An intensely anthropological take on fashion, style, and gender bending trends
Jun. 16, 2019
There's a science behind looking great in your bikini.
Numerous swimwear websites recommend halter neck bikinis for pear shaped ladies. They are believed to widen the shoulders and provide balance for the hips. As a pear myself, I know the desired effect of the halter often does not happen. Ever wondered why this is so?
Back in the day when the “halter-for-pears” advice originated, all bikinis had some intricate tailoring. Note this Eve halter-top from Sirens Swimwear. The straps are tailored; they form a separate element, sewn into the band, and form a frame around the cup. This lends additional support to the garment and provides the sought after counterbalance for the hips. It also creates a retro-inspired look.
In the recent decades designers took pride in creating more minimalistic and less “fussy” designs. In this effort tailored straps gave way to the tiny ties. Halters with tiny ties stopped doing the balancing job for the feminine body.
Judging by what I see on the beaches, many “Pears” keep taking the halter advice to heart though they could benefit from switching to square necklines. As a “Pear” I generally stay away from halters, but at some point I also sported one with complex tailored details, which I got on ModCloth and went full retro with it.
There is another reason why modern, “unfussy” halters may still work for some “Pears” and do nothing for others. It is the facial bone structure. If the jaw line is on the gentle side, the halter neck may not rise to the task and the woman ends up looking like a toy pyramid, waving goodbye to her legs. An angular jawline can provide additional balance to pear shaped gal and she can be less sensitive to the straps of her halter-neck bikini.
I studied the connection between facial bone structure and personal style and have come up with a concept of two beauty types which I named S and Z. Because of their bone structure, Z-types have more definition to their faces and body lines, which takes them a certain style route. Similarly, the S-types find that clothes that do them the most justice repeat the nature of their bone structure, which for S-types is more molded and less defined. The signature trait of my method is that I pay a lot of attention to facial bone structure and then incorporate the body type. I call it #DresstheFace.
You do not need to be familiar with my S and Z method to benefit from this article. Just follow along and see how I evaluate all swimwear based on these four categories: straps, neckline, tailoring, and bottoms. You will develop a new perspective on swimwear, learn a little bit more about yourself and your clients, and be exposed to the fascinating world of the S and Z facial bone based beauty types. Let’s move from the bottom up.
It may sound a bit puzzling to start the #DresstheFace approach from the panties but bear with me. I am going to show you how these two are magically connected. Z-type beauties rarely have problems picking good undies. They look swell in tiny pieces of fabric plastered over their private parts. A little fig leaf or a seashell on a string and boom! They are dressed. They also look good in boy shorts and high waisted bottoms. One thing Z-types may need to stay away from is excessive ruching. This creates unnecessary fuss for them. Z-types can go for ruching, but it is usually minimal and forms several zigzag looking arrows. Most often you can find them strategically placed on a tummy or breaking the torso.
The meandering lines of ruching details are a typical feature of an S-type beauty inspired design. The S-type beauties are often blessed with dominating hips, even when the rest of their clothing comes in modest S and XS sizes. This is where ruching comes in handy. One thing that I continuously hear from S-types is that large, high waisted undies, ruched or smooth, make them look frumpy. The reason for this is often the bra shape. Pairing generous panties with tiny pieces of fabric on strings looks good on well-contoured torsos and well-defined jaw lines. This is something Z-types are notorious for.
If shoulder lines and jawlines have less definition and are on a gentler side a different strategy is called for. Namely, a well-structured bra to balance the hips, strategically paired with Marylin inspired panties. This is what I jokingly call the cranio-sacral approach to style. And this is also where the karmic connection between the face and the panties resides. A wellstructured bra that looks a little bit like a corset provides the framing and support that a gentler jawline calls for. And then this same bra provides balance for generously ruched or high waisted swim bottoms. Now, the #DresstheFace idea starts to make a bit more sense.
Back to the bottoms. As an S-type, I really like what briefs and boy shorts do for my dominating hips. They sit low under the belly button, and the leg opening forms a straight line. This straight line seems to give me better proportions. The slightly sporty feel that comes with briefs is a welcome addition to the elegance-driven style of a typical S-type.
This summer brought us a wave of high waisted bottoms, with high, rounded arches for leg opening. I find these rounded high cuts that expose the hip bone and groin area more befitting to Z-types. I really look forward for having more low sitting briefs to choose from. Good news is that they grace many Z-types just as well.
If you or your client has a gentle frame with hips dominating the body landscape, – a signature trait of an S-type beauty, you can still try high cut bikinis that reveal the groin. I personally like the way these Prima Donna briefs look on me and I presume this is courtesy of a well-structured bra and the straight, not rounded, lines of the briefs themselves. Since the bra seems to be such a game changer, lets take a closer look at its elements.
Try wide, well-tailored straps and then try the unassuming strings. If you see that wider straps seriously elevate the look, you are probably dealing with an S-type beauty. They thrive in wide straps that may go as far as covering the entire shoulder bone. Looking at them you get a feeling of being dressed while keeping a casual and relaxed beach mood. If wider straps add nothing to her look and it is the tiny strings casually crossing her shoulders that make her look fresh and alluring, then you most likely are admiring a Z-type. They also tend to shine in strapless bikinis. The spontaneity of one-shoulder designs feels very Z-like too.
Traditionally fashion forward retailers like Matches Fashion and Net-a-Porter have offered few options with wider straps. Affordable fashions like Asos have not been much help either. The retro inspired fashions like ModCloth is the go-to place for bikini tops with wide staps. Buying your swim top and bottom separately sounds like a sane idea, especially if you do not plan to go full retro.
Once I began researching for this article, Instagram started bombarding me with swimsuit ads and from them I handpicked dozens of styles that meet the S-type requirements. As a blogger I may receive commissions from your purchases, but a lot of designs that I found flattering come from smaller retailers that do not participate in commission-based programs. I have included them here mainly to start a conversation about the different style needs of the “silent majority.”
Neckline is probably the last thing that comes to mind when you look at a bikini. And for the most part, Z-types could not care less about their neckline. It is the S-type that is so dependent on it. The S-type physique seeks support in its garments, and tailoring and neckline are sure ways to get it. The square neckline and the reversed trapeze with wider base on top bear these supporting quality. Sometimes these necklines are also called sweetheart and, like wide straps, they carry that unmistakable retro appeal. Basically, with wide straps you almost automatically end up with the square or sweetheart neckline. But wait a little bit. There is a way to get there without the wide straps. Take a look at these two seemingly similar designs.
When you see cups that are sunk into the band and rest there like eggs in a package, this is a good indicator you will end up with a squarer neckline without the weight of wider straps. If the cups are attached together with no extra base, this usually results in a less structured neckline. More often than not, it is a halter neck, one of the most popular swimsuit designs. The structured, square neckline works best on bra sizes with smaller bands and larger cups, like 32C, 32DD, and so on. This is a very typical S-type structure. Busty Z-type beauties are more likely to have a 36C, 36DD, or 38D bra sizes that need less support.
Oh yes, we can. This bikini top from Love and Lemons brings Renaissance dress to mind.The softly draped pastel fabric comes on top of a very structured base. This structure creates room for the barely-there straps. And the straps make it modern. Something like this can easily travel both ways for molded S or angular Z. At the end of the day, it is all about checks and balances and as long as you have structure somewhere in the garment, you can experiment and go loose on other elements.
You can also get creative and bring a statement chocker to do the support job if the bikini bra is not delivering the support the S-type bone structure seeks.
Z-types wear square necklines too. But theirs tend to have softer contours and look more like tees than corsets. Z-type necklines are shaped spontaneously from the piece of fabric stretching over the body and they can be scoop, square, trapeze, and V as if merging from one to another. Most one shoulders, unless they are intricately enhanced, are Z-territory as well.
Since S-type face features and body lines are more molded, the well tailored one piece can help them add some definition. S-types will also find it easier to accessorize maillots, for the days they spend commuting between the pool bar and the sand with their margaritas.
Z-types seem to thrive in separates and this is such a natural state for them. You just can’t help thinking of Rachel Welch in One Million Years BC. They beautifully add bracelets and necklaces to the small pieces of fabric sticking to their bodies and somehow it just all blends in. Z-types can sport maillots, but the designs will either be very simple and athletic or will have intricate cut-outs, that are vaguely reminiscent of the Paleo lifestyle, which fits them so well.
On the contrary, the S-type maillot will sport intricate tailoring details and supporting elements. These two styles at www.andieswim.com below serve great example of the two aesthetics.
Despite the deep plunging neckline that almost forms a V, this black Mykonos model can grace an S-type beauty. There is enough structure in the wider straps. The black maillot has a wide yoke that connects the neckline with the bottom. This tailoring detail provides structure and definition to the lines. The cobalt blue Amalfi looks more like a Z-type design with its simple, athletic lines and tee-like neckline.
A lot of maillots that work for Z-types will also be tailored and have yokes. But in the Z world, these sartorial measures are taken to add visual interest, mix prints and patterns, and add extra lines. On the contrary, S tailoring is often invisible, doing the silent job of shaping or directing a line. At the same time, designers may try to jump on the opportunity to embellish those silent workers with extra colors and details. This makes it difficult to distinguish between the S and the Z tailoring techniques. Experimenting and educated guessing trains the eye of a stylist.
I have more on swimsuits, but I need to be mindful of your time. I also want you to come back for more. I hope my examples and explanations will help you look at swimsuits differently to single out the ones that work for a more robust Z-type bone structure and the ones that grace the molded S-types. Most of us will end up mixing and matching recommendations from both aesthetic, which is perfectly normal. Knowing what you’re doing makes you better at doing it and also makes it more fun.
It is probably obvious that this guide was written by an S-type advocate. Being an S myself and mostly working with S-type ladies, I am very well familiar with their unique set of problems and how little the garment industry has considered our needs in the last couple of decades. If you feel more like a Z-type who has an ongoing challenge with swimsuits, do not hesitate to contact me and describe your situation. If you feel like an S who has finally been heard and wants more, do contact me as well. I have several options available below. I am also happy to work with small brands who are in the process of shaping their target audience.
If you have a picture of yourself in a swimsuit and do not mind publicity, you can submit it to me at [email protected] with the subject “Project Elevate!” I will post it on my blog with my comments, you will get advice for free, and it will help a lot of women learn something new.
I have a service, for which you can submit your picture and get a private style advice.
An intensely anthropological take on fashion, style, and gender bending trends
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