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Scratchpad: Browsing for Bathing Suits

Illustration by Mark Nerys  
  • Of all shopping missions, picking out a bathing suit is hands-down the worst. There’s the usual questions about price and selection, of course, but it’s the trying-on process that’s truly torturous. I looked into dozens of candidates to arrive at five lesser-evil choices.

    5. At Quiksilver (519 Broadway, nr. Spring St.; 212-334-4500), the service was nonexistent, so I grabbed a few Blue Crush–inspired bikinis (separates from $42) and wandered into the fitting room. From what little I could see in the mirror, I had suddenly acquired a six-pack. But, alas, it was an illusion of shadowy lighting, which unfortunately does not exist poolside.

    4. Canyon Beachwear (1136 Third Ave., nr. 67th St.; 917-432-0732) was packed with jazzy bikinis and sporty one-pieces (from $104). An upbeat saleslady showed me to a cabana–themed fitting room, which was so tiny my half-naked self kept bumping into the cold mirror wall and my backside kept poking out of the curtain.

    3. Peddling sequin and frilly bikinis ($100 to $400), Pesca Boutique (1151 Second Ave., nr. 60th St.; 212-813-0546) had extra-dark changing rooms, which were not individually equipped with mirrors, forcing me into the public realm in my skivvies. One nice touch, though: They offered disposable thongs and sample heels.

    2. Up on the tenth-floor swim section at Saks (611 Fifth Ave., at 49th St.; 212- 940-2818), I was impressed with the selection ($54 for Ralph Lauren pieces; $340 for a Jean Paul Gaultier one-piece). As soon as I eyed a Betsy Johnson bikini top, an eager clerk escorted me to a big room with its own trifold mirror. If my suspicion about ultraflattering trickery was true—could I really look this toned and tan in March?—so much the better.

    The Winner!
    1. From the moment I rang the doorbell at Nolita’s Malia Mills (199 Mulberry St., nr. Kenmare St.; 212-625-2311), the minimalist boutique was the clear champ. A shopgirl pulled options based on my bra and pant sizes, and laid them in a spacious, well-lit dressing room. At about $300, these bikinis weren’t cheap—but the anxiety-reducing experience will save me at least that much in therapy.

    What Is This?
    Each year, everything you see in “Best of New York” has been rigorously tested by a small army of discriminating critics. That’s a given. What you don’t typically see is so much as a glimpse of the process by which we reach our conclusions. To provide a taste of that (and to sneak in a few more picks), we’ve invented the Scratchpad, a brief look at the paths our testers followed in six categories.

From the 2011 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine