Privilege Blog

Mad Dogs And Englishwomen: How To Buy A Swimsuit In The Wintertime

My family has a tradition of winter trips to warm places. Usually warm places by the seaside, where, with any luck, we swim.

Here’s the thing. Have you ever noticed how swimsuits seem to age even when they’re just drawer-warming? How suits that looked great in August become unwearable by December? What’s up with that? And it’s hard to find warm weather gear in cold weather times.

Therefore, in preparation for this year’s trip, I thought I’d run to Nordstrom. I imagined myself emerging victorious, with one of the suits below clutched to my breast. Nordstrom is almost always my go-to store when I really need a functional piece of clothing.

But no. Had I wanted to wear a cashmere scarf in the water, I’d have been all set, but turns out swimsuit stock is really, really low.  The closest I came was this, in an XS. Comes with wide straps, more sophisticated than it appears in the photo.

Floral Seamed Tank from Nordstrom

But, the photo is correct in that my bustline shot from the top of the suit like something about to pop. Never mind.

My daughter, who accompanied me on the expedition,  found this. She looked so cute I bought it for her, which was gratifying, but not the plan.

Long Line Bikini

So I have concluded, as I suggested here but ignored myself, online is the best place to find a mid-winter swimsuit. And here’s a new thought. What about Zappos? Why Zappos? They sell more than shoes. And their free shipping, free returns, and incredibly reliable and fast delivery might work perfectly in the last-minute, need-something, has-to-fit dance of swimsuit shopping.

So next year, when warm waters call and leg elastics fray in a chorus of “No, no, no,” please remind me what I said here. I thank you kindly, in advance. And if you have any good tricks, I’m listening.

A Few More Bathing Suits (Or Swimsuits If You Prefer) For Your Spring Vacation

This post is neither sponsored nor published at the behest of Nordstrom or Zappos. Affiliate links may generate commissions.

46 Responses

  1. I always buy swimsuits online from Net-A-Porter, either Melissa Odabash or Eres. Just got a great black one piece from Eres. Yes, I have noticed that swimsuits seem to decay even when sitting doing nothing.

    1. @kathy, And do you find the return/shipping policies of NAP to be flexible and fast enough for someone who, ahem, left this to the last minute?

  2. Norma Kamali swimsuits are so glamorous, I like Kathy’s choices best of all but next year someone has to stop me from buying a white one again, they end up stained from sunscreen after only a few wears, such a waste of money.

  3. Just yesterday I was commenting to someone how weird it is that swimsuits sort of decay just sitting in the drawer! It’s so true! I always start shopping online around this time for spring. has some real beauties right now.

  4. Hmmm, I haven’t actually found that with my swimsuits and I usually get a couple of years’ wear from them, at least. Perhaps just because I so dislike shopping for them, but I wonder if it might be because most of my swimming isn’t in chlorine but in saltwater. . . Given the grey skies and rain, rain, rain around here, I’m a teensy bit envious of your tropical getaway. But mostly happy for you and wishing you a lovely time together with your fmaily.

  5. I also like Lands End. I have the one I bought in the mid-90s and I still wear it. Its longevity is amazing. They are not the fanciest swimsuits, but they are good value for the money and the bottom elastic stays where it is supposed to be.

  6. I’m not in the best swimsuit shape of my life (what a surprise), so I seldom shop for them. My stalwart is YEARS old now and I haven’t noticed any decay. And it does mostly get to sit in a drawer. I liked all the selections you have shown. Good luck. I can especially see the scuba suit on you. It looks very Sturdy Gal.

  7. I like Lands End for swimsuits, too. I’ve had other swimsuits decay, disintegrate, really, but never one of theirs. I attribute the decay to chlorine, even though I always rinse immediately and then wash.

    That blue swimsuit is beautiful! I love Zappos, too, have bought all my shoes and my sons’ shoes there for years.

    Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!

  8. I just got a catalog from Land’s End with swim suits. They’re ready for Winter trips to warmer climates. Having had surgery for breast cancer I appreciate that they offer suits with varying degrees of chest coverage and that are also available in regular suits so you aren’t left wearing a suit that’s all black or screams post-surgery.

  9. Oooh, I like that scuba suit! As the others have said, it’s always summer somewhere, so order away. Anyway I prefer trying them on at home!

    Another What’s With That: You can return a swimsuit that came by mail but not the ones you get at a dept. store.

  10. Big Lands’ End fan, too! I love that they have coordinated pieces – top/bottom/skirt/rash guard – all you need for a day at the beach or on the boat.

  11. As an australian, I consider myself a bit of a swimwear aficionado. Seafolly and Jets are my go to brands, but there is a newish line Isola by Megan Gale which I’m liking. Always order on line and review in the safety of my bedroom mirror.

  12. I had the same problem one year and the Nordstrom SA told me she goes to Old Navy for swimsuits in winter! I took her advice and was pleasantly surprised by the selection. I don’t see a ton there right now, but there are definitely some options.

  13. I’m a lap swimmer, so I go through a few a year. That does give you a clue that I’m more interested in function than cuteness. I need a long torso and take a look at both Lands End and LL Bean. Recently I have been having better luck at LL Bean, because I like some of their prints. And I always order 2 so I have one as backup when one shoots the elastic out overnight.

  14. I’ve bought several suits at Swim ‘n Sport during non-summer times of year. I wouldn’t have thought of Zappos either. Good to know!

  15. I have always found that the resort destinations themselves have the best swimsuit selections- year ’round…everything from Lily Pullitzer style prints, to no-nonsense types for competitive athletes. You will have more than enough to chose from, and honestly….you were going to go into those shops anyway, weren’t you? Maybe a pareo, too???

  16. I’m a Lands End fan too, especially for swimsuits for exercise swimming at the gym pool.
    But I did discover last winter that I had much better success finding pretty swimsuits (and in my plus-size, which I was worried most about) when I waited to buy it once I got to my warmer destination. I spent an hour at the department store trying them on, and boom, I was set for the rest of the trip. Plus, it’s warm and sunny there, and you’re ready to go to the pool. You’re not tugging on swimsuits out of a cold box with hairy legs and socks on. (Too descriptive?)

    I will never buy a swimsuit in the winter in Chicago again, now that I know that trick. :)

  17. I usually buy swimsuits from Title 9. They make suits that do NOT ride up on the rear end! Also, they last. Don’t know if they have any for sale at this time of the year, but they might in their “sale” section. (also, I buy tankinis as I find they fit better, but look like a one piece)

  18. I took a Lands End swimsuit plus rash guard to Hawaii for the first time. I actally had two bottoms, one with a skirt and one with boy shorts. I wore the shorts the whole time. The top was a tankini which worked well because of my long torso. I had also bought a coverup, but then forgot to pack it. Oh well.

  19. Patagonia and Title Nine ALWAYS have suits and T9 has a wide selection of tankinis and bikinis. My Patagonia suits last; I have some that are four years old and spandex and colors are in great shape. I almost always purchase at end of season and save for the next summer, so I have never experienced the mysterious disintegrating suit. Prana has some beautiful suits as well .
    I buy my lap suits from Zappos, 6pm and Sierra Trading Post. They have deep discounts on Speedo and Tyr.
    Try Garnet Hill as well; they have a a good collection of one and two piece suits, their own line, Kenneth Cole, Calvin Klein and others. Enjoy your seaside vacation!

  20. I agree with the comments here, and I prefer to order suits to try on at home. When I had a pool, my suits tended to have short lives. The suits I purchased this past summer are in good shape still, perhaps because I swam in lakes or my brother’s salt water pool. Hope you have found something wonderful.

  21. Just the thought of trying on and buying a bathing suit in the winter gives me a case of the heebee jeebies! Pasty/flabby here I come!
    In some ways, I wish I could go back to the 1920’s and the wonderful pics I have of my grandma in her [very] covered up swimsuit! She was a daring lady!

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