Best Swimsuits for Small Busts – How to Shop for Bathing Suits

It’s fitting that Paris Hilton dropped her latest single, “Best Friend’s Ass,” as I was writing about how difficult I find shopping for swimsuits. Bikini sets never fit me quite right. I was always—and still am—larger on the bottom than I am up top, which meant if a string bikini (the silhouette of the early aughts) fit across my butt, the accompanying triangles would sit like deflated balloons across my chest. (I remember illicitly mixing and matching swim separates in the store, hoping a salesperson wouldn’t notice. To them, I apologize.)

The thing is, I always thought my behind was the culprit, what prevented me from being able to wear whatever swimsuit was of the moment (like the Burberry bikini Beyonce wore in 2003, which I wanted so bad). I never considered that perhaps what’s up top—or rather, what isn’t—was kind of, maybe the real obstacle.

Let me confirm: Though I’m a size 34A, I do not want bigger boobs. I never have. What I have wanted, however, is the ability to wear whatever style of bathing suit I’d like, regardless of cup size. When it comes to swim bottoms, you can simply size up. The same cannot be said for tops: With so many different cuts—triangle, bandeau, halter, underwire, tankini—achieving the perfect fit requires a little more experimentation, trial and error, and even some expert advice.

Over the years I’ve found my old reliables: the backless one-piece that’s the ideal balance of skin and coverage; the ruched tankini that looks more like a shirt than a piece of swimwear; the teeniest, totally unlined scoop-neck that gets balanced out with an extra-high-waist bottom. But that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied. That’s why I talked to designer Roxana Salehoun; Sidway founder Sarah Sidway Godshaw; Solid & Striped design director Amelia Lindquist; and Lively CEO and founder Michelle Cordeiro Grant and director of retail Sam Foster. I wanted their expertise on achieving that perfect fit when you have small boobs. Here’s what they had to say.

Show off what you’ve got. First, it’s important to remember that having a small bust can be an asset (and, let’s be honest, way less of a pain to shop for than a DD+ cup). Instead of thinking about all the cups you can’t fill, consider all of the low-cut necklines and more revealing styles you can without feeling overexposed. Feel free to skip the underwire or padding, Cordeiro Grant and Foster say, if the support isn’t necessary. No longer does your first thought need to be How can I make my bust look larger? However, if that is the look you want to achieve…

Fake it till you make it. To give the illusion of larger breasts, pay close attention to gaping—it’s a sign you should size down, Cordeiro Grant and Foster say. Styles like a triangle, tie-front, or halter can make your bust appear bigger than it actually is. Adjustable straps help too.

Go up a cup size. If your aim is to add a little something extra, opt for the tried-and-true classic: the padded cup. But you don’t need to go overboard. Sidway Godshaw recommends trying light padding via a balconette style or tops that allow you to slide in and layer removable cups. That way, you can control how much you’re adding so it feels both comfortable and natural.

Ahead, shop the best swimsuits for small boobs for summer 2019.

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