How to Feel Beautiful in a Bathing Suit

Beach vacations, pool parties, boat trips, weekends on the lake. The memories of good times past make you hungry for the lazy days of summer every year… until you realize that it means it’s time to break out the bathing suit.

Fortunately for womankind, Malia Mills was born.

Growing up in Hawaii meant that Malia thought of her swimsuit as a second skin that made beach romps and playful days possible. She never really gave much attention to the way a suit fits until she was 12 and her mom agreed to let her buy a new, striped knitted bikini.

“I brought it home and had to sew the cups down on the top because they were way too big for me,” she said. “It was one of those first moments where I was so excited, but it was a bit of a drag because I had to adjust it to fit. It made me sort of not feel great about myself.”

Malia took that experience and that bikini and moved with her family to New Hampshire, only to be confronted with feeling awkward in a swimsuit once again.

“Here I was at the pond in New Hampshire in this very surfer girl bikini with strings everywhere, and something that felt super comfortable in Hawaii felt super out of place in New Hampshire,” she said. “I realized what an incredible, emotional impact you can have in a swimsuit, and how something that feels so right in one situation can feel so wrong in another.”

Tapping into these life experiences, Malia decided to spend spring breaks with her parents and semesters abroad in Paris tracking down women who made custom swimsuits out of their homes. She became very inspired at the thought of helping women feel as comfortable in a swim suit as they do in street clothes, and in 1991, she launched Malia Mills Swim Wear.

From the outset, Malia relied on friends, family and her fellow waitresses for fittings, and that sisterhood has certainly contributed to her success as a designer of suits for real women.

Seeing women of all shapes and sizes settle into being in a swimsuit, watching them transform from insecure and vulnerable to empowered and free to enjoy all that a swimsuit involves lit a fire in Malia. She adopted the slogan “Love Thy Differences” for her company and set out on a mission not only to create suits that respected and celebrated women’s bodies but also to teach women how to appreciate themselves and the way they look.

Malia said that the first critical step in enjoying swimsuit season is embracing a new state of mind. Admittedly, this is easier said than done, but she does have some helpful tips to make the anxiety-riddled bathing suit buy more of a pleasure than a pain.

1. Put yourself in a good mood.

Get a manicure or grab a cup of coffee with your girlfriend. Tell yourself that it’s going to be a good day, and take that optimism with you to the dressing room.

2. Be willing to experiment.

You may find something, you may not. But you must be willing to try things, and if they don’t work out, you don’t give up. It’s the same mentality you have when trying on blue jeans or dresses.

3. Bring a friend along.

Take a girlfriend with you to be your runner, to giggle with you when things really don’t work, and to keep you from getting down on yourself.

4. Ask for help.

The sales clerks are actually very knowledgeable, so ask them for guidance. Admit to them that you’re a little nervous about the process, and you’ll be amazed at how they’ll really be rooting for you. Tell them what colors you like and what styles you are interested in. Ask questions, ask for guidance, and reach out a little bit. You’ll be amazed at what you get back.

5. Take it all in.

Instead on turning around and zeroing in on your bottom or your love handles, look at yourself in the suit from head to toe. Appreciate the way the suit looks in the context of your entire body instead of focusing on how well or poorly it masks your least favorite areas. No one else looks at you in a swimsuit like that and you shouldn’t either.

With customers like Madonna, Cindy Crawford, and Elle Macpherson, you’d think that Malia Mills is only for the super glamorous, but that’s just not the case. Even as her suits show up in Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues and Victoria’s Secret catalogues, she remains committed to pleasing real women and creating swim wear that suits their various shapes.