The best slimming swimsuits of 2013
Aquabelle ($59, amazon.com)
This eye-fooling champ holds you in with a reinforced panel; the cross-body stripes visually nip in the waist. Even better: thewallet-friendly price!
Trimmed tummies by up to 1.75"
Tommy Bahama ($142)
Retro in a good way, this one-piece excelled at concealing tummies, but it was the "adorable" and "fun" patterns that really wowed testers. Who knew dots and stripes could be so slimming?
De-bulged bellies by up to 1.75"
Tops for curvy figures
From left: Miraclesuit ($152, amazon.com), Lands' End ($119)
The minimizing powers of these cleverly constructed suits impressed testers. Underwires in the iris-hued classic at left boost bigger busts, and comfy compression fabric in the suit at right streamlines without pinching.
Miraclesuit whittled waists by up to 2". Lands' End honed hips by up to 1.5"
Small bust booster
Tommy Bahama ($147, amazon.com)
If you're teeny on top, this bandeau style's shirring and central bow will add oomph. Don't fear the bold print — the color-swirled paisley is "good camouflage" for wobbly bits, raved testers.
Slimmed tummies by up to 3/25"
Best for smaller busts
Tommy Bahama ($147)
Soft-focus ikat stripes and a down-to-there plunge pull eyes away from trouble zones.
Best for thicker waists
Miraclesuit ($138, amazon.com)
The cross-body shirring manages your middle; the higher-cut leg line helps elongate gams.
Best for va-va-voom curves
Penbrooke ($88, amazon.com)
Hello, bombshell: The skirt detail — very vintage glam — covers the butt and tops of thighs.
Best for pear shapes
Sporty but chic: A checker-board print guides the gaze above your waist.
Best for athletic builds
Aqua Sphere ($85)
For serious swimmers who want subtle shaping and minimal frills (here, the coral piping).
How we tested
Sure, a suit can look great on you, but how does it hold up after 25 dips in a chlorinated pool or a summer's worth of sun exposure? What happens if you accidentally wash it with bleach? GHRI Textiles Lab Director Carolyn FortÃ© put the contenders through a battery of challenging tests to find out. Here's the skinny.
1. Figure Flattery
Ten real-woman testers of various sizes and body types tried on each of the 22 suits and completed a questionnaire, scoring the garments for fit, style, and slimming impact. Then five testers tried on each of the 10 top-rated ones, and before-and-after measurements were taken to see how many inches the suits cinched away.
We soaked fabric samples taken from each of the 22 suits in solutions that mimicked sweat, seawater, and chlorinated pool water. Using an industry Gray Scale, we compared and graded the original and resulting hues. GHRI pros screened for fading in sunlight and pigment transfer (we rubbed dry and wet white cloths against a suit 40 times to see if color came off).
Just about all the suits showed excellent abrasion resistance, many enduring 1,000-plus cycles on a Taber Abraser machine before developing a hole — happy news for anyone who wants a suit to last at least a few seasons. We also evaluated how well the fabrics snapped back into shape after being stretched out for two hours.