As a plus-size fashion expert who focuses on fit and style — and who absolutely loves being in the water — swimwear is a favorite of mine. But I know firsthand that it is also a category that inspires a lot of shopping anxiety, especially when the best plus-size swim options are online only, meaning you never know what you are going to get.
Over the years, I’ve tested out a variety of internet-favorite curve-friendly brands to see what’s worth the money and what’s just hype. After a lot of trial and — more often than not — error, I have rounded up the best of the best plus-size swim, all personally wear-tested in and out of the water.
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Best Plus-Size Swim Collaboration: Gabi Fresh x Eloquii (Sizes 14-32)
Fashion loves to call something a “game-changer,” but, as anyone who knows their plus fashion history can tell you, it rarely is. Blogger Gabi Gregg’s swim collabs are the exception. Her first partnership with Swimsuits For All in 2013 — which consisted of just a few suits, including a high-waisted galaxy print bikini that sold out immediately — sparked an entire movement, with plus-size women reclaiming a word so often used against us and proudly posting #fatkini pics on Instagram. In the decade since, she’s launched collection after collection of trend-setting swimwear, with styles and details that are often impossible to find in plus-size collections elsewhere.
With saturated colors and of-the-moment metallics like this liquid silver suit, Gregg’s most recent design partnership, with plus-fashion favorite Eloquii, is the most fashion-forward I’ve seen in plus this year. Added bonus: It is available in sizes up to 32. The pieces also reflect Eloquii’s fit expertise: I found all the suits I tried to be true to my usual size. My only note is that this deliciously dramatic gold coverup is something of a glitterbomb, leaving sparkles in your wake.
Best Plus-Size Designer Swimwear: Chromat (sizes XXS-4X)
When talking about trailblazers for inclusive fashion, New York-based brand Chromat is also a must-mention name. From being one of the first designers to include plus models at New York Fashion Week to their ongoing commitment to making swimwear for #ChromatBabes of every shape and size, founder Becca McCharen-Tran has been a positive force for change for years. At Chromat, inclusion goes beyond size, with models of different ages, abilities, gender expressions, and more always represented in their campaigns and on their runways. Their latest collab with trans artist and activist Tourmaline included options “for girls who don’t tuck,” and their sun-drenched show on the boardwalk of Riis Beach was the highlight of the SS22 NYFW season. The suits are ethically made from reclaimed fishing nets and plastic ocean waste too, so they are absolutely a feel-good purchase.
All of that goodness doesn’t get in the way of aesthetics: From revealing strappy one-pieces to cheeky cutouts — like the deliberate underboob of their signature Strata Suit — their swim is HOT. Even their more substantial styles look sexy on, so if you are looking for a rashguard that combines form and function, they have you covered (literally and figuratively). And while the suits start at around $80, the quality matches: I regularly wear my first Chromat suit from 2018 and it still looks new.
If you are eyeing a Chromat suit but don’t see your size (they do tend to sell out), keep an eye on their socials for some upcoming announcements, including their first size 5x style and an exciting new collab.
Best Plus-Size String Bikinis: Curvy Beach (Sizes L-4X)
If you are looking for one of the trendiest styles of 2023 — a skimpy string bikini — Curvy Beach is my hands-down recommendation. After years of working as a plus-size fit model and trying on frumpy suits, Curvy Beach CEO Elizabeth Taylor (yes, that’s her real name!) used her fit expertise to perfect a sexy string bikini silhouette created specifically for fuller curves.
As a size L in cup bust, putting on my first Curvy Beach bikini in 2018 was a revelation. I grew up thinking swimwear for my body required coverage, camouflage, control lining, and, most of all, underwire. But once I realized how comfortable, secure, and cute I felt in a string bikini made for bodies like mine, I never looked back. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a large collection of Curvy Beach’s suits, both in their classic string silhouette and in newer styles like the cheeky (the best thong-style bottom I’ve tried) and sporty scoop-neck top. And I’m not alone: Curvy Beach’s customers are avid repeat shoppers, and new styles often sell out immediately. So if you see something you love, I recommend getting it while you can — restocks are rare.
Best Affordable Plus-Size Swimwear: Cupshe (Sizes XS-4X)
As someone who has tried a lot of plus size swim, I know firsthand that most cheap options are just that: cheap. I’ve crossed my fingers and ordered cute-looking suits from fast-fashion companies before, only to have them arrive and be so flimsy and weirdly cut that they wouldn’t survive even one wear. Before trying Cupshe, I honestly expected more of the same, but I was so tempted by their Tabria Majors collab last year that I ordered a couple of their suits to test out — and I was pleasantly surprised. With most sets running $40 and under, and sale separates for as low as $8, the quality feels more in line with department store brands than fast fashion, with details like opaque fabrics, power mesh lining, and adjustable straps.
While not all of Cupshe’s suits are my personal style (I’ve permanently sworn off skirted tankini styles), I appreciate that they offer a good range of aesthetics and coverage options. I love their bikinis and cutout one-pieces.
Best Plus-Size Shaping Swimsuits: TA3 Swim (Sizes XS-4X)
Generally, the idea of shapewear swim is anathema to me, but I’ve seen so many enthusiastic recommendations of the brand TA3 that I decided to give the TikTok sensation a shot. The appeal of an instantly snatched waist is not lost on me, but I wasn’t sure about the mechanics of it all, worried it might be a hassle to get the suit on and situated and to wear all day.
Turns out, the viral cinch is easy to replicate: TA3 placed the end of the cords in a reachable spot on the lower back (even for someone with short arms like me). My other concern stemmed from the open back at the lacing: I feared I might squish out a lattice of back fat when I tightened the cords! But I can tell the suits are thoughtfully designed because the patent-pending lacing didn’t squeeze me uncomfortably or cause any bulging, even when I channeled my best Bridgerton resolve and yanked it like a corset. The shaping effect was immediate, too, and gave me a more hourglass silhouette. It is not a magic suit though — even with the smoothing panels, my belly outline was still visible, which was personally fine with me. The bust area was a bit small on me, too, so I removed the included soft cups for extra room. All in all, I’m impressed with their suits and look forward to wearing them more this summer.
If these five brands aren’t what you are looking for, I’m also including some of my top recommendations for other criteria below:
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