’s not about size but about fit.

  8. sweary sewer says:

    okay, my question isn’t directly related to this post, only tangentially, but i wasn’t sure where to ask.

    b/c you are the bestest mcbestest, you know i am making the bombshell swimsuit and my question relates to boob shape and bra/boobage carrier type.

    if i’ve got full on the bottom boobs, which of the two top parts of the bombshell swimsuit do you think would be more flattering? (i would ask the lady that made the pattern, but you can’t comment on her site.) i have a feeling that the bandeau one would be more flattering, b/c i feel like the other one (triangle shaped one) would draw attention to how low my boobage sits on my frame. do you agree?

    • Leila says:

      yay for the Bombshell pattern! And I think this is the perfect place to ask this question. I’m glad you brought it up.

      I think either view will flatter. I’m actually hoping to make the triangle top halter first or second- not sure yet. But I say either would flatter because the halter ties would hold you up and in place. At least my bewbs will go where they’re told. 🙂 So, I’m guessing that as long as I have enough support with a lot of spandex (20%) in the swim fabric, it should work. I also have full on the bottom bewbs and if I have enough support and bra cups I think I should be okay. The suit is drafted with negative ease which means it’ll already hold you in pretty snug. However, make the one that you feel most comfortable with because that’s the one you’ll look best in. I’ll still trace both so you can test them both out.

      • sweary sewer says:

        my boobage isn’t massive: they’re only 34Bs, so i’m not concerned with them being held up, per se. (plus, they are still quite perky, given my age.)

        i think it’s more about optical illusions. when i was looking at the seller modelling the suit (i think that’s her, right?), and it was the same woman in the two different styles, it seemed to me like the triangle version seemed to make her boobs look lower down. so i thought, if my boobs are already lower down in that they are full on the bottom ones, maybe the bandeau style would be better..?

        i think i might be overbloodythinking this.

        again. o_O

        thank you for everything! xxx

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