flattering week

My Friends and I Feel Like Marilyn Monroe in This Swimsuit

For an instant pinup look.

It all started with a simple pair of pants. We posted about this suspiciously flattering pair a little while back and the response was so enthusiastic, it got us thinking: Why not sniff out the most flattering things across a bevy of categories, from the most skin-enhancing light bulb to the brightening eye drops to the shapewear designed for all sizes? Welcome to Flattering Week on the Strategist.

One day, scrolling through Instagram, I spotted a very pale, very stylish friend of mine in a gorgeous, red one-piece swimsuit, striding across the beach looking straight-up like a pinup from a ’60s beach movie. This is a friend who I’d never seen expose her skin to the light of day, who usually hides her body under seven layers of black, and here she was not only confident and radiant, but willing to be photographed in what for her was next to nothing. I texted her immediately. Where did she get this magical suit?

Soon, I had my own red “Bathing Beauty” one-piece by Esther Williams. My friend is skinny and straight-figured; I am not. My size will fluctuate between an 8 and a 10, and I have an ample chest that spills out of almost any one-piece that fits the rest of me. The minute I put this one on, though, I felt like Marilyn Monroe. It had a lovely, eye-catching sheen, ruching (when the fabric gathers in a purposeful way) in the front that minimized my belly, low-cut leg holes that covered the widest part of my hips, and a halter top and light boning for the kind of chest support that most bathing suits never give me. At $90, it’s a fourth of the price of its closest retro equivalent, the cultish one-piece from Norma Kamali.

I’ve had the suit for five years now and take it everywhere I travel. Taylor Swift has one in polka dots. Zooey Deschanel wore a bikini version on New Girl. A size-12 friend of mine who has a great, sexy belly, saw mine and has since bought four of her own. She loved that she could see real women — from petite to plus size — wearing the suits on ModCloths’s site, and practically lives in her suits 24/7 when visiting her family in Hawaii. I love that I can throw on a skirt after swimming and look like I’m wearing a cute dress. Sometimes, I even just put mine on in the winter and lounge around my apartment, feeling fabulous, because there’s no better salve for having a radiator you can’t control than pretending you’re in your own private Beach Blanket Bingo.

Esther Williams Bombshell Bathing Suit

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

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My Friends and I Feel Like Marilyn Monroe in This Swimsuit