I dread trying on bathing suits and the experience is only made worse by one thing: remembering how easy it was to pick out a cute bikini when I was younger. Oh, how I long for the days when the hardest decision I made was bandeau or triangle top. Nowadays, new swimsuit styles are constantly emerging, and since sizing differs from store to store, I usually end up trying on multiple styles in multiple sizes—meaning there's bound to be 10 swimsuits that look terrible on me for every one I actually like. I know it's natural for my body to change as I grow older, but that doesn't make it easier when I notice a new imperfection pop up in the dressing room mirror.
As I've grown more self-conscious of my body, swimsuit shopping has become harder, whether I like to admit it or not. So when one-pieces with cutouts became more popular last summer, I spent months in search of the perfect suit that covered my stomach while still showing some skin. A bathing suit like this would still make me feel trendy, I thought, like I was going to the beach—not to swim lessons.
Recently, though, I spotted Aerie's Wraparound One Piece Swimsuit ($50; aerie.com) on my Facebook feed, and instantly knew I had to buy it (despite that fact that it was February, there was snow falling outside, and I wasn't planning a tropical vacation anytime soon). Strategically-placed cutouts make it look more like a bikini—just with a high-waisted bottom and wraparound top—than other one-piece suits. This time, the hardest decision wasn't if I should buy the bathing suit, but whether I wanted it in red or black.
One of the reasons I added it to my cart so quickly is because despite my best efforts, I fell short of finding a one-piece that I loved last summer. Instead, I settled for two bathing suits that I didn't hate: One was stylish but too cheaply made to last more than a few wears, and the other was flattering, but the material was uncomfortably thick. When it got wet, it put pressure on my stomach, making me feel self-conscious. Additionally, I noticed that many one pieces are quite cheeky, with bottoms cut to be worn high on your hips. My hips and lower stomach are built curvier than the rest of my frame, so this style only drew attention to something I was trying to distract from.
Here I am trying to pretend I'm comfortable on a family vacation:
If you've shopped with Aerie before, you know they offer free shipping and returns on bathing suits, making it easy to order multiple sizes to try on. I knew my size from a previous order, but I bought both colors so I could decide which I liked better in person.
When the swimsuits arrived in the mail, I was so excited, I could barely wait for my heater to start up so it would be warm enough to shed my clothes and try them on. The material isn't bulky at all; it feels like it will stay on without getting too tight. The bottom hits right above my belly button and the wraparound top provides the same amount of coverage as a typical bikini top. This combination hides my lower belly while showing off the top of my abs, a part of my body that I love the most. Additionally, the bottom is full coverage, meaning neither my hips or my butt cheeks will be on display when I step outside.
A quick Instagram search proves that I'm not the only one loving this suit:
The bad news: This style has been so popular that it's now only available in a few sizes on Aerie.com (the black is currently still available in XXL on sale for $30, and the red is available in sizes XL and XXL on sale for $20). Luckily, though, Aerie recently launched another similar style, the Cutout One-Piece Swimsuit (on sale for $30; aerie.com). Like the suit I fell in love with, this style has cutouts that show off the upper abs and a back that resembles a bikini, and is available in the same red and black hues, as well as a gorgeous green shade called royal palm.
Looking at myself in the mirror, I felt confident and ready to book the next flight to Jamaica. The red is a really pretty burnt orange shade, while the black looks a bit sexier on, but is still a great basic. I knew I'd regret it if I didn't keep both, so that's exactly what I did. It may be rare to find a bathing suit that makes you feel like a stronger, more confident version of yourself—but I know now that it is possible.