Expert Tips on Swimsuit Styles

David Zyla. Photographer credit: Carmen Ellis
David Zyla

Emmy-Award winning designer, style expert, and author David Zyla took some time from his busy schedule to give LoveToKnow readers advice on swimsuit colors and styles in this interview. Look and feel your best with his practical, figure-flattering tips.

Know Your Best Colors

LoveToKnow (LTK): David, Your ideas about color Archetypes are fascinating. Can you explain a little bit about this innovative approach and how it can help women in selecting swimsuits?

David Zyla (DZ): I honestly believe that every person has the right to feel empowered and look fantastic. We are all different, and no two people look good in the same exact wardrobe. If you and a friend put the same swimsuit on, I guarantee that it will look better on one of you, due to the color, cut, proportion, fabric or pattern. Why is that? It is because more than just fit, it is about the swimsuit suiting authentically who you are. The neckline flattering the shape of your face, the strap placement following your proportions and the color of the swimsuit flattering the colors found in your eyes, hair and skin are all factors. In my book, The Color of Style, I lead the reader to find her "True Colors" and "Authentic Style" Archetype, empowering her in all of her style choices along the way.

Beyond the Basic Black Swimsuit

romantic red swimsuit

LTK: Some women stick to a basic black swimsuit because they want to look slimmer and not draw attention to their figure flaws. What is the most important advice you have for women when it comes to color and style in their swimwear - especially when they want to appear slimmer?

DZ: I have seen many women who never wear black at any other time and choose it when purchasing a swimsuit. Their reasoning is that they want to appear slimmer. If, however, black is not a flattering color, you should never wear it.

  • To appear slimmer in a bathing suit or any type of clothing, wear your version of "black" or "Formal Neutral;" This is the color that is found in the rim around your iris. Possible candidates for this color might include bittersweet chocolate, deep marine, charcoal, aubergine or chestnut.

However, if you are ready for something more vivid, I suggest a "Romantic Color" or "Dramatic Color."

  • The "Romantic Color" is your sexy color and your version of red. It is the color of your pinched fingertip. It is quite possibly a color that you already have in a lipstick. Some possible candidates for this color include brick, creamsicle, fuchsia, watermelon, flame and cranberry.
  • Your "Dramatic Color" is the most vivid color on your palette. It is high-energy and the highest contrast to your coloring. It is found in the vein on the inside of your wrist and will be a blue, green or purple tone. Some possible candidates for this color are jade, spearmint, violet, aqua, cobalt and iris.

Tips on Prints and Patterns

patterned bikini

LTK: For women who like prints, do you have any tips on selecting the best pattern or print in her swimwear?

DZ: Take tips from your own closet for contrast levels and pattern.

  • Contrast: if in your day-to-day life, you find wearing a high-contrast look such as a red jacket paired with a white blouse and black pants too jarring, then definitely avoid high-contrast prints in a swimsuit and opt for softer contrast.
  • Scale: If the repeat is larger than the size of your outstretched hand, it is too large a print for you.

Swimsuit Styles for the Beach vs. Pool

LTK: The atmosphere at a pool and a beach can be different. What should women look for in a swimsuit to look her best at a pool versus a beach? Do you recommend different colors and styles depending on where she'll be wearing her suit?

DZ: The atmosphere at the pool is more formal, and therefore this is a great place for the "Black" or "Formal Neutral"-colored bathing suit.

I also suggest a dressier cover-up here as the possibility of a spontaneous lunch a short walk away is great. The beach atmosphere on the other hand is more relaxed and perfect for a fun color, some print and a less formally-style swimsuit.

Your Body, Your Style

LTK: Susan Lucci says your color and style choices "make me feel like the best possible version of myself." Many women have a hard time feeling this way in their swimwear because of the things they dislike about their bodies. Do you have any tips on how color and style can help a woman accentuate her best assets in her swimwear and really feel incredible?

DZ: It is easy to say: "embrace yourself and your body." I do want women to feel comfortable in their bodies but also understand that wearing a swimsuit is the closest most women go to being naked in public.

I believe the swimsuit that will make you feel the best is one that looks like "you" and not a costume put on a few times per year. It should look like it came from your closet, and it should echo the same style guidelines that you follow in your work, casual and evening wear.

Men's Swimwear Style Tips

men's yellow shorter trunks

LTK: Do you have any advice for men when it comes to choosing the cut and length of their trunks?

DZ: For men's' swimwear, first there is the choice of practicality in the length. If he is actually going to swim laps, a shorter, tighter-fitting suit is going to be better as there will be less heavy wet fabric slowing him down.

LTK: What tips do you have for men when it comes to choosing color or print for their swim wear?

DZ: When it comes to color, I echo what I said about choosing color for women.

About David Zyla

David Zyla received the "Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design" Daytime Emmy Award®" in 2010 for his work on All My Children as head costume designer, and is a 2012 Emmy nominee. In addition to working as head costume designer for General Hospital and Port Charles, David has done other commercial and film work and designed for Broadway and various theatre productions. He has appeared on many programs, including The View and CNN Style, and his work has appeared in dozens of national magazines and newspapers. He is also author of the popular book Color Your Style: How to Wear Your True Colors.

Color Your Style is available from Plume publishing at major book retailers, including the following:

For more about David Zyla, visit his website at

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Expert Tips on Swimsuit Styles