Buying a bathing suit at any time can be downright daunting. It is among the most personal and revealing items of clothing we own and now, with new restrictions and concerns due to the pandemic, there’s an added layer of difficulty.
It’s not only about what fits and flatters (yikes, that’s tough enough), but there’s the added consideration about what measures stores are taking to keep us safe and stylish. “We want to make people feel as comfortable in this environment as possible,” says Marna Hann, a co-owner of the Jerrie Shop, the almost half-century-old business in Woodbury where disinfecting dressing rooms between customers has become a regular part of the day.
You'll need to know what this season's hottest trends have to offer and the changes at shops before weighing if in-store swimsuit browsing is right for you.
This summer, enter the trikini, which, in case you didn’t know it, is a bikini that offers a third piece — a matching face mask made of bathing suit material, which by some accounts, is easier to breathe in. Introduced by Italian swimwear line Elexia Beachwear, big swimwear establishments on Long Island didn’t carry it, though one, Lovely Lady Lumps in Stonybrook offers another matching-mask brand made of recycled bathing suit material. Masks run from $10 to $30.
But beyond masking up for the beach, there are some real standout trends according to the experts. “The high-waisted bottom is very, very big,” says Cherie Alleyne, the co-owner of Blum’s in Patchogue. At The Jerrie Shop, Hann is seeing a run on tie-dye and neon. “People are looking for happy things. It used to be everything was black but neon is a happier mentality.”
When you're ready to browse, don’t just think you can amble on in to shop. Store capacities have been drastically cut and you may have to wait outside. At Blum’s,capacity has been reduced to 50%, says Alleyne. You’ll have to make an appointment to shop at Lovely Lady Lumps Swimwear in Stony Brook. “We’re taking four appointments on the hour every hour,” says owner Marie Bosconi, who has 10 fitting rooms but will only be using four of them.
As for those suits that have been tried on but not purchased? To assure that items are clean at Blum’s, they’ll be sanitized with a UV wand and will be kept out of circulation for a period of time, says Alleyne.
Even that may not be enough for some shoppers. Eboni Porter, 20, a spa receptionist from Freeport, says, “I’m in the market for a new bathing suit, but I can’t really picture myself going into a store to try one on at this point.” As for buying online, she says she feels more comfortable with it. "I could always wash it."
Julia Bonn, 59, of Manhasset, an avid snorkeler and scuba diver, is always on the hunt for a new suit. “I’ll definitely go into a store," she says. Cat Rosenboom, 42, who owns two women’s clothing stores and is from Miller Place, is in. “Bathing suit shopping is something I never want to do, especially after quarantine," she admits. But, she says, “I just went on a bathing suit buying spree at Lovely Lady Lumps. I wore my mask, and kept my social distance,” and she says, the personal sales help made it easier.
For some, such as Josephine Pecoraro, 35, a nurse from Babylon, shopping in the store is out of the question. “I’m working a lot and going into a store and being close to people was just not an option,” she says. So, she conducted a virtual appointment via FaceTime.
She FaceTimed with Bosconi of Lovely Lady Lumps Swimwear for about 45-minutes before purchasing three bathing suits. “I thought I would be embarrassed, but I really wasn’t. I tried on a bathing suit I liked at home and she said ‘OK, I have an idea of what would look good’ and went around the store showing me things. She made me feel comfortable.”
Amy Vogler, co-owner at The Jerrie Shop was FaceTiming and doing video chats before the store reopened and will continue to do it if desired. And while Blum’s isn’t taking virtual appointments, they’re happy to offer guidance by email or you can call and ask for a swimsuit specialist.
If you’re just not feeling either approach to swimsuit shopping by video or in real life, Jennifer Caparas, Nordstrom's swimsuit buyer, has a few tips for buying online. It all starts with looking at your favorite swimsuit at home.
“My advice would be to pull that out and look at what you liked best about the fit — whether a bikini or one-piece, start with the top and work your way down. Was it a halter top? Did it have adjustable straps? Did the suit or bottoms have shirring or ties that helped flatter certain areas? Was the coverage on the back full or cheekier? Understanding these fit components is a helpful first step.” And customer reviews can help guide you too, she says. “You’ll typically get pretty candid feedback from others who’ve purchased that same product you’re interested in and could definitely help narrow your choices.”
But no matter which way you go, take advice if you can get it and remember that fit is queen. “Don’t say no from a hanger,” (or for that matter an image online), says The Jerrie Shop’s Hann.