How To Know If Your Swimsuit Is Too Small

Although summer is a much anticipated time of year that conjures up thoughts of the sea, sand, backyard barbecues, and ice cream, it is also the dreaded annual time of pulling your swimsuit out from the back of your drawer and taking stock of the situation. Fortunately, this tiny garment sends out some pretty clear messages if it is too small.

Your swimsuit is too small if the straps or leg openings dig into your skin. A bikini top that is too small will squash your breasts out the sides. Halter necks will feel tight and hurt your neck. Ill-fitting bottoms ride up, causing wedgies. Stretched swimsuit fabric looks taut and thin.

If the thought of squeezing your winter-shaped body into a tiny swimsuit fills you with anxiety, you are not alone. However, so long as the garment fits properly, the experience doesn’t have to be too traumatic. Let’s do a quick swimsuit size check so you can stride confidently toward the water this summer.

How To Know If Your Swimsuit Is Too Small

Swimsuits are designed to fit like a second skin. The stretchy thick, fast-drying fabric should hug every body curve while covering everything it needs. You should be able to glide through water and emerge onto dry land without any extra saggy fabric bunching up or feeling uncomfortably tight.

A swimsuit that fits correctly will stay put and allow you to move confidently. Whether you are enjoying a swim, a game of volleyball, or reclining on a beach chair, the last thing on you should not have to worry about is revealing more skin than anticipated.

Incorrect swimsuit fitting can go in two directions. It can be too big, which usually results in gaping sides and ballooning extra fabric while swimming, or the opposite is that the garment is too small. We have created this handy list of 10 signs to let you know if your swimsuit is too small.

1. The Swimsuit Will Feel Tight

Swimsuits are designed to be figure-hugging, but they should make you feel comfortable and sporty. If your body feels like it is squished into a sausage casing, and the fabric has little give, there is a good chance that the garment is too small.

When your swimsuit is on, check how it feels and if you are able to move comfortably without any serious wardrobe malfunctions. One-piece bathing suits that are too small tend to squash everything flat. While that may be fine over your belly, your breasts and bottom may also be included in the big squeeze, and everything may look less shapely than you had hoped.

2. The Bottom Will Ride Up

We all know the feeling of readjusting our swimsuit bottom to cover our cheeks occasionally, but if you find it is happening more than usual, your swimsuit is probably too small. A swimsuit should fit snuggly over the bottom section without creating a wedgy each time you move.

The cut of a swimsuit also plays a part in how often it rides up, especially while swimming, but if you need to frequently pull the back of your swimsuit bottom down to cover your butt cheeks, opt for a size up.

3. Showing More Skin Than Intended

Swimsuits come in many designs – from cheeky thongs created to cover only the bare essentials to fuller cuts that offer the wearer a more modest look. Whatever the style of your swimsuit, if it is showing more skin than it is designed to, it is probably too small.

This sizing issue is particularly noticeable when the cup size of bikini tops is incorrect. The fabric should lie flat and comfortably cover the bust without a postage-stamp type of appearance. If your bikini top is too small, your breasts may try to escape out the sides and reveal more than you intended.

4. The Swimsuit Cuts Into Skin

Swimsuits are made from strong fabric created to withstand sea, sun, and pool chemicals. You usually won’t notice this at first, but if your swimsuit is too small, it can make uncomfortable red marks on your skin where it is pulling most, especially after a few hours.

Swimsuit shoulder straps, like bra straps, are notorious for cutting down into skin. When trying on your swimsuit, ensure that you can comfortably fit at least two fingers between the straps and your skin. Of course, you don’t want your straps to fall down non-stop either, but too tight will equal pain if you wear your swimsuit for more than a couple of hours.

Other areas to check for a perfect fit are the leg holes and underarm areas. A swimsuit that is too tight can cause redness and chaffing in sensitive areas.

5. It Is Hard To Get On

Putting on your swimsuit should be like enveloping your body in another layer. You should not have to wrestle the garment to pull it up or close any fasteners. One-piece wearers are more likely to notice this.

If you find yourself pulling it up on all sides to get your swimsuit to cover your body and get it into position, opt for a larger size. Fasteners should be simple to close, and straps should never be stretched to the max to reach all the way around.

6. The Fabric Is Stretched Taut

Swimsuit fabric usually contains a stretchy elastic component like spandex or lycra. This allows it to provide shape-hugging properties, so the garment fits comfortably and stays in place while swimming. There is, however, only so much stretch in the material before it will appear thin and feel tight rather than stretchy.

Every spot on your swimsuit should be able to lift slightly away from your body. Pinch and lift the fabric slightly using your thumb and index finger. If the material is stretched too tightly, it will be hard to grasp and even harder to lift.

7. Halter Neck Designs Cause Neck Pain

You probably won’t notice it immediately, but if your swimsuit is too small, your halter neck swimsuit will soon start to feel like a yoke pulling you down. Of course, you need to keep your top up, but the fabric should still have some springiness and not feel like a taut rope holding two parts together.

8. Looks Shapeless

A one-piece swimsuit that is pulled too tightly over the body is likely to squash all your curves and assets. The elastic fabric can only stretch so far before it maxes out and will start resisting. Your breasts may feel squashed, and if it does not create a wedgie, it will also make your bottom look flatter.

9. Muffin Top Body Parts

Your swimsuit should embrace your form, and the edges of the straps and two-piece bottom should blend with your shape. The area under your swimsuit should not appear compressed. Your swimsuit is too small if you have any visible overhang over your bikini bottom.

10. Ask A Friend

If your swimsuit feels fine, but you are still wondering if it looks too small, grab a family member or close friend that you trust, and ask for an honest assessment. We are often somewhat self-conscious when it comes to swimwear, and your swimsuit may be perfect – you may just need a little confidence booster!

shutterstock 2138293247

What Can I Do If My Swimsuit Is Too Small?

While you should never wear anything under a swimsuit, there are plenty of ways to cover up a swimsuit that is too small. If you suddenly realize that last year’s swimsuit is a little too snug and you don’t have time to get a size up, don’t despair.

You don’t have to miss any of the summer fun, and some emergency options are available. Of course, wearing a too-tight swimsuit should only be done as a temporary measure as it may not be comfortable, but here are some ways you can avoid showing more skin than intended or hide those pesky wedgies.

  • Add a piece – This should only be attempted if you have great sewing skills. Add a bit of fabric on the side seams under your arms to release the band slightly.
  • Adjust the straps – If the swimsuit has adjustable straps, ensure they are set as long as possible.
  • Mix and match – You don’t have to wear a matching top and bottom on a two-piece bathing suit. If one of the two pieces is a little snug, use part of another swimsuit or purchase a size up on only the piece you need.
  • Wear a sarong – these loose and colorful swimsuit wraps (available on Amazon below) will look perfectly in place at the beach or pool and can hide plenty of faults. The fabric is always light, and you can even use an oversized scarf to wrap around your hips.

  • Board shorts – Team up your snug swimsuit bottom with a cute pair of swim shorts like these from Zuiqe. Check it out on Amazon below.

  • Swimsuit coverup – Your swimsuit will still be visible under a soft, breathable, feminine swimsuit cover like this one from Moss Rose (available on Amazon below), but the details won’t be as evident.

  • Rash guard – Rash guards like this one from ATTRACO (available on Amazon below) are always worn over swimsuits. If your bikini top is a little on the tight side and not covering as much as it needs to, pop a rash guard over it so you can swim and move about confidently without worrying that anything may unexpectedly pop out.

Can You Go Swimming In Your Underwear?

Underwear and swimsuits may sometime look similar, but they are entirely different. Swimwear is made of thick stretchy fabric that will dry quickly and is durable enough to cope with salt water, pool chemicals, and harsh sunlight.

So while you can swim in your underwear, it is not recommended for a few really good reasons:

  • It will become waterlogged and look baggy when you emerge from the water.
  • It may become see-through when it gets wet.
  • Sea water or pool chemicals is likely to damage underwear fabric.
  • It needs a long time to dry, so it will feel uncomfortable when you are out of the water.
  • Not all underwear can visibly pass as swimwear which is considered both inner and outerwear. Underwear is usually only worn UNDER other clothes, so it may not be appropriate gear in a public place.

Do Swimsuits Stretch?

Swimsuits do stretch over time because the elasticity of the fabric doesn’t last forever. However, this will not solve the problem of a too-small swimsuit at the beginning of the season because, by the time the garment has lost some of its stretchiness, it may no longer look as appealing as when it was new.

This phenomenon of swimsuit stretching is one of the main reasons to avoid buying a swimsuit in a size too big. All swimsuits will inevitably stretch slightly over time due to pool chemicals, sun, heat, and the natural process of getting older.

You can prevent or slow the stretching process by taking care of your swimsuit. It should be handled gently and should never be thrown into the laundry basket with the rest of your clothes after a day at the pool.

Follow these steps to keep your swimsuit in tip-top condition for as long as possible.

  • Always rinse your swimsuit in cold water as soon as possible to remove any chlorine, sweat, or salt.
  • Choose a gentle laundry soap and hand wash the swimsuit in cold water. Work gently with the garment and do not wring it out or stretch it, even if you find patches of sunblock or dirt. Massage the spots gently.
  • Lay the swimsuit on a flat surface to dry. Laying it on a towel is a good idea as it will also absorb water from below. Avoid hanging your swimsuit up to dry as it can stretch out the fibers, and sun exposure may cause it to fade.
  • Never place your swimsuit in the dryer or use a hairdryer on a hot setting to dry it quickly. Heat is by far the most damaging element for the elastic in swimsuits.


There are plenty of signs that your swimsuit is too small. Besides only feeling uncomfortable and not being able to move freely, the too-tight swimsuit may also look unattractive or show off more skin than you intended. Although swimsuit material does stretch, it may be better to opt for a size up if you think your swimsuit is too small.