Big Boobs and Soft Belly

Swimsuit season is fast approaching. In our part of Canada, the Victoria Day weekend is considered by many to be the first for swimming (yes, the water is still cold!) No matter when you start swimming – it’s time to dig out those patterns, shop for some spandex and start sewing! First things first, let’s do some measuring….ooooh. Did I just hear a groan? Was the winter hard on your body, leaving you “somewhat” less than eager to sew a garment that conceals little and reveals too much? A recent email asked… “what swimsuit styles are most appropriate for me? I have both big boobs and soft belly. I’m not looking to be a swim model, but I would love to go to the beach without feeling (and looking) ridiculous”

She is not alone and neither are you!
Model in pool and seal combo

Are there swimsuits you can make that will both fit and flatter the big boobs and soft belly kind of shape the mirror reflects? Yes, there are! Disguising figure challenges is not difficult if you remember a few guidelines about structure and design. Once you learn to apply them, choosing flattering styles will become second nature.

You must, you must, you must support the bust!

Proper support of the bust can go a long way to making you look slimmer and trimmer. Suits with a “shelf support” are not recommended for anyone who is not already self-supporting! Or over 9 years old. You need swimsuit support equal to the support in your bra. You have the bra-making skills already to make a bra that attaches to the side seams of your suit, so why not plan for a built-in bra in your next suit?

No time right now? Seriously, is your life that busy? lol….OK, here’s a “quick and dirty” swim bra hack. We all have bras that are still ok to wear, but they look like they have survived a war. You can up-cycle that still wearable bra into a bra for a swimsuit.  It’s easy. Just put on the bra, put the swimsuit over top and pin the suit just ahead of the side seam as shown. Pin the straps to the shoulder as well. Remove the suit and sew the bra to the side seams and shoulders. Cut off the excess bra bands and straps (but salvage those parts for future bras!)

swimsuit hack

Colour blocking is your friend

The clever use of colour and prints can emphasize the areas that you want and work to de-emphasize the areas you would rather the world didn’t know about. . Any area you want to emphasize, consider light, or colourful prints. Areas that you want to be less conspicuous can be covered in darker or more subtle prints.

For example if you have a larger bust and a tummy, the suit on the right might be a better choice for you. Dividing the suit under the wire line, is a good idea too. You don’t want to have the suit style lines sit on the bust. That will emphasize the fact that your bust is larger than that area, it will look like it has “outgrown the space” keep the style line under the bust!
two navy suits

Flattering leg openings make your legs longer and leaner looking

Who doesn’t want that? I have short legs, and boy shorts do not flatter my body type at all. As much as I admire them, they don’t suit me. However, legs that are cut higher in the font, will visually lengthen the legs.

swim legs

Skirts don’t hide – they emphasize

Skirts on swimsuits, especially ruffled skirts can widen the area they cover, but sometimes the seam that attaches the skirt to the suit can cut your tummy in half, so now you have two soft bellies instead of one! Yes, a skirt may be your choice for a retro suit or for modesty below the navel, but if it is the soft belly above it you are trying to hide, you’d be better off with ruching.

Which of these two suits do you think would hide your belly better? The one with the plain fabric or the ruched one?
2 skirted suits

Ruching can actually hide the bulges

Ruching is strategically placed gathers – some are gathered to one side, and some is overall.  Yes, ruching wins hands down over a skirt to hide the tummy. Contrary to popular belief, adding more fabric in the form of gathers over the central area of a princess line suit, will conceal the tummy. Choosing the darker colour for the centre panel can add a slimming effect as well.

ruched suits

Consider a two-piece

Don’t think you cannot wear a two piece suit if you have a soft belly. The current popularity of the retro high-waist bottoms can add ruching to the front panel to conceal the tum. Only a few inches of midriff are exposed. This suit bottom from ready-to-wear is almost identical to  Rebecca view of my 3 sisters Bikini pattern PB-3009. Interesting!
3 sisters bottom and RTW

Baby your new suit

Once you have given your flattering new suit a test drive, don’t machine wash it after ward! Not only is the machine hard on the nylon/spandex fabrics, it also shortens the life of the elastic. There are few things worse than having a suit with fabric still good but the elastic is dead. Treat your new suit well and it will keep its shape, colour and elasticity for the longest time possible.

A chlorine neutralizer sold in swimsuit shops will help to stop the deterioration that follows swimming in chlorinated water. It is worth noting that a less expensive version can be found at aquarium supply shops. They use it so the tropical fish won’t scald to death in tap water. If tap water is harmful to tropical fish, imagine what pool water with its higher chlorine levels will do to your swimwear!

I am not suggesting, however that you wash your suit in your new aquarium! Just a bit of the neutralizer in a sink full of water will do the trick. Always hang or lay flat to dry – no dryers!
swimmer in aquarium2

Resources for making the perfect fitting swimsuit

Make & Fit Swimwear – the complete guide to fabric, fit and construction of the basic styles of swimwear, including the maillot (tank), the princess line suit, the tankini and the swim dress. Instructions on how to sew in foam cups as well as a built-in bra for those who cannot find swim cups to fit. Add a bra back, racer back or Y-back for added support and control. See how to modify the suit into other styles quickly and easily.

Cover swimwear book

Sewing Swimwear: the supportive one-piece – if you prefer to have me beside you in the sewing room, consider taking the class through Craftsy. You’ll see how easy it is to measure, fit and sew either of the two suits, the tank or the princess suit. You’ll also learn how to insert foam cups or a built-in bra and learn how clever colour blocking can work for your body type. Click on the link to get a discounted price for my blog readers!

Craftsy Swimwear Class Title Card

Denise swimsuit pattern – this is the companion pattern you need if you are making basic swimwear from the book or the Craftsy class above. Denise is available in eleven sizes from Bust size 32 to 52. The Denise is what I consider a springboard pattern – one that can be converted or modified into any other style of swimsuit. You have the option of two different front views, one with princess line seaming and the second a one-piece tank. There are also two different back views, one with a bra back closure and the other with a traditional scoop back. The internal bra uses pre-formed swim cups such as our MU Swimwear series.
Denise Etsy

Princess Tankini – Tankinis are the most practical swimwear – ever! They have the wearing ease and practicality of a two piece suit (meaning you can get out of them when they are wet) yet the cover the midriff area and tummy even better than a one-piece. This Pin-up Girls pattern comes in eleven sizes from Bust 32 to Bust 52. You have the option of five different bottoms – a regular or bikini bottom, boy shorts, thigh length shorts or Capri leggings. The inside bra uses pre-formed swim cups such as our MU Swimwear series.

 Etsy tankini

Three Sisters Bikini – a collection of two piece high-waisted bikinis (to cover the soft belly) for fun and sun with a choice of 3 unique tops and bottoms. All tops have an interior underwired bra made from swim cup foam and a unique criss-cross back that allows the bikini top to fit multiple sizes (yes, even the bigger boobs!) The straps have elastic sewn directly to the inside seam so it will never roll or twist. All bottoms have a waist high cut with a doubled fabric waistband and a centre back seam for shapely results. The bikini bra tops all use our SHORT wires, and the pattern fits a variety of bra cup sizes. The bottoms fit hip sizes 35-47″.
VIOLET– vertical seamed bra top and bottoms with button trim at the waist 
REBECCA – uses a tie to gather the front of the top, bottoms have a ruched front panel 
MARSHA – with a twisted knot effect and bottoms with mini twists at the side front

Etsy 3 sisters

3 replies
  1. Club
    Club says:

    A two piece is a great way to go! And thank you for the resources mentioned in this article. I’m going to try making my own suit!

  2. JensWare
    JensWare says:

    I made the cutest swimsuit for my daughter using the Violet bottoms and a Pin-up Girls Classic in foam with a modified keyhole Y-back. I'm also making a Denise for me but I haven't put the bra in yet. Foam isn't for me so I'm going to make a Shelley from duoplex for the swimsuit bra. There are photos of the bikini, Strawberry Love, on my blog.


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