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Learn your As,
Xs and Vs

to navigate the waters
of swimwear styles

By Samantha Critchell
AP Fashion Writer

Every woman's body is different, which means that just about every body needs a different bathing suit.

The tank-strap suit that looks so good on your neighbor might be flattering on you, too, but it might be even better if the leg was cut just a little bit higher or you went with a bandeau top instead.

Swimwear designer Lori Coulter deems there to be 140 measurements relevant in choosing the best swimsuit for your body. Those measurements, taken by a digital body scanner to produce a three-dimensional image of each of her customers, are the basis of each suit produced by her company, Lori Coulter TrueMeasure.

There are 40 basic styles that can be adapted with different necklines, straps, leg heights, built-in bra types, fabrics and embellishments.

But Coulter, whose business is based in St. Louis, also says that personal style and mind-set affect which bathing suit is right for you. Even a fabulous figure doesn't mean there isn't a good, better and best suit out there.

According to Coulter's letter-based system of categorizing shapes, Duffield would be an A, a narrower top and wider bottom.

A halter really is ideal for a woman with a V-shaped figure, someone who is broader on top, or an 0 shape, a full trunk often with slender arms and legs, says Coulter, but it actually works on almost anyone as long as she doesn't have very narrow shoulders.

Coulter's other recommendations, based on swimsuit shape:

  • A tank gives good coverage and bust support and is best suited for classic hourglass X figures or for Vs. Especially on an X, Coulter says the tank "is not a boring suit."

  • String bikinis are surprisingly flattering to a lot of figures. An A, with narrow shoulders and wider hips, benefits from the smaller bottom on this kind of suit because it makes the bottom appear proportional.

    The string top, with its triangles covering the bust, helps emphasize the bust and define the waist of an H shape, someone with an equally proportioned upper and lower torso, a straight waist and typically slender arms and legs. "An H looks great in a bikini almost all the time. You want the lower rise to elongate the waist," Coulter explains.

    An X can also wear a string bikini if she's petite and the swimsuit isn't too skimpy.

  • A bandeau top is for women with a C-cup bust or smaller. It works best on H and A figures because they don't have overpowering shoulders.

  • A skirted suit is not Coulter's favorite silhouette on anyone since she almost always recommends a higher leg opening to create an inverted V at the hips. But, she adds, a woman with full square hips and slim legs might find the skirt flattering.

    The boy short is another style that Coulter steers women away from "It's for the surfers or people doing athletics and have great bodies. It's hard to wear."

    Coulter leaves the question of wearing a one- or two-piece suit up to the individual, because you don't really know which one will look better until you try it on.

    "The one-piece is on the comeback, but if you have a great body and you want to show it off, the bikini never goes out of style."

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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