Oh, summer. It has long been my least favorite season, not least of all because of the daunting prospect of wearing a bathing suit in public. But this year, I decided it was time to try out some bra-sized swimwear, the final frontier in my bra fitting journey.
Quite a few companies make swimwear in bra sizes. I would generally recommend a UK or Polish lingerie brand for fuller bust swimwear based on the available size range(s) and comments and reviews I’ve seen. At UK 28G/30FF, I haven’t been optimistic about finding a suitable swim top somewhere like Target or even at my local mall, and virtually no stores nearby have anything in stock from my go-to UK brands.
I don’t swim that much these days – although I would like to – but I would still like something functional just in case I find myself on a beach or near a pool in my upcoming travels. I don’t necessarily need a perfectly matching set and am happy to mix and match pieces. A priority for me is an affordable option with a good returns policy while I figure out what fits. I already got a couple of bottoms; that was the easy part.
While I was shopping, I noticed Lands’ End selling bathing suits for fuller busts, offering some styles “up to DDD” cup. <Cue eyeroll here>. The DDD cup size is not paired with a band size, but rather with standard clothing sizes like 4, 6, 8, 10, etc. I haven’t seen any reviews of Lands’ End swim tops, so I thought I would give it a try and see what their sizing is really like. I can generally wear an XS/S or 4/6 in Lands’ End and based my selection on that.
I had a few criteria in mind when choosing a top to try. I prefer something that doesn’t look too much like a bra, and has a sportier level of coverage on the chest area (not a plunge) for modesty and practicality. I want to be able to actually use the top for some light swimming, so it has to hold my soft boobs in; I am okay with some compression if that means finding a cheap and suitable top from a department store! Soft materials and padded cups for no show-through plus underwire for support are also requirements. Bonus points if it matches the bottoms I already have.
From the description, the DDD-Cup Beach Living Sweetheart Bikini Top ticked all the boxes except for the mystery sizing. I ordered it in size 6DDD and 4DDD, the two smallest bands and largest “cups” available. Let’s see how it fared.
I actually like the style and cut of the Beach Living Sweetheart Bikini Top. It doesn’t look very bra-like even though it has an underwire (sort of – more on that later). The material is typical swimwear and it has a sporty feel with a thick elastic band, wide-ish straps and ample side coverage, while still remaining feminine. The only 6DDD I could find was the black and blue floral print, but I later got a 4DDD in the blue polka dot print pictured above. It also comes in solid black. All the colorways are simple, but I am happy with that as I would be pairing them with solid bottoms.
The straps are only part adjustable (sigh), which never works out for me because I am short and high set, but they look like they would be fairly easy to alter. In the DDD range, the cups come with removable padding: thin, black foam cookies that you can slide in and out of pockets in the cup. One thing that I liked was that the hardware was metal, including the hook at the back, which goes into a fabric loop at the back to fasten. This felt much more secure than some of the plastic clasps I’ve seen on other swimwear.
As an underwire swim top, this bikini has the weirdest underwire ever. It angles out wide at the sides (the 6DDD wires nearly reached my back), and then connects low in the middle without going up between the breasts to separate them. This bizarre lack of a gore could only lead to uniboob and makes you wonder why they bothered. My logic is because the sizing on these suits is basically typical matrix sizing, the “DDD” just adds a little more room for boobs to get shoved in and create cleavage in the middle. That didn’t happen with me, but I think they are banking on people thinking DDD=huge and so women with much larger cups trying to fit in these. The rest of the measurements would probably corroborate this.
Size and Fit
Having tried on clothes from Lands’ End before, I know that their items tend to run large, but their sizes are also inconsistent. I tried the 6DDD first and the band was wayyy too big on my 28″ ribcage. It rode way up my back and could easily fit a 34-36 band. If I pulled the band tighter to simulate a better fit, then the wires stretched even further around to my back. For comparison, a 6 in Lands’ End full coverage swim bottoms fit me okay, just a little loose on the waist, and I have an hourglass figure. I thought maybe the size 6 top would stretch to 32″ at most and the size 4 to 30″, but that was wishful thinking.
Apart from the band being too big, the straps were only partly adjustable, so I couldn’t get the underwires positioned right to get a feel for the cup size. With the band pulled taught by grasping the excess fabric at the back, it felt more like an F cup would feel on a 30 band, but that’s just a guesstimate, and the measurements – see below – point more to the depth that a 30FF cup would have (ignoring the band for a moment). The cups are stretchy swim material, so even with the pads in, I think it could stretch to accommodate a larger bust, but since there is no center gore to speak of, it would just cradle the breasts rather than support them unless the cup was a tight fit. Despite the underwire and the back clasp, I couldn’t get any support with the band being so large. I wasn’t lifted or separated, but rather minimized, even when I tried to pull the band as tight as it would go.
Measurements for 6DDD (4DDD) Beach Living Sweetheart Bikini Top
Stretched Band: 34.5-35″
Band Length: 28.5″ (28″ for 4DDD)
Cup width: 7.25″ to soft center
Cup depth: 9.5″
Cup height: 6.0″ excluding band
Wire length: 8.75″
Cup separation: none
Gore height: 4.0″
Wing height: 4.5″
Strap width: 0.75″
That said, I could see a 34-36 E/F, depending on shape, fitting into the 6DDD due to the stretchiness of the material. I wouldn’t recommend it for narrow roots, but given the sporty nature of the cut, the underwires weren’t uncomfortable despite being over 7″ wide. I was surprisingly not that bothered by the lack of separation. As long as my boobs are in the cup and not jumping out when I try to swim, I don’t necessarily need the same textbook lift and separation that I expect from a bra. More important is actually being able to swim in it. But for an uplifted look, self-supporting breasts would do better in this top.
I was actually disappointed that the 6DDD had an approximate 35″ stretched band because I feel that’s not a likely back size for size 6-wearing Lands’ End customers. According to their size charts, a typical Lands’ End dress in a size 6 is cut for a 35″ bust (overbust)… but the swim top band stretches to that just for the underbust, in a “DDD cup”. Their measurements are delusional.
I tried the 4DDD next in another colorway (not pictured) wondering if the band would run smaller, but not entirely optimistic since the Lands’ End swim tops don’t come in size 2DDD. I wouldn’t wear a size 2 in any other store. I was also curious how the 4DDD would measure in comparison to the 6DDD since in true sister sizes, “DDD” on different band sizes would have a different cup volume…
However, the cup measurements between the 4DDD and 6DDD were pretty much identical. What I found most surprising, though, was that the band measurements between the two were also extremely similar, with only half an inch difference in resting band measurement. They two sizes stretched to the same length before distorting the wires, about 35″. So, obviously, neither size worked for me.
I did discover when trying the 4DDD, however, that the way the band is sewn, there is an extra little “pocket” at the closure which allows you to tighten the band one extra “hook”. In the photo to the right, you can see it looks like there are 3 small channels in the closure; the first and last will take the hook. It doesn’t look like this was intentional because the band is not supposed to be adjustable, but it did cut off an extra 1/2 inch or so. Sadly that wasn’t enough for me, but it could help to tighten it to a snug 34.
Comfort and Quality
I chose this swim top because I liked the appearance online. In the right fit (and with a proper underwire), I think it would make a really nice top, which is why I’m sad that the sizing is basically nonsense. I like the polka dot print and the solid black colorway, even if they might seem boring to some. Even the floral/black was nicer in person than I thought it would be. And there was nothing at all uncomfortable about the top when it was on except the lack of lift and support due to inaccurate sizing and goreless underwire.
Quality wise, it is a sturdy item with soft materials. I think it would hold up to regular swimming and doesn’t feel too delicate. The metal hardware is a nice touch and I appreciated the medium front and wing coverage. The finishing wasn’t spectacular (the ends of the material at the band where it was sewn over the hook and clasp area were just cut and unfinished), but it was a very decent top that would work for someone with the right measurements. The mystery is knowing that a size 4 top is for someone with a 35″ underbust.
Thankfully, Lands’ End has great prices, a long-term guarantee and free returns. I find their clothes to be, in general, fairly bust-friendly among the other department stores. I have jackets and shirts from them that fit well on the bust in size XS and S Petite, so while I think their clothes run big (I’m more of a S/M in most brands now), their tops do tend to work for me. They also offer more variety in the way of sizing than some other department stores, including petite, tall, and plus sizes, along with these fuller bust swim tops (offered in plus, gel push-up, D, DD, and DDD, whatever that means). Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this top for small band, full bust ladies, but it may work for fuller busted women around a 34-band and up if you’re willing to experiment with some size trial and error.