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Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss shops for bathing suits at Bloomingdale's in New York. As a tween and then a teen, Gruss struggled finding a suit that would fit her frame that was petite everywhere but her bust. When she chose a career in fashion design, she made rethinking bathing suits a priority.
AP photo by Mary Altaffer
Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss shops for bathing suits at Bloomingdale's in New York. As a tween and then a teen, Gruss struggled finding a suit that would fit her frame that was petite everywhere but her bust. When she chose a career in fashion design, she made rethinking bathing suits a priority.

Buy what's best for your bust

By Samantha Critchell
AP Fashion Writer

NEW YORK — For most women, shopping for a bathing suit is not on top of the list of favorite tasks. There are unflattering lights to deal with, flashes of skin left dull and dry by the winter and sizing that seems to make no sense, bringing up all sorts of body image issues.

The least swimsuit manufacturers can do is offer a full range of shapes and styles upping the odds that eventually shoppers will find the best one, right?

Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss thought so. But as a tween and then a teen, Gruss struggled finding a suit that would fit her frame that was petite everywhere but her bust. It was a source of frustration and embarrassment. When she chose a career in fashion design, she made rethinking bathing suits a priority.

"It didn't make sense that swimsuits were in sets. You wouldn't buy your lingerie in sets," she says.

On a recent browsing expedition through the swimwear department at the flagship Bloomingdale's on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Gruss points out that many companies now offer bathing suit separates and tops based on bust size, as her line does, instead of dress size.

She's not claiming to be the first designer to do these things but she does think the rapid growth of her swimwear collection since it was introduced in 2001 certainly helped nudge the industry forward. She began with only a handful of bikini styles and has seen it grow to include 40 prints each season, tankinis and one-piece suits, which she added after she became a mother in 2005.

Gruss thinks she owes that success for not only understanding her customers but because she is her customer.

"I remember being here with my mom. I looked 29 when I'd put on a bathing suit because the styles that fit me were either too old, too sexy or nothing fit. That was the worst feeling in the world when you're 13," she recalls.

The Bloomingdale's tour starts in her own section. Gruss emphasized that her tops, both for one-piece and two-piece suits, are offered with A-DDD cup sizes and in either petite/small or medium/large back widths, similar to bras. (The line is primarily intended for women who wear a dress size of 0-12.)

By using an underwire bra construction with 26 components, including boning on the sides, silicone gripper tape at the top and a classic hook-and-eye closure in the back, Gruss is confident her strapless tops will stay up on women of all bust sizes. They won't flatten a large chest nor slip down on a small one, she says.

When you're in the dressing room, stand up, sit down and move your arms to make sure the suit fits, she suggests. "If you think you might fall out in the dressing room, it's definitely not a suit for racing or swimming laps."

Gruss identifies the key looks for the summer of 2007: geometric or nautical prints that have a 1970s' jet-set vibe; the sweet sexiness of a full-coverage, Brigitte Bardot-style bikini in a gingham or eyelet fabric; or metallics. Gold, she says, is flattering on almost any skin tone.

"Swim is always all over the place but this year is very feminine, very celebratory of the body," Gruss says.

Bust coverage test

Three-fourths of the bust should be covered, leaving only a swath of cleavage. The thicker the strap that attaches the bust to the rest of the suit, the more likely itíll stay in place as the day goes on. If you opt for a bandeau top, which are often strapless, nothing should be squeezing out the top or the bottom.

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

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