(InStyle.com) -- Think of a swimsuit as your strategic dare-to-bare ally: Find one in a flattering color and cut, and it can give you the confidence you'll want when it's time to drop the towel.
There's no getting around the fact that swimsuit shopping can be a major drag, but if you put your mind to it, you will find a suit that downplays what you don't love and highlights what you do.
Maximize a small bust
Underwires, boning and padding add shape and fullness to your chest, says stylist Julie Weiss, who has worked with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Gabrielle Union. Just be sure that any padding is subtle and, once wet, doesn't show through.
Ruffles, like shirring, can also be a plus, since they can make any area look bigger. Also consider the art of distraction. Jeanne Yang, who has styled Katie Holmes and Brooke Shields, says a top with a funky pattern, polka dots or embellishments will camouflage a petite chest.
Minimize a large bust
In a top, don't be tempted to go too small: Spillage along the sides will just make the chest look bigger. And keep in mind that suits run about two sizes smaller than your clothing size.
An underwire or built-in bra gives structure and support, says Weiss. Seek out bra sizing in bathing suit tops for a more accurate fit. And when you're trying on either one or two-pieces, make sure the straps are sturdy. Keyhole or string-bikini triangle tops and demi bras aren't ideal for big busts, says Yang, since they don't provide enough coverage or support.
Banish belly bulge
A plunging halter top draws the eye up and away from any pooch below. Details or a bold pattern on the midsection can also be positively distracting -- a busy print keeps the eye moving so it doesn't settle on a less-than-flat tummy.
In one-piece styles, look for extras like built-in tummy control panel or a suit that has significantly more spandex; the Miraclesuit, for instance, has up to three times more than the usual swimsuit. In terms of two-pieces, a tankini is probably a better choice than a bikini. In either style, make sure that any elastic in the waistband does not cause belly spillover.
Lower body help
A high cut in the leg (but nothing higher than the hip bone) helps heavy thighs look slimmer. Leave boy shorts at the store - -they make the derrière and thighs look bigger. Also pass on any prints and ruffles on the lower half that draw attention to the rear.
Emphasize your top with color blocks, light colors or embellishment at the chest--they'll draw the eye away from a heavier bottom. And consider mix and matching bikini pieces: Wear a print on top and a dark solid on the lower half, or white on top and black on the bottom.
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