Summertime Swimsuits (+ Shipping Saga)

This J Crew halter bikini top in black and palm print covers from the base of the neck to just below the bust. There are two different bottoms, and the black pair has more coverage than the palm print. Both are resting on a grey towel on a medium wood floor.
The palm print certainly pops in photos, but the classic black bikini works well with my fair (sunscreen-loving) skin.

Shopping for Swimsuits

Swimsuits are a place in your wardrobe where it’s easier to add color or try something a little different because 95% of the time, you aren’t wearing anything else with them. At least, that’s true for me. Additionally, I require swimsuits that I can functionally swim in, so underwire and necklines that gape are out. Nonetheless, I still want a flattering, comfortable, suit that I feel good wearing. No surprise, I’m also a fan of classic black suits with my fair skin.

Before this, the lone bathing suit in my closet was better suited (if you pardon the pun) for my own backyard. That is to say, it didn’t quite cover everything I would like covered out in public. It certainly qualified as a “desperation purchase” — you know, the thing you buy because it somewhat fits and you don’t detest it as much as the other 50 you’ve seen? (If that feeling sounds like your entire closet, check out my Intentional Wardrobe.)

As part of my efforts to buy great pieces that will last more than one summer, I was pleased to hear high praise for J. Crew’s bathing suits, even if the price tag was a little high. (Okay, so probably a lot higher than any suits I’ve bought before, but there have been some great sales!) Fast forward two months, and I’m very pleased with the two new suits in my wardrobe.

This J. Crew palm print two-piece halter swimsuit rests on a grey towel draped across a medium wood floor.
This palm-print halter top looks gorgeous in the water and out.

Swimsuits Shipping Saga

TL;DR: It took me a couple tries, but I found a swimsuit in both black and palm print that fits well and feels high quality.

Ideally, J. Crew would carry their swim line in stores, and it wouldn’t have taken me four (!!) orders to get the right combination of style, size and color. Chronologically, those orders were:

  1. Black scalloped bikini set (S, S), black halter set (S, XS, accidentally with charcoal grey bottoms), palm print halter set (S, XS)
  2. Black bottoms (XS, to instead of the dark grey)
  3. Black halter (XS), palm print halter (XS), and black bottoms (XXS)
  4. Palm print bottoms (XXS)

Orders 1 & 2: Let’s try on some swimsuits!

With the first order, the suits all went on sale less than a week after I ordered them, so J. Crew gave me a price adjustment, which was great. In person, the scalloped bikini set wasn’t impressive. The top was essentially unlined, and the overall appearance was nothing special. I loved the black cropped halter bikini top (size S), even if it was a little high on the neck, but accidentally ordered dark grey bottoms (XS) instead of black ones. When I noticed my order said “dark charcoal,” I had a black pair (XS) shipped to store to take advantage of the sale. The palm print halter was the same shape as the black one, but with this fun yet tasteful palm print. Thankfully, both halter tops arrived in the padded version, and while the XS bottoms weren’t as snug as I would have preferred, they did fit.

Order 3: Almost there…

Knowing that swimsuits tend to stretch when wet and hoping that the fit would be better if I sized down, I then ordered XXS seamed bikini boy shorts in black (the palm print was sold out), and XS black and palm print halters. The good news was that the XXS swim bottoms fit better. The bad news was that the black halter swim top arrived without padding this time, even though it had the same item number as  the first. (You’ll notice a series of padding or no padding debates in the comments and reviews.) The XS palm print halter did have padding, but I found that sizing down reduced coverage on the sides of the bust but did not lower the height of the  neckline noticeably.

Order 4: Wait, one more!

Thinking I was done, I decided to keep two suits, the black halter (S) and bottom (XXS), as well as the palm print halter (S) and bottom (XS). Although I checked a few times, the XXS palm print surf hipster bikini bottoms remained out of stock — until just now. (Sadly, I believe I snagged the last one because the size immediately went back out of stock afterward.) It’s on it’s way, and I’m hoping J. Crew will let me return the unworn XS with the tags still on it — fingers crossed. (Update: XXS bottoms did fit better, and J. Crew let me return the XS. Finally done.)

My biggest gripe in all this? Two day shipping through J.Crew is $20. I tried looking for the items on Amazon or Nordstrom, but no such luck. That meant that with free shipping, each of these orders took over a week to arrive. That said, the swimsuits I ended up with feel like they’ll be in my wardrobe for seasons to come, and I’m trying to focus on the (classic and very flattering) positive outcome.

This halter crop top bikini set from J. Crew features a nude-lined, palm-on-white print.
Thankfully, the partially-white bottoms are lined in a medium-nude color.

Fit Notes

For those of you who skipped the shipping saga, I ultimately kept four pieces:

  1. Black – cropped halter bikini top (S)
  2. Black – seamed bikini boy shorts (XXS)
  3. Palm print – cropped halter bikini top (S)
  4. Palm print – surf hipster bikini bottoms (XXS)

As you can see in the photos, the padding in the tops provides some structure. Given more support than your average triangle top, I certainly feel secure in this suit. Better yet, I was able to swim, flip, and splash around without fear of gaping or flashing. The padded cups are also generous enough to avoid an edge-of-padding ridge. While I’d certainly be careful about tying the strings at the neck and back, the ties are more important for keeping the suit on than holding you up. Plus, with the way the tie doubles up in the back, I’m less worried about the string stretching out. That said, the tops hardly count as petite friendly — one inch higher at the neck, and I wouldn’t be able to wear them.

While the difference is slight, the seamed boy shorts have a little more coverage than the surf hipster bikini bottoms. The seam down the side is subtle but elevates the shorts from basic black bottoms to something more substantial. In the photos, I have the palm print bottoms facing down; the lining is a medium nude color. The surf hipster bikini bottoms also cut somewhat higher in the leg than the bikini boy shorts.

Are you a canon-baller, a wade-in type, or a stay dry kind of person when it comes to swimsuit season? I know I’m the one with the sunscreen!

You have a body. Put on a bikini. There’s your bikini body.

-Casey