Deal Hunter: Take the plunge and buy a swimsuit

Katherine Boyle
Reporter May 13, 2012

They’re your least favorite pieces of clothing: bathing suits. Very few people look great in them, and even fewer enjoy stripping down in a mall dressing room to try them on. But contrary to most theories on when to buy swimwear, you can find deals year-round.

“It’s surprising, but a lot of swimwear is available in November for that resort time frame, which means you can get swimwear year-round,” said Erin McCormick, swimwear buyer at Lands’ End. It also means deals are available year-round.

Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.

While the traditional thrift, vintage and rental concepts are out — no one wants to share swimsuits — there are ways to find a reasonable, solid suit without shelling out three figures and regretting your purchase.

The experts stress that shopping the sales is important, but how and what you buy matters if you’re investing in a suit that can last years. Here’s what you need to know.

The bottom line

Bathing suits elude the standard vintage and rental tricks we use to save money on clothes. But there are times to buy, places to shop and methods for caring for a suit that can ensure you get the most for your money. Invest in the suit you can afford and in a style that flatters your body, and you’ll want to wear it over and over.

When to shop
Know the sale schedule

Whether buying online or at a store, know when brands are having big sales. Stores lure shoppers in with coupons on holiday weekends. “A lot of stores are having friends and family discounts” in May, said Lauren A. Rothman, a Washington-based fashion stylist and founder of the Web site Styleauteur. “Lord & Taylor, Macy’s and Saks sometimes offer storewide discounts for regular customers, similar to the employee discount.” Rothman says the retailers have them two or three times a year, so wait for those sales to buy.

Use your phone

Many department stores are taking advantage of mobile opportunities. With some, “you can actually text a certain number on a mobile device and get messages that they’re having a sale,” Rothman said. Via text, Lord & Taylor sometimes offers 15 to 20 percent off one item, so it’s a great way to shop for bathing suits.

Wait until June

The busiest swimming weekend of the year happens to be this month. If you’re not following the sales at your favorite stores, wait until after Memorial Day weekend, when the demand for swimwear goes down (the prices do, too).

Where to Shop
Shop (and return) online

“Being able to sit in the comfort of your home and look at options is a great luxury,” McCormick said. But realize you’re going to have to try those swimsuits on when you get them, so be savvy about where you shop. Buy from a company that has a good guarantee policy. Also, many online retailers offer free shipping on purchases over a certain amount. If you’re buying for a family member, buy multiple suits to save on shipping costs.

Fast fashion and a discount

There’s no harm in buying that cheap bikini from Forever 21. “If you have a figure to rock an $11 bathing suit from H&M, by all means, go for it,” Rothman said. “The reality is most women don’t.” Retailers such as Lands’ End offer a refined search on their Web sites so women can filter options by body type. Investing in a bathing suit that flatters your figure is almost always the best deal because you’ll want to wear it.

How to Shop
Shop for your lifestyle

The quickest way to tire of a bathing suit — even if it fits your body — is to buy one that doesn’t fit your life. “Are you a mom in the pool with 3-year-old? Don’t do a strapless top. Are you going on active vacation or sunbathing? Shop for the lifestyle you have,” Rothman said.

Look at materials

Did you know polyester doesn’t break down easily in chlorine? Check out fabric quality before you buy. Test it out by stretching out the fabric. “If you see white fibers, the fabric will deteriorate faster,” McCormick said. And plastic hardware breaks more easily than metal hardware. Lands’ End tests “hardware to make sure it’s nickel free . . . and we have latex-free options for people with allergies.” Choose a retailer that knows its materials and is willing to work with your needs.

Colors and support

For women, that trendy one-shoulder suit in leopard print might work this year, but will you wear it when it’s out of style? “The naked eye doesn’t tire of solid the way it does of a pattern,” Rothman said. Invest in a suit you can see yourself wearing it for the next three years. The same goes for suit construction. “Suits are now available with built-in bras that come in all bust sizes,” McCormick said. “Look for one with bra construction that will fit your needs long-term.”

On Sale

Banana Tree closed its Alexandria store last year and moved to e-commerce. To reconnect with customers and sell furniture not available through the Web site, the owners are holding a pop-up sale. The merchandise includes items in a new shipment from India as well stock marked down 30 to 50 percent. A two-door, hand-painted cabinet, originally $1,595, is $995. Through May 29. 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m Friday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday. 2727 Mt. Vernon Ave., Del Ray, 571-212-0065. www.bananatreeimports.com.

Luigi Parasmo Salon is offering a complimentary Kerastase deep-conditioning treatment (regularly $40 to $65) for new clients who book a haircut and blowout. Call to schedule. Through May 31. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday. 1510 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 202-333-2244. www.luigiparasmosalon.com.

Reupholster a sofa or update your windows with new draperies during Rockville Interiors’ spring sale. Fabric prices are discounted 20 percent. Through June 30. 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 4 W. Middle Lane, Rockville Town Center, 301-424-1900. www.rockvilleinteriors.com.

Anglophiles, hail Britannia at home-furnishings store Foundry. Handmade Union Jack pillows, which range from $129 to $189, will be 10 percent off through May 20. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. 1522 U St. NW, 571-277-5245. www.foundrybyfreeman.com.

— Janet Bennett Kelly

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