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Find One-Piece Swimsuit to Highlight Your Best Feature

Designer Marie France Van Damme on Choosing the Right Style


A one-piece is a relatively forgiving swimsuit option, says Marie France Van Damme, in her Hong Kong store. And suits with metallics dazzle in the sun, she says. Palani Mohan for The Wall Street Journal Today, the tide is turning for the one-piece swimsuit. This summer, it is an area of focus for designers, who are returning to classic tank shapes and experimenting with novel details such as sexy cutouts, mesh inserts and zippers. Plus, says designer Marie France Van Damme, one-piece styles are a relatively forgiving option. "Unless you have a fabulous body—and unfortunately, not too many people do—I think it's nice to cover up a little," says Ms. Van Damme, the Hong Kong-based founder of ready-to-wear, resort, swim and accessories lines sold in high-end stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods. But with all the options, how to pick the right style? In one-piece designs, Ms. Van Damme says she is partial to bustier cuts. This style, she says, "has some structure, it covers your breasts and your chest and it's still very sexy," she says. Such pieces, she says, have the added advantage of not having straps that can leave you with striking tan lines. For that same reason, Ms. Van Damme typically avoids cutouts in swimsuits. "If you ever took some sun, you would look ridiculous when you take it off," she says. She makes sure to wear one-shouldered swimwear when she knows she won't be in the sun. "It would be difficult to wear a bustier dress with it. You'll have one shoulder that's tan and the other that's not." To find your style, Ms. Van Damme suggests thinking about the part of your body you find the sexiest. "Every woman has that—some of us have better legs, some of us have better backs, some have nice cleavage," she says, urging low-cut fronts or backs if you have a fetching cleavage or back—or pieces cut high up on the sides if your legs are your best asset. Bustiers and tank-top styles work well on flat-chested bodies, she adds. Women with larger busts should look for one-pieces with extra support and lift. Nowadays you can buy swimsuits by cup size, like a bra. A high neckline will provide extra coverage on top, which helps to avoid the issue of too much cleavage. For women who worry about their tummies, Ms. Van Damme says some bathing suits now come with linings that act like girdles. Also, consider that different suit shapes seem to take on different characters. "One-pieces with straps tend to be sportier, while strapless cuts are a bit sexier," she says. To pull off the one-piece swimsuit look well, Ms. Van Damme says it's important to get a style that fits well. "If you're always pulling and tugging at it, that's not sexy," she says. She likes to jazz up her one-piece via eye-catching detailing. "I like sequin embellishments. Tiny little sequins that just put a bit of glitter on it add a bit more fun," says Ms. Van Damme, who also likes metallic details as they dazzle in the sun. Color-blocking, which has popped up in clothing, works well in one-piece swimsuits too, she says. "You can do the same fabric but in two or three different colors," she says. While geometric and animal prints are popular, Ms. Van Damme urges caution with such a bold look. "If you're a bit on the big side, you'll look better with a smaller print; if you're skinny then you can pull off a big print," she says. "You have to look at a swimsuit like you would a dress—and you also have to think about whether you really want to be the center of attention on the beach if you're wearing a big, colorful print." Solid colors, especially in black or darker hues, are a much safer alternative and are often the most slimming option. Once Ms. Van Damme has a one-piece picked out, she looks for a coverup that matches. Light summer wraps or caftans are elegant cappers for bustier or tank-top style one-piece suits, she says, noting that if doing a caftan, generally, it's best if it's a slightly more narrow style. "You don't want to have extra fabric in the back that you have to tie," she says. When coordinating the color of coverups with the suit, Mr. Van Damme believes it's fine to be a little matchy-matchy. Apart from that, she says to think about putting the look together the same way you would a clothing ensemble. If your one-piece suit has a print, perhaps pick a caftan or wrap that is of a color that's in the print, for example, or vice versa. "Just imagine," she says, "that you're dressing up and are putting together a skirt and a blouse."   smallWSJ

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