The (big boob) bikini guide

Find support and style in this season’s swimwear

Words: Talya Galasko | Illustrations: Kobie Nieuwoudt

'Bewildering' is not a term I use often, but I’d like to bring in it today to discuss some recent encounters I’ve had with the swimwear selection available of late. The industry, it would appear, has been taking on a bigger approach to the “bigger is better” approach – the result being the transformation of the once-functional bikini top into a bulletproof-looking contraption, able to withstand incredible force while giving the wearer a four-to-five-cup size bump. As a woman with D+ cups searching for support (but not to the detriment of style), navigating the sea of padding in what was once simple swimwear can be incredibly infuriating, and at times disheartening. To my less busty female counterparts I’d like to say to you: yes – I understand that bigger breasts are both desired and coveted and can appreciate certain innovations in your brassiere. But for the rest of us – the C-to-Z-cupped – breasts are not something that can be clipped on and then off at the end of a hot summer’s day.

For us, breasts are here to stay, and when they are not, we need support. So this guide is for you – for the busty ladies out there navigating their ways between the on-trend but off-limits lower-backed monokini and the uneventful string-tied crokini. The ones twiddling a needle and thread over new but unreasonable purchases and wondering just how. Let us instead celebrate summer with some help from the styles that can make it happen, whether playing beach bats and volleyball, swimming in the sea, tanning on both sides, and most importantly – never nipple-slipping  

The bra bikini top

One of the first things you'll learn once you enter C+ cup territory is that hardware-free swimwear simply won't do you any favours. Gravity exists and so do the effects of buoyancy, so make underwire your best friend. Modelled after the bra (go figure), the bra bikini will give you just that, offering more support and structure than your average triangle top while maintaining that sought-after sultry silhouette. Although padding is usually off-limits, in this instance it will not only keep you in place but also boost cleavage points (if need be). Unfortunately, this one is less suited to playing sports etc., but makes up for it in its conduciveness to incredible tan lines, envious stares and summer romances alike.

The balconette/bandeau

Inspired by the bandeau silhouette with our much-loved underwire addition, the balconette bikini offers more coverage and conservatism than (1). Most styles come with adjustable over-the-shoulder straps, giving you lift you can use and in some instances replicating what I like to call 'corset cleavage'. Thanks to its shape, the balconette bikini proves tanning-friendly, pool-party friendly, and even friendly when you're around friends' families and parents, etc., since the ratio of boob to bikini is lowered (an incredible feat for us busty girls). As a pro tip, I'd like to remind you to check that your fit is snug. Boobs float when immersed in water. 

Full swimming costume

Elegant by design, the full costume is like swimwear that has come of age. Mature, poised and flattering in shape, it offers complete coverage and support – that is if the cups are padded and underwire, in place. Although plunged-back styles are in popular demand this season, you'll find that a higher rise or tie at the back will add further structure, keeping you in place when it matters most. Activities available to you include swimming and volleyball etc., although truthfully, this one's worn best while sunbathing at the hotel pool with an oversized hat, book in one hand, margarita in the other, and an utterly pretentious attitude.

The halterneck

What the full coverage option is to the medical aid industry,  the halterneck is to swimwear. Here to cover you and offer support, this style stands apart from all others in its provision of benefits, benefits and benefits. Given its tighter fit, high-neck rise and racerback design, it proves the most compatible with any and all sports both on and off land. If you can't stay away from volleyball, beach bats, Baywatch-inspired jogs, surfing and scuba diving, the halterneck is your no-nonsense go-to. Unfortunately the only activity unavailable to you must be tanning. Having endured a halterneck tan one long summer ago, I'll have to say no on this one. 

Neoprene and bandage

Although this category doesn’t conform to our swimwear silhouette list strictly, it would be unjust to not mention the hot and helpful summer 16 fabric styles of neoprene and bandage. Consider these fabrics the 4x4s of swimwear, offering flawless support in the form of little-to-no movement, rigid structure and on-trend style. Often making their way to you in elaborate shapes, these styles can be semi-to-very tanning unfriendly, but thanks to their top-like design, are suited to outside-of-pool activities too. Think beach-bar dancing.