We beach-tested the most flattering one-piece swimsuits

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Introducing The Kit’s new editor-tested shopping awards, the Shop Smart Guide. The idea is simple: Every month, The Kit editors exhaustively test-drive items in desert-island categories — not the season’s exciting yet ephemeral trends but the evergreen essentials you’re most likely to buy now and wear or use forever. We’re talking mascara, jeans, retinol serum, red lipstick, white sneakers, etc. Our hope is that Shop Smart helps you reach that mythic shopping ideal: to buy less but better. Here, our guide to black turtlenecks.

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Much has been said about the deep unpleasantness of swimsuit shopping, how the fluorescent lighting, piles of discards and someone chirping, “How are you doing in there?” through a flimsy curtain is enough to make even the most devoted water baby shudder. That’s why I actually…like online swimsuit shopping, so long as I’ve done a whole lot of research in advance and am fully prepared to return whatever does not suit. That’s exactly what I’ve tried to do for you here—for this test drive, I ordered piles and piles of suits to try on in the comfort of my own warmly lit bedroom, and paid attention to all the details you’d want to know about.

Only the suits that passed that initial test came with me to Antigua, for my first beach vacation in years. There, they received the true test drive treatment: long days of wear, the all-important water opacity test, ride-up observation, pool vs. salt water exposure, a variety of activities from mini golf with my 4-year-old to solo beach bar cocktails (bliss!), and various cover-ups added and removed. Plus, selfies, to check the fit and effect…and include below so you can see these suits on a real person. (Insert sweating smiley face emoji here. Pro tip, after much trial and error: The self-timer method is key. I propped my phone against a tree!) A few housekeeping items: I’m 5 foot 3, wearing a size medium in all of these styles, and judged them based on comfort, decent bum coverage, bust support and general attractiveness.

Read on to find out which ones made the cut.

Left on Friday Peak Swimsuit, $200, leftonfriday.com

Left on Friday Peak Swimsuit, $200, leftonfriday.com SHOP HERE

Winner: Left on Friday

The price: $200

The sizes: XS to XXL, with two length options for regular or tall torsos.

The colours: Seven, including rust, fuchsia, Baywatch red and bright white.

The review: I actually generally prefer a bikini to a one-piece swimsuit—the support of well-fitted bikini top, the feeling of a breeze on my midsection. This suit from Vancouver-based Left on Friday truly offers the best of both worlds. The bralette-style top gives lift and hold (no cups required), the cutout reveals just the top part of the trunk, the back is alluringly low, and the lower part fits like a really high-waist bikini bottom. Plus, it covers the rear just enough to feel comfy but a tiny bit cheeky. The fabric is matte and opaque and extremely soft—the brand has coined it “Smoothing Dream Fabric” and it does live up to that lofty descriptor; it’s made in Italy and is designed to resist fading from sun or chlorine as well as snags from sitting on rough surfaces. It feels terrific against the skin even when worn from breakfast till dusk, no uncomfortable seams or straps digging in. Actually, it feels more like wearing underwear than swimwear. The shade I wore is the colour of sunlight at golden hour—endlessly summery. The price point is on the higher end, but I think it’s worth the investment.

Knix High Energy OnePiece Swimsuit, $115, knix.ca.

Knix High Energy OnePiece Swimsuit, $115, knix.ca SHOP HERE

Best sporty but sexy suit: Knix

The cost: $115

The sizes: XS to XXXXL

The colours: Black, royal blue and this electric pink

The review: As soon as I put on this suit I felt like I was ready to throw down in some intense beach volleyball competition. I may not possess Gabrielle Hamilton’s spiking skills or XX-long muscled limbs, but I did feel dressed for the part—especially in this energizing warm pink colour. The beauty of this suit is that it can be extremely sporty and practical, with the chunky plastic zip pulled all the way to the top, or sporty-sexy in a 1980s Elle McPherson kind of way, with the zip down revealing a slice of well-supported cleavage. (Note: The zip can stay up about 1/3 way down, for a small peek of skin, but I felt it worked best all the way up or all the way down; it also has removable cups.) The fabric is firm and smooth and really holds you in, whether you’re bodysurfing or diving for a toddler’s errant beach ball. After about six hours I felt ready to take it off and put on looser undergarments, but until then it made me feel toned, tanned and terrific.

Gap Recycled Tank One-Piece Swimsuit, $85, gapcanada.ca

Gap Recycled Tank One-Piece Swimsuit, $85, gapcanada.ca SHOP HERE

Best simple swimsuit: Gap

The cost: $85

The sizes: XXS to XXL

The colours: 10, including neon red, black and various floral prints (some of which are on sale right now)

The review: Sometimes, the best suit is the simplest one. This Gap maillot fits that bill. With a flattering but not revealing scooped neckline, internal shelf with removable cups, narrow straps, mid back and medium cheek coverage, it’s like your perfect, throw-under-everything tank top made into a swimsuit. It’s also made of 85 per cent recycled nylon, with 15 per cent Spandex for stretch, and is fully lined for a smoothing effect. I have it in both cheerful grass green and delightfully nautical navy and white stripes, and I know I’ll be pulling both of them out for city pool trips and seaside vacations for years to come.

Andie The Malibu Swimsuit, $152, andieswim.com

Andie The Malibu Swimsuit, $152, andieswim.com SHOP HERE

Most fashionable swimsuit: Andie

The price: $151

The sizes: XS to XXXL, in classic or long torso lengths

The colours: Seven, including black, navy, plum, clay and bright white, with ribbed or glossy nylon fabric options

The review: This swimsuit feels like an outfit. When you’re reclining on a pool lounger or walking into the water for a dip, you feel elegant, put together, even if the only other accessory you have on is a ratty hair tie. Later, when you throw on a pair of linen trousers to go and sip a margarita at sunset, you feel positively street-style worthy. With its super-opaque ribbed fabric (90 per cent nylon, 10 per cent Spandex), optic white hue and wide-strap tank design with silver snaps, it looks well-made and more like clothing than swimwear. An internal shelf at the ribcage (plus removable cups) offers some structure, especially when the snaps are at least half done up, and the rear coverage is generous. I probably could have sized down—also I’m a little short-waisted and feel this would be even better on someone with a longer torso. The design is surprisingly versatile and practical—you can customize how deep your neckline is, and when you get sunburned on your first day it provides a nice amount of coverage on your shoulders and upper back. (Yes, this happened to me, and I was very glad to have this suit.) You do need to be careful of sunscreen smears and dirty beach chairs, a hazard of a matte white suit, but smudges washed off easily in the sink when I got back from the beach.

Tanya Taylor Swimsuit, $276, tanyataylor.com

Tanya Taylor Swimsuit, $276, tanyataylor.com SHOP HERE

Prettiest floral swimsuit: Tanya Taylor

The cost: $276

The sizes: XS to 3X

The colours: Two floral prints, this one and a navy, red and yellow version.

The review: Do you like to spend all summer in floaty floral sundresses? Then this beautiful swimsuit in a custom hand-painted print is the one for you. From Canadian, New York–based fashion designer Tanya Taylor comes this periwinkle-blue printed suit that’s pretty without being cloying, thanks to modern design details like a deep-V neckline (with removable cups) and high-cut legs. (The bottom coverage is still generous, though.) The wrap detail draws attention to the waist from both the front and back—you can tie it as tightly as you like—and adds a touch of fashion-y flair that feels more special than your usual suit. The fabric is silky smooth, and it’s made of 78 per cent recycled polyamide (with 28 per cent Elastane), proving you can use upcycled materials and still get a designer feel and finish. It’s too pretty to put a cover-up over top.

Selfish Swimwear Swimsuit, $160, selfishswimwear.com

Selfish Swimwear Swimsuit, $160, selfishswimwear.com SHOP HERE

Best Canadian-made suit: Selfish Swimwear

The price: $160

The sizes: S to XXL

The colours: Black and deep purple-brown

The review: This handmade-in-Montreal number is basically an LBD in swimsuit form. It makes me feel so glamorous, not in a glitzy “I wear high heels to the pool” way (though you could! You do you), but in a “my Hermès flats are tucked into my straw market bag” way. Simple and streamlined with a cutout design and beautifully supportive silhouette that does not need cup inserts, it features a mesh detail at the back that is supremely elegant and also quite alluring. The body fabric feels ultra-smooth and is made up of 78 per cent recycled nylon fibres from Italy with 22 per cent Lycra. Selfish Swimwear founder Naomie Caron guarantees its longevity, specifically the stitches for the first year, and offers a repair service after that. It’s also very comfy, for swimming, for lunching, for chasing after small children on the beach. Fully lined at the front and back, it doesn’t move around, it doesn’t constrict and it doesn’t ride up. You can almost forget you’re wearing it, which makes it the most chic descriptor of all: effortless.

Rani Sheen is executive editor of The Kit. She writes about beauty and culture. Reach her on email: [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @ranisheen


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