Unless your name is Alessandra Ambrosio, you’ve probably found that buying a swimsuit is a pain in the tie-side bikini bottom. Swimwear is body-specific, so you shouldn’t just chase after styles like high-waisted metallics and underwire balconette tops because they’re of-the-moment.
To learn more about the most universally flattering swimsuit shades, we gathered expert intel from leading bathing suit designers at this year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim. Behold, advice on finding the most flattering swimsuit colors that aren’t black.
1. Start your search in the blue family.
When it comes to swimsuit, blue is your BFF. At least, that’s what we gathered after hearing designer Monica Wise of L*Space rave about its appeal.
“I’m really into different shades of blue. I have a minty blue shade, a purple blue/periwinkle color, a teal, and a seafoam color in my 2014 line which flatters most skin types,” she says. “Blue is a great alternative to black; it’s like wearing your favorite pair of jeans.”
What makes this tint so fantastic is that there are enough variations to complement most pigments. Not sure which variety to try? Here’s a rule of thumb: Darker navys will help disguise problem areas, and lighter, turquoises will make you stand out.
2. Give red some cred.
Want to reel in some stares with your new suit? Then look no further than red—it’s a powerful shade that demands attention. “Red is a flattering color that can stand out in a simple and sophisticated way,” says Paula Hermanny of perennial favorite Vix Swimwear. “Fair skin tones look best against bold colors red. The contrast in tones can be quite flattering.”
3. Let prints charm you.
Wearing bold patterns may have become de rigueur this season, but when applying this adventurous philosophy to bikinis, it’s important to acknowledge both the size and placement of shapes and colors.
“Dark shades minimize, straight lines emphasize, and large prints accentuate,” notes Reyhan Sofraci, Creative Director of swimwear line Aqua Di Lara.
Here are few more helpful rules to follow: Horizontal stripes give new life to the bustline (high-fives for a fuller chest!), delicate asymmetrical angles and lines can create slimming effects, and large, eye-popping patterns like polka-dots, ikat, or even animal print are great if you want to add curves to a boyish body, or just want to be distinct.
Sue Di Chio, founder and creative brain behind Aussie brand Suboo, is a big fan of patterns this season, namely animalistic ones: “Everyone should try leopard. It’s the new neutral; it’s actually the new black.”
4. From thin to curvy, white is all-inclusive.
There’s no reason to shy away from white swimwear—it is the noncolor of the moment, after all. While Brazilian designer Paola Robba chose a palette rife with pistachio, lilac, and cranberry during her Poko Pano show, the designer also rotated in beautiful key white pieces. “I think white is very chic and classic,” she says of her line.
So, how can people of all shapes and sizes really rock the shade? Hermanny says slender physiques should wear small and revealing cuts because less fabric makes the body appear smaller (conversely, more fabric makes you look heavier). Full-figured women should avoid high-waisted bottoms and look for flip-bottoms or tie-sides. And for those not ready to dive into the unblemished tint, Sofraci likes color-blocking. She says a white top with a black bottom will even minimize the hips!
Regardless of how you approach the style, though, it’s crucial that you pick a suit that’s well-lined—see-through is not a good look!
5. Think (neon) pink.
You can instantly appear more confident and enhance the look of a tan by wearing a shocking neon fuchsia suit. All-out ‘80s pink is impossible to overlook, making it the ultimate summer shade.
“Our signature color is neon pink—we call it Barbie,” says Nicole Hanriot, designer and owner of California-based line Beach Riot. “The color looks good on any skin type; the pink contrast gives skin a nice olive tone.” Hanriot is a fan of color-blocking and recommends pairing the bright hue with equally vivid tones. “Neon orange and neon yellow complement [the pink] really well, too.”