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Choosing the right bathing suit

Bathing suit season is on the horizon and summer fun might drive some into a panic. However, there are bathing suit styles that enhance what you want to show off and conceal what you want to camouflage.

The first step in choosing a bathing suit is to make an accurate assessment of your body shape. Stand in front of the mirror without any clothes on and figure out which features define your physique. Perhaps your bust is large, or you have more curve in your hips. Maybe you are tall and lanky. Taking note of your body will help narrow down your swimsuit options.

Next, go through your current swimsuit collection and find out which bathing suit you've worn in the past has best suited your shape or earned you a few compliments. You may want to choose the style that is the most comfortable and supportive. When selecting a new suit, choose one that is similar in cut to your favorite.

Swimsuits are designed to fit snugly and are made from elasticized fabric. Chlorinated water or saltwater can either shrink fabric over time or allow it to wear out and sag. Be honest about your current clothing size and consider buying a swimsuit in one size larger so it won't cut off your circulation or make you appear uncomfortable.

You also want to be reasonable about which styles you can wear. That will be dictated by shape and also by the activities you plan to do in the swimsuit. For example, if you live an active lifestyle and surf or play water sports, a supportive, one-piece style swimsuit may be a smart choice. If you have a large bust or one that is extremely small, you may want to avoid revealing bikini tops, which may look overly filled or not filled out at all.

Here are some other tips based on body type.

* Plus size: Choose a one-piece style that features a single color that is the polar opposite of your skin tone. Fair-skinned people should look for darker colors, while dark-toned individuals should select brighter colors. Try to find a suit that is fitted at the waistline to slim you in this area.

* Short legs: High-cut leg openings on swimsuits help to elongate the legs and make you appear taller.

* Small bust: Select a bikini top that has triangular-shaped cups, ruffles or a tie-front to add a little bulk to the area.

* Large bust: Choose a top that comes with a supportive bra -- those mesh bras in most bathing suits won't keep the breasts contained and supported. Many bathing suit manufacturers now offer swimsuits with more substantial bras inside.

* Pear shape: Emphasize the top of your body with a bold color or pattern and downplay the bottom with a dark shade.

* Short torso: Select a two-piece suit that draws attention to the chest and shoulders and a bottom that sits lower on the hips to elongate the torso.

There is no right shape when it comes to wearing a bathing suit. It's possible for anyone to look flattering when hitting the beach or lounging poolside.