Katie’s Family-Friendly, Wave-Resistant Full Bust Swimsuit Reviews

Hooray for reader Katie’s response to my July 4th request for swimsuit reviews! And boy did she ever respond–in today’s guest post, you can read her reviews of two tankinis, two bikini tops, two one pieces and three different bottoms.

A week at the beach with my extended family and losing a good amount of weight between us meant DH and I both needed new swimsuits this year. He was happy with cheap board shorts from Kmart, but needless to say, that doesn’t quite work for me. After a good number of returns, I finally ended up with a couple of suits I was happy with . . .

I’m framing my reviews around the following criteria:

  • The top needed to support and contain enough that I wouldn’t have too many worries body surfing. Where we swim in Delaware can get pretty rough, especially since we were there right before Hurricane Arthur.
  • Fuller rear coverage
  • Enough overall coverage that I wouldn’t completely scandalize my PK/MK relatives
  • Fit–I normally wear a 28FF in Freya/28G in Panache, could definitely wear a 26 if they made them. Bottoms are usually a US 4, occasionally 2.
  • No particularly weird lines–while I don’t sunbathe, I do burn easily so I try to keep my lines consistent (and wear lots of high spf physical protection sunscreen)

Glide Performance Tankini Top, Blue, 30F

Glide Performance Tankini Short, Blue, 8 (UK) (Figleaves)

review glide tankini

This was utterly hopeless. I don’t know how it can be billed as athletic, or even in a 30 band. The 30 band felt more like a 34+, if not larger and so offered zero support. Also the non-adjustable bands were so long, I felt I had better shape from a camisole with a shelf-bra. The bottoms were nothing spectacular. I certainly didn’t like them enough to keep them and try and find a top to match. Run, don’t walk away from this set.

For a sporty swimsuit in a smaller band size, I would just spend the money and get the Freya or Panache athletic suits, they actually look supportive.

Cleo Lucille Bandeau Top, 28G (Bravissimo)

Cleo Lucille review

I normally do not wear Cleo bras so I was guessing on band size. It ended up being *very* snug. I’m not sure if it is this style that runs so snug or the brand since my other Cleo suit is much more comfortable. I also did not trust it not to slide down when hit by a well-placed wave. There was a good bit of tissue exposed up top, apparently by design. It’s not a half-cup shape, but the way it pushes up the tissue felt like it. Definitely not my-family-friendly or wave-friendly.

AquaLuxe High Waisted Bottom, Mint Green, Small (Athleta)

High waist should be in quotes. I used to wear their standard swim short, and I felt that came just as high. It felt like good material and the color went with the piping on the Lucille, but it came 2” below my navel, at just the wrong place to be flattering. I wanted something with a higher rise, so it went back. I know I should have known better since it doesn’t reach the model’s waist, but I thought being short would make a difference. (Aside, has anyone else noticed that even Modcloth’s high waisteds are usually hitting the same place on their models? Maybe this is a more wide-spread definition of high waist . . . .) Note, the fabric is a bit shimmery.

Ocean Park Swimsuit, Red, 4 (Shabby Apple)

shabby apple ocean park 2

I ordered this to make DH happy since I was skeptical it would be flattering. Unfortunately, it offered zero support since it just had liner cups and not enough coverage to even sit around (for me). It’s a shame because it is a *really* cute suit. No complaints on the construction, and I recommended it to a friend. All of Shabby Apple’s suits seam to either to have a shelf bra or, more commonly, two molded cup-like things (not much actual shaping, more for coverage). If you can find a non-obtrusive swim bra/bikini top in a coordinating color, they may be worth a look if you like that aesthetic or want a more conservative but still cute suit. I really wish this one and their Coastline would work. They are a completely different style than you normally see in the market.

Panache Nancy Tankini Top, Nautical Print, 30G (Figleaves/purchased Summer 2013)

Panache Nancy tankini review front and side

Loved this last year. It fit fine then but since then I’ve changed size and shape and it’s just okay. It was my back-up this year if I couldn’t find another suit to work a little better. Properly fitted, it holds up great in the waves and I got compliments on it. I wore old bottoms so not really worth commenting more on that. The rings do give a funny tanline if you aren’t careful with the sunscreen, something to keep in mind.

Bravissimo Santorini 30F (Bravissimo)

Bravissimo Santorini review

 It was definitely not my normal shape, and the original fit was even worse than it is now. The cups looked both too small and too large at the same time. I ended up stitching the cups together another 1-1.25” above the wires to give me better shape and support. Even now that I altered it, I’m not super thrilled but DH says it looks fine. I may ended up passing this one off to my mom since it is likely wave-friendly and it fit her well. The Santorini didn’t actually make it into the water since I liked the Pippa and Revival so much and we avoided swimming once Arthur got close enough to have a real effect on the waves.

Revival Underwired Sweetheart Padded Bikini Top, Black, 28FF (Figleaves)

Fables by Barrie Frannie Super High Waisted bottoms, Black and White, Small (etsy)

(Note how much the band rides up.)

(Note how much the band rides up.)

This was a compromise. I hate that almost all swimsuits that come in a 28 band are plunge or else like the Lucille. I simply do not trust that shape to keep everything contained. Ideally, I’d like the cups of the Revival to cover a little more than they do, but it was enough that I was reasonably comfortable. The gore is wider that I expected with Freya, not excessively wide but definitely wider than the Gem/Luisa/Loretta/etc. that I normally wear. There’s something vaguely midcentury to the design that I really liked. I mostly bobbed around and dove under waves in this, and it held up just fine. I’m not sure I would be confident actually riding any waves. My main complaints are that the band is even stretchier than the standard Freya band and I had to shorten the straps all the way (which admittedly, is only 1-2” more than I normally do).

I *love* the Fables bottoms by Barrie Franny–they are incredibly flattering and comfortable. I’m not sure it’s really super high waisted since it hits right at my natural waist, and I’m on the petite side already. The white does get a bit sheer when wet, but the band is high enough that it’s not indecent. The construction is good. The bow came partially untacked after being battered by waves but it’s an easy fix with a ball point hand needle. Fables sells through their own site and through Etsy. They also sell through Modcloth and Unique-Vintage, but you are going to spend more and neither carry the full line. Next time, I would rinse the bottoms well in cold water before wearing since I think the white looks a little darker now, possibly from dye, but that could be my imagination.

Cleo Pippa Bandeau Swimsuit, 28FF (Ebay/Summer 2013)

Cleo Pippa one piece review

This was an Ebay gamble. The seller said she only wore it twice in a pool so I at least knew it could survive getting wet. It’s a snug band, but nowhere near as bad as the Lucille. The sailboat print is cute, but farther away the detail is lost and just looks geometric. Not a problem, just something to be aware of. I do need the straps for assurance in the waves, but I think swimming around a pool would mean they are unnecessary. I’m not sure how much the straps really do, they are pretty thin and only attach to small loops in the front. It would be nice if they crossed and hooked in the back, just for more security. No real complaints otherwise. It held up fine in the ocean which was my main concern. The torso does feel a little on the long side to me, but I do have a short torso.

DD Cup and Up Swim Brands: A. Ché and Janine Robin

Both brands say they only go to an F cup, but it’s worth second-guessing the sizing of any swimwear brand that claims to fit above a D.  For example, can you guess the bra sizes that the following models say they wear?

A. Ché  Model Bra Sizes

The A. Ché model on the left says that she wears a 32B. The A. Ché model on the right says that she wears a 34C. The company rep thought the model on the right should wear a 34D.

janine robin model bra size

The Janine Robin model says that she wears a 34C/32D.

Here’s some background information about each company.

 A. Ché

I only discovered A. Ché in Sarasota last year, but the company is in its fifth year, and it is a subsidiary of the bra manufacturing company Parisa, which has been in the business for 30+ years. Amanda Ché, the designer, is actually the daughter of Parisa’s owner, Amir Ché. The company is based in north L.A. All designing is done in California, and all manufacturing is done in China.

A. Ché uses sister sizing for the cups plus tie backs for the bands to reduce the amount of SKU’s required for all the possible band/cup combinations. Because the largest set of underwires will fit cup sizes D, DD, E and F, Amir Ché said that it is unlikely to accommodate a G or H cup.  Their size guide is confusing and seems to utilize +4″ for the band, so I tend to believe him that their suits won’t fit a British H. However, given the model’s reported bra sizes, I wouldn’t be surprised if FF and G cups could slip into their swimsuit tops.

a che back tie

Here’s a closeup of the tie back for one of the underwired bikini tops. The straps are wide at the shoulders and also removable. There is side boning.

A. Ché  shirred one piece

A. Ché  shirred one piece back

Janine Robin

I fell in love with this company the very first time I attended Curve, but I have yet to find their swimsuits in a store in the United States.  Janine Robin considers itself  “bra-fit oriented”, and their patterns go through a fit certification process. They’re a French company,  so you know the fit for a G+ is going to be sketchy, which is super sad because the attention to detail in these suits is super great. Just in case you find one of their suits, here’s why you should try it on in case it will fit:

    • hardware is a zinc alloy that won’t rust, absorb heat or break
    • all bikinis have adjustable straps
    • hand-sewn gathers along the underwire
    • foam cups that are water-resistant so that you’re not “wearing a sponge”
    • microfiber fabric = UV protection and quickly air dries
    • bottoms have a band at the waist that won’t give a muffin top or fold over (unless that’s the style)
    • bottoms “cup rather than cut the derriere”–they noticed that most women don’t need help with extra bulges in the front bikini leg area, so that is flat; instead, most women need help in the back, so the bikini leg is ruched there

janine robin blue bikini back

janine robin blue bikini front

janine robin taupe drape one piece

jainine robin blue one piece

Full Bust Finds: DD Cup and Up Swimsuits in Regular Department Stores

If you need a suit in a hurry, don’t discount department stores. As I discovered on Monday, we’re not always limited to specialty boutiques or online ordering.

Find #1: Next by Athena

Yesterday I mentioned how nice it would be for the Shoshanna rash guard to have princess seams and a front zipper. Then I found this zipped one-piece from Next!

next one piece small front

Following last year’s failed experiment of trying to wear my Elomi swim bra under tankinis from other brands, this suit could definitely cover a swim bra, although the seams would probably show through. This suit has absolutely no padding or support, and I’m wearing my ordinary size 34G Fantasie 4520 under a size Small swimsuit. The zipper is about ready to explode, so if I wore this in real life, I’d want to put some sort of lock in place. A medium would have been perfect, but there was none, so I tried the turquoise and navy in size Large next.

next one piece large aqua front

The fabric is not thick so this lighter color tends to show off every bump. The Shoshanna rash guard was made of a much higher quality fabric.

next one piece front navy

Zipped all the way up.

next navy front unzipped

Unzipped to a more flattering neckline–and no danger of an exploding zipper in this size. Also, seams from a swim bra are likely to be less obvious in this darker color.

You can find this suit on several websites, although it was on sale for just $45 at Lord & Taylor. Don’t you love this striped version? It was NOT at Lord & Taylor, but it’s available through Zappos for $65.

striped next by athena zip one piece

I’m also curious about their wrap tankini for a D up. Sizes 34D and 36D are available at 6PM for $47. Since we know soooo many women wear 34D and 36D before discovering their true size, I’m pretty sure this top could accommodate higher cups. If anything, it looks wearable for simply hanging out at home if it isn’t supportive enough for swimming in public.

next by athena wrap tankini d cup

Find #2: Coco Reef

This 36DD tankini from Coco Reef actually fit very well and was on sale for $55.

Coco Reef 36DD front

Plenty of room beneath the cups so there’s no boob bifurcation going on.

inside Coco Reef

The straps are adjustable (and you can see the clever drawstring element at the sides of the cups). The band isn’t adjustable, but you can see from this picture that it extends around the body.

Coco Reef is one of several bra-sized brands owned by Swimwear Anywhere. The others are Beach House (which I reported on last year with my swim bra experiment), Coco Rave (targets a younger market and has an adorable longline bikini top), Gabor, and Roxanne. Swimwear Anywhere may only have been around since 1998, but Roxanne has been around for much longer–I owned a 36C suit from them in high school and loved it! If you run into any of these brands, it’s worth giving them a try. (For an idea of how this company (mis)understands bra fit and why their suits can fit larger cup sizes, check out their recent ads for fit models.)

One last note–I wasn’t a fan of the profile that the molded cup style gave me, and I felt very squished into it.  I did like the tie back feature, however.

coco reef 36DD molded fail side

Find #3: Nautica Zip Front Tankini

Take this one with a giant grain of salt, but I couldn’t resist trying it on.

First in size 12, which was too loose, thereby depriving me of any benefit of compression support!

Nautica zip up tankini size 12

Next in size 8. I had to hoist my boobs up to where I wanted them, but they stayed in place after that.

nautica size 8 zip tankini front

This top would get an F by bra-fit standards because it doesn’t really encompass all of my side tissue and the lift is negligible, but it’s so cute!

nautica three qtrs size 8

You can see the pathetic little cup space below. PLEASE, full-bust companies, give us something cute like this that fits and supports!!!! I’ll take it in a tankini top, lounge top, and workout top version please!!!! By the way, the fabric for this top was fabulous–almost like neoprene.

nautica molded cup

What successes have you had recently with department store swimwear?

DD Cup and Up Swim Brands: Shoshanna Swimwear (and Shoshanna Dresses!)

Thanks to your answers to last year’s swimwear survey, I knew what to look for when Saint Bustier sponsored my Swim Show attendance in Miami last July. Before continuing, there’s one thing you should know–if we think that the lingerie industry is behind when it comes to understanding the full-bust market, the swimwear industry is waaaaay behind. Case in point:  I met the lovely Lorraine Morton, the designer and founder of Miss Mandalay. She wears a 30G bra, and her model wears a 30E. However, throughout her time at Swim Show, buyers kept telling Lorraine that she should wear a 38D and that her model should wear a 36B or C!

Lorraine’s approach to full-bust swimwear is everything we would want to see in a brand, but I’m going to start at the opposite end of the spectrum with a “full-bust” brand that would cause each and every one of us to get breast reductions if it were our only option. Shoshanna Gruss’s story is like most of ours. She grew up petite with large breasts and couldn’t find anything to fit. She began with a line of dresses (more on that below) and branched out into swimwear that goes all the way up to–gasp!–a DD.

When I saw the bikini tops at Swim Show, I wasn’t impressed, but since I was close to Lord & Taylor yesterday, I decided to try them because I’ve seen mainstream bra-sized swimwear that is only supposed to fit a DD actually fit a larger cup. Here are my 34G breasts in the Portland Paisley bandeau bikini top in size DD. I had to fasten it on the tightest hook, but incredibly, the fabric covered my breasts entirely. When I lifted my arms, there was no under-boob spillage.

dd shoshanna portland paisley tight necklineI LOVE the beaded tie, but it is killing my neck in this picture! Since I felt secure that the top wasn’t going anywhere, I loosened the tie, but the result isn’t pretty.

dd portland paisley bikini loose neck

I’m not sure what that strange fabric bulge is under my left arm. It may be the side boning, which I was pleased to see included in Shoshanna’s underwired bikini tops, but I’m not pleased to see it bulging out. I’m also not a fan of the side profile. However, if I forgot my swimming suit and had to pick one up at the last minute in a hotel gift store, I could be satisfied with this one.

dd portland bikini top side

Shoshanna’s wireless bikini tops are an entirely different story! The only reason I’m not flashing you in this picture is because I’m standing perfectly still. My boobs did NOT want to be wrangled into this DD halter top.

DD mediterranean geo print ring halter

But what I loved at Swim Show and what I loved again yesterday was the matching rash guard. I’m wearing it in size M below over the matching bikini top. I’d love it even more if it had princess seams and the zipper down the front instead of the back so that we could play with the neckline.  Happily I found a cheaper brand called Next that does just that, and tomorrow I’ll post pictures of it and other mainstream discoveries that I found at Lord & Taylor.

shoshanna mediterranean geo print rash guard

Since I had to fasten the DD on the tightest hook, I decided to try the same bandeau style in size D. As you would expect from a brand that doesn’t truly understand big bust needs, Shoshanna only grades at one level–up and down–instead of grading for different band and cup combinations. Therefore both the band and cup were smaller in size D, and I could barely fasten the loosest hook. I definitely feared underboob spillage if I lifted my arms.

Finally, here’s a tiny detail that I think shows the least understanding of what full-busted customers want. When I talk about the tightest and loosest hooks, I’m referring to actual bra hooks on the bikini tops.

shoshanna bikini bra hooks

Oh the indignity! You might think that this is the only option for offering customers an adjustable back (other than a tie back), but happily, you would be wrong.  The volleyball version of Rosa Faia’s Sea Gym bikini top offers a much more contemporary treatment of hooks. It’s not easy to see in the picture below, but the hooks and eyes are covered by fabric. Unfortunately, this style only goes up to a D cup, but if performance is important to you, check out the Rosa Faia C-H cup Sea Gym bikini, which has a J-hook option in back. I’ll be writing more about this brand later.

(To be fair, Shoshanna’s balconette style bikini tops use a traditional bikini clasp with different loop fastening length options, but this style wasn’t available for me to try.)

rosa faia sea gym back

Finally, the Shoshanna bikini tops that I’ve shown you retail for well over $100 and are currently on sale for $88-$99. Could you imagine if Panache or Fantasie tried to charge this much for such a low level of quality and structural design? Granted, the UK brands are made overseas, and Shoshanna is made in the United States, but if you’re going to make something in America, you need to ensure that the quality meets the customer’s expectations for the higher price.


Based on the Shoshanna swimwear lines, you could be forgiven for wondering if Shoshanna Gruss is actually large-busted. A quick Google image search assured me that she is. Fortunately, Shoshanna has done a better job of creating dresses for petite and busty bodies than she has of creating swimwear.

large bust shoshanna grus

I want to update you on Shoshanna dresses because when I wrote about them in 2009 (a strapless summer dress, double-breasted sheath dress and fluffy two-part dress), it was a struggle for me to fit a size 12. Yesterday I was able to fit the woven silk dress below in size 8, and I was able to fit a knit A-line dress in size 10, although the armholes in the latter were too tight to be comfortable.

34G size 8 shoshanna dress

According to the size chart on the Shoshanna website, I shouldn’t even be able to fit into a size 12, so I encourage you to try the dresses on instead of relying upon the chart. One more thing to note about Shoshanna dresses: they are very short-waisted. Since Shoshanna Gruss herself is petite, this makes sense. (For instance, the dress above is supposed to be a drop waist dress, but it’s not dropping anywhere on me!)

I really, really, really wanted to try this strapless Shoshanna gown, but unfortunately, it appears that Lord & Taylor is discontinuing Shoshanna dresses, so there’s a lot more available online than in the stores–I tried two of the only three dress styles that they had in stock!

DD cup up shoshanna strapless gownThere are also just a few more hours left of the Shoshanna sale on Gilt, and here are my two favorites. The dress on the left is only $79 (originally $340), and the dress on the right is only $69 (originally $375). If you’re not already a Gilt member, please use my referral link, and you can save another 30% if you enter the code GILT30 at checkout!

dd cup up favorite shoshanna dresses on gilt

Finally, other than the Shoshanna website itself, Shopbop is another good source for this brand. If you try or have tried any of the dresses, I’d love for you add to our knowledge base on how this brand fits!