The short answer to the title question is, “Sometimes.” There are myriad swimwear styles with a variety of ideal fits! Here, we’re going to talk about the right fit for different styles of swimwear, and touch on how to choose the type of swimwear most suitable for your needs and taste.
For a proper fit when choosing a traditional one-piece swimsuit or bikini swimsuit, it’s best to look for a lingerie-like fit. Consider that swimsuits in these ubiquitous styles look and function optimally when they look tight but don’t feel very tight. You want to feel secure and supported while avoiding any binding or restriction of movement. To avoid gaping or gapping that could cause an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction, your bikini or one-piece should lie flat against your skin at all the openings and edges, without biting into your skin. If you can comfortably fit two fingers between the leg opening or back edge of your swimsuit, but it immediately snaps back to lying flat when you remove your fingers, you have likely achieved a perfect fit, measurement-wise.
With the greater coverage offered by tankinis and other swim separate combinations comes greater variety of fit! Blouson tankini tops, for example, are designed to be looser and flowing around the midsection, with a fitted band at the top and bottom to hold the top in place and protect your privacy. You’ll want to use the “two fingers” test on the top and bottom bands, but the rest can be as voluminous as you like! Flyaway and empire waist tankini tops should have a bra-like fit at the bustline—often with bra band styling!—but the “shirt” part of the top might be quite flowy or roomy. These are just a few examples of tankini tops that, generally speaking, will not be tight at all. Some tankini tops are meant to look more like trim tank tops, lying close to the body, and will certainly cling when wet.
Tankini bottoms fall under “swim separates” and can be almost anything you like; we are living in a swimwear utopia where almost any style you can imagine wanting in a swimwear bottom is available! If you chose a traditional bikini brief, boy short, or similar, your swim bottom should be relatively tight, but not binding. Use the “two fingers” test to make sure you’re not needlessly making yourself uncomfortable. However, you might choose board shorts as your swimwear bottom, or bottoms cut like athletic shorts, or even swimwear capris! Those should skim the body without being tight at all, though they will cling when wet.
These are design features often employed in swimwear that may alter the feel of a particular swimsuit on your body. Any one-piece swimsuit or swimwear bottom might feature an attached skirt, and that skirt can be anywhere on the spectrum from a retro-inspired super-tight ruched skirt to an athletic-looking A-line tennis-style swim skirt to a full, flirty circle skirt, albeit quite short! Skirts usually provide a bit of extra coverage to any swimwear, and as long as the underlayment protects your privacy, the skirt can be as tight or as flowing as you like.
Ruching, simply defined, is an overlay of fabric that has been gathered, fluted or pleated to create horizontal ripples in clothing. Ruching can be wonderfully flattering on the body and is often used in swimwear design; if you choose a suit with ruching, you may find it has an easier fit, though you will want to take care that the ruching doesn’t lose its ripples going over larger body contours. That would rob it of its charm!
Retro styles, such as high-waisted bikinis, tight ruched skirts, and straight-bottom one-piece suits, usually with a sweetheart neckline and halter top, were designed to both look and be tighter. Part of the aesthetic was to slightly squeeze voluptuous figures and let the “dent” showcase a particularly soft and luscious body part. If you like this look, you might choose to wear a tight swimsuit, or you can revel in the contemporary design and fabric improvements that will let you capture those silhouettes without the deep red dents in your skin when you finally remove your swimsuit. The choice is yours, and yours alone.
Right now—literally today—covering as much or as little as you wish with your swimwear ensemble is completely acceptable in our culture and society. Gone are the days of sheepishly wearing a T-shirt over your swimsuit. You can simply choose to wear a rash guard and get on with your enjoyment of the beach or pool, and no one will give it a second thought. If you like more traditional swimwear options and the tighter fits they call for, that’s fabulous, and if you don’t, that is fabulous, too. You can look cute and appropriate no matter your needs or taste.