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Home » The Vine

The Vine: February 22, 2013

Submitted by on February 22, 2013 – 9:06 AM28 Comments


I’m looking to buy a new swimsuit, mine is all stretched out. Here’s the particulars: I live in SoCal, so I can and do swim pretty much year-round. The pool at my apartment is chlorinated as opposed to salt-water and I need a plus-size one-piece suit.

I’ve been looking at Lands’ End and I like the styles but I’ve never purchased anything from them. Are the sizes on the size chart true sizes? For example, the size 18W is 46-40-48 on their chart. Does the 18W really fit those measurements? How does the suit itself hold up under repeated use, does the elastic break down quickly, does it sag?

Any info the Nation can give me on the experience with Lands’ End or other sites with good plus-size swimwear would greatly appreciated.


I’m about to float out of my suit

Dear Float,

I’ve had good luck with their suits; my skirted tankini is still going strong after several years. You may find that it’s a bit snug on first wearing, but like jeans with stretch, Lands’ End suits settle into the right size pretty quickly.

I recall their site as helpful on finding good suits for your particular body type and intended use, and you could always call them for more assistance; trying to take the agita out of swimsuit shopping is, like, their trademark.



Hey Sars,

I’m looking for a book I read in the early ’90s, although it was likely written somewhere from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. I unfortunately don’t remember much of the plot, but I know the protagonist was a boy around 13 with a mouth full of braces and some serious anxiety. The one scene I remember clearly is that the kid is at the orthodontist’s office when a thunderstorm kicks up, the power goes out, and he takes off due to a deep-seated fear of either storms or the dark. He ends up at an ice-cream parlor (as you do) and decides to spend a Susan B. Anthony dollar on some ice cream.  

Other pertinent information:

– There was something of an antagonist in another boy who also had braces; the two kids usually called each other “Train Tracks” and “Metal Mouth.”

– I’m pretty sure the author was somewhat popular with several published books, possibly all set in the same universe, although that might be imaginary on my part.  There seem to have been a lot of similar authors in the ’70s and ’80s.

– In this book, or another by the same author, a foreign family or foreign exchange student come to live with the protagonist’s family. I’m somewhat positive that had to do with the actual plot of the book, but I only remember it for teaching me how to pronounce the name “Ng.” 

I’m really hoping I’m not crazy and that this book actually existed.  The Nation seems to be made up exclusively of smart and well-read people, so I’m hoping they’ll be able to help.







  • Katie says:

    Fi, is it Do Bananas Chew Gum? by Jamie Gilson? I remember the other book you mention, too- that one is called Hello, My Name is Scrambled Eggs.

  • anon o says:

    If you swim a lot in a chlorinated pool try a polyester rather than lycra suit, they hold up to chlorine much longer.

  • garli says:

    For lap swimming (aka, not as cute) suits I’m a big fan of

    I they have all the standard speedo/tyr/brands that do come in plus size. They hold up as well as any suits to chlorine because they’re made for that. You’ll get them to last longer if you rise out the chlorine after each use.

  • Cora says:

    Good Lord, I can answer both! Red letter day!

    Fi and Katie, yes, it IS Do Bananas Chew Gum?. I LOVED this book and literally read it to pieces. (Stupid crappy eighties flimsy paperback; damn good book.)

    Float: I had this same problem. Look in the phone book for an independent retailer of bras, lingerie and swimwear that advertises larger sizes — especially the ones who say they carry “mastectomy supplies”. I know this sounds weird, but trust me. Stores like this have an enormous selection of swimsuits and are staffed by amazing ladies of a certain age who know. their. shit. They will take you to a dressing room and look and measure and consider, then bring you three or four swimsuits that will fit like a dream. You may have pay a little more than for Land’s End, but for me, it’s worth it. Forgive the pun, but given their clientele, they really are supportive (heh) and non-judgmental and they sell quality stuff that will last.

  • Kay says:

    ooooh, finally one I can answer.
    A couple of Christmases ago my (now ex-) boyfriend bought me a lovely plus-sized suit from here:

    They have vintage-cut suits, which I find more flattering than modern suits. Plus the skirt is pretty much straight, unlike most swimsuit skirts, which I love. I’ve done water aerobics twice a week, for about a year now, and it’s totally holding up.

    Plus, the patterns of the fabrics are really cute. Mine has cherries, but they have polka-dots, gingham, floral, etc. A very ’50’s vibe.

  • April G. says:

    The good thing about Lands End is you can do returns at Sears stores, so you can buy a few different options and return the ones that don’t work out. You would have to double check if this applies to swim suits, but I think it does. I’m borderline plus size and have had really good luck with their suits. The fit well, hold up for ages, and are flattering and stylish.

    I also recommend if you want something more sporty. They have great sales, and a good return policy. I was lap swimming for a while and bought a swim unitard from them.
    It’s not the most attractive, but it’s comfortable, hides my “problem areas” and doesn’t require me to shave!

  • ConchExPat says:

    I have had great success with suits from I’m also plus sized, and swim several times weekly in a chlorinated pool. These suits hold up very well.

  • Lesley says:

    ConchExPat: Thank you for posting I’ve been trying to remember that website since I read the letter earlier this morning.

    I would also like to recommend I was very pleased with their plus sizes. The suits hold up and at least for me, the suits were true to size.

  • Leigh says:

    I absolutely agree with Kay about the Esther Williams swimwear on ModCloth. Great stuff, and that vintage style is cute, comfortable, AND flattering.

  • Bubbles says:

    Woohoo! Timely Nation is timely. I just started a water aerobics class, and my current suits aren’t cutting it.

  • Megan in Seattle says:

    I’ve had good luck with Land’s End suits, and particularly like the (full coverage) tankini I bought from them. I was the same size as you, and I feel like the sizing is as advertised. I believe my one-piece also came from them.

  • Amy Number 512 says:

    Wait, how DO you pronounce the name Ng?

  • Maria says:

    For the all-poly everyone is talking about, one place you can look is Junonia for their AquaSport line. I’m strongly considering this one for my next suit.

  • WordMaven says:

    Longtime Lands End customer here. I second the suggestion that you order several suits, since you CAN return any and all to your nearest Sears store–convenient! Also, they have a couple of lines. Aqua Terra and Aqua Fit, that claim to be much more chlorine resistant than their other fabrics. If you are ever in doubt about anything from Lands End, just call them. Their online staff are unbelievably helpful and have access to tons more info about every product they carry, especially about fit and specific measurements that are not shown on their fit charts. The returnability is a key advantage, and right now, they are having a “Friends and Family” sale that offers 30% off everything with free shipping, and with swimwear being so pricey, that’s a good deal. Good luck!

  • Megan says:

    I like the Title Nine line for swimwear. Pricey but the suits hold up. I’ll also make a slightly counter-intuitive suggestion: a bikini. I’m not small and I chose a one-piece for a long time because of it. Then one day I realized I was the same size and equally revealed in a one-piece or a two-piece, so I tried a two-piece. My shape is the same either way, but the two-piece feels completely fantastic while swimming and the tan line is better. If you think you are at the place where swimwear is just the gear you wear while doing laps and not about being looked at, the additional wonderful sensation from wearing a two-piece is great.


    There are now YouTube videos on pronouncing all sorts of stuff, Ng and Nguyen included. I love that.

  • Jen S.2.0 says:

    Seconding the recommendation to buy at LE and return at Sears. I was able to do that when swimsuit shopping a couple of years ago.

    I wear my suit a few weeks of the year on vacation, so it’s hard for me to talk about durability, but I’m very happy with my LE suit.

    I also have had surprisingly good luck with suits from Old Navy. (Nothing against ON, but longevity is not their strong (*ahem*) suit.)

  • Float says:

    Oh, wow! Thanks for all the suggestions. I’m going to peruse all the sites suggested and maybe I’ll buy two suits. I have three or four currently, bought at different times and places and they all need to be tossed.

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    Another plug for, because they have size charts for each of the brands.

    As a former water fitness teacher I will say go for fitness swimwear or training swimsuits. Kiefer or TYR were always my go-to brands–expensive, but when I paid $75 for a swimsuit I knew it was going to last a couple of years.

    They’re not as cute as Lands End or Eddie Bauer suits (plus for Eddie Bauer, their one-pieces come in tall sizes) but when you’re in the water 5 days a week for 2 or 3 hours at a time you want a suit that won’t fade, shrink, stretch or wear out. I liked the Unitard/Aquatard style but I taught year round at an outdoor pool and I jumped up on the deck to demonstrate I didn’t want to worry about the crack floss factor as the doors to the basketball gym were right next to the pool.

  • Leigh in CO says:

    Chiming in with the Lands End chorus. I’ve bought all my suits from them the past few years, which may make it sound like they aren’t durable, but really I just get a new suit every year. I buy the skirts and tank tops, mostly, because I like having some swap options, my top size and my bottom size aren’t the same, and I like the coverage of a skirt. I find they run true to size and hold up to chlorine well.

  • M says:

    I love my Lands End swimsuits!
    I could write an ode to the “Tugless Tank”tm, since the low cut leg does stay put around my bottom.
    I also have a tankini that I bought as separates. And all were on sale.

    I don’t know about the plus-sizes, but the regular sizes fit well. There are some larger cup sizes available, too, in some styles.

  • JB says:

    I had a surprisingly awesome experience with Zappos. They have a good range of swimwear, and I was able to tell from the comments if the suits were true to size. Also, I received the swimsuit the next business day which was nice.

  • Wunderbar says:

    Anyone know a brick-and-mortar store that carries a line like Modcloth? I really like the look of their suits, but since I was blessed with an unusual shape, buying clothes before I can try them on is pure folly.

  • Wunderbar says:

    Forgot to mention, in Massachusetts!

  • Grace says:

    Another happy customer for Lands End plus-size swimwear. Like others have mentioned, I’ve found it easiest to order more than what I want, try everything on, then return the rejects to the closest Sears store. In terms of quality and wear, I’ve been extremely happy with all of the suits I’ve bought through Lands End. In particular, I’ve had good luck with the separate tankini/bottom strategy of shopping. I’m a bit of a pear, and with some one-pieces, if the top half fits, my hips are in agony from a too-tight fit. Buying separates lets me work around that. Even so, I’ve had good luck with one pieces from LE, it just depends on the cut and the fabric.

    I’ve also ordered suits in the past from, and their Aquasport suits are very chlorine resistant. While 18W is the bottom of their size range, the smallest sizes often turn up in their clearance as a bargain.

  • Rachel says:

    LW #1 – I get my suits from LLBean. They are indestructible, hold all my junk in place and don’t try to crawl up my butt. I am a plus-size lady with a freakishly long torso, so finding 1-piece suits that stay put is a challenge. LLBean is good for that, if (like me) you don’t want to wear a tankini or similar. If you want to look stylish, ModCloth has cute things, but I’ve never bought a swimsuit from there.

    LW #2 – the last bit you mention is indeed from “Hello My Name is Scrambled Eggs” and the foreign kid’s name is “Nguyen.” I remember reading that and begging my mom to let us have a foreign exchange student but we didn’t really get those sorts of folks in our part of Ohio. I’m going to add that to the list of books I loved that I want my kid to read. She is juuuuust about old enough to get started on some of them!

  • Cora says:

    @Amy number 512: you pronounce it like “ing”. Fun example here, clicky.

  • auburntiger says:

    Miraclesuit from Zappos! Free shipping to you and free shipping back to them, so if the first doesn’t fit, it’s no issue to get another size if you don’t feel like getting multiple suits at once. Well worth the money for the suit- I looked and felt like a million bucks in it.

  • Nicole says:

    Chiming in on the Land’s End suit love. I have several of their suits – both for taking the kids to the pool and lap swimming/training. The lap suit I have is from the Aqua Terra(?) line and it has held up to lake swimming and pool swimming for a couple years now. I love that they have suits with bra sizing past “D”. And if you sign up for their emails, you will get some AMAZING coupons. If you get one of their “slimming” suits, be forewarned, it will feel like a sausage casing, but everything will stay where it is supposed to.

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