Best bikinis for women over 50: the annual hunt for swimwear that covers… and reveals

Finding a bikini that both flatters and gets you a tanned tummy is the annual swimwear challenge. But there are some companies finally waking up to our needs

Going anywhere nice this summer? Oh, that’s lovely. We went to Corsica a couple of years ago, had a wonderful time. You’ll love it, we can’t wait to go back. Got your swimwear ready?

Yes, it’s that time again. The moment in the shopping year so horrible it almost makes me want to have a staycation and spend the entire fortnight huddled in a cagoule in Criccieth.

But no, I shan’t give in – I shall feel the sun on my stomach again this year. I shall, I shall! And the stomach is the key thing for me.

One-pieces are fine for doing health lengths in the local verruca swamp, especially now you can easily find ones with that marvellous powermesh to keep your wobbly bits pulled in. But for a proper holiday – white sand, lapping waves, poolside cocktails – it has to be a bikini.

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I gave up after finding that all bikini tops with underwires also have padded cups. Who came up with that rule?

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For lying down in, anyway.

I haven’t stood up or walked around in a bikini for years, but I need to know it’s there. One-pieces on the beach are very frumpy-making on an older girl. They bespeak a ‘given up’ attitude as loudly as elastic waistbands.

And while I will never put my tummy on public display anywhere but horizontal on a beach mat or sunlounger, having a brown one makes me feel a lot better about it being flabby for weeks after I come home from my hols.

Bikini top: padded vs underwired 
Fantasie_Durban Red Underwired Full Cup Bikini Top and Deep Gathered Brief
Durban Red Underwired Full Cup Bikini Top and Deep Gathered Brief from Fantasie

The hard bit has been finding a bikini I can possibly wear. My frustration led to me giving up on conventional swimwear years ago, after finding that all bikini tops with underwires also have padded cups.

Uh? Who came up with that rule? If you need underwire, you don’t need padding. And if you need padding, you don’t need underwire. Total fail.

The other swimwear option that should have worked for me and didn’t was the tankini. I cheered when I first saw one, years ago, as it seemed the perfect solution to my bare tummy lying down/covered tummy standing up paradox. Some of them even came with built-in underwired tops.

But apart from the heinous padded bra element previously mentioned, they all seem to be too short, even when lowered in the standing position, revealing an unfortunate strip of flesh just in the muffin top area. Hopeless.

So I invented my own swimwear system. I customised plain black underwired T-shirt bras, by pulling off the cutesy flower lace thing at the front and wore them as my bikini top, with a range of different bottoms, bought online from sensibly chic US brand J Crew.

I was very grateful, at this point, to Kate Moss for making it cool to wear unmatching bikini tops and bottoms.

Thus decked out for sunbathing, when I wanted to stand up, I would pull on a simple M&S narrow-strapped cotton vest, which came in a useful range of colours. Bingo: home-made, underwired, non-padded, stomach covering, custom tankini.

Bikinis for women over 50
Fantasie_Montreal Ocean Underwired Bikini Top and Fold Brief
Montreal Ocean Underwired Bikini Top and Fold Brief by Fantasie

But now I am happy to report that I can leave this slightly eccentric arrangement behind, as the swimwear industry has got savvy to the needs of women who have grown out of – in every way – the triangle bikini of our golden youths.

There is a whole new world out there of firm-support, underwired, unpadded bikini tops, which you can mix up or match with different shapes of bikini bottoms.

These include a glorious new genre with a soft folding upper edge, which don’t create the flesh-waterfall effect and you can arrange to sit at the point that most flatters your mummy tummy.

I think the best brand for style and quality is FantasieFreya is also excellent. And better still, while it might mean making a few annoying trips to the post office, you can avoid the trauma of trying on swimwear in a badly lit cubicle, with these three websites: Simply BeachBravissimo and Figleaves.

Meanwhile, if a large bosom is your overriding issue, Ample Bosom is a great company.

And if you can stomach the in-store try-on, Fantasie swimwear is stocked at John Lewis and Peter Jones, as well as the Bravissimo shops.

See you on the beach.