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Curvy Kate Bikini
Swimwear, Tried & Tested

The Other Reason I Went On Holiday Was to Review This Bikini

It will come as no surprise to you that I have too many bikinis. But despite the fact I have more two-pieces than I do days a year to wear them, I’ve never actually shared a photo myself wearing one before. I’ve talked in great detail about my struggles to accept my less-than-perfect body, but I worked hard before my wedding to really get to a good place. And when Bras and Honey offered me the opportunity to review a style from one of my favourite brands, I decided it was now or never.

I own a couple of Curvy Kate bikinis already, and they’re some of my most comfortable and supportive styles, so I was excited to try one of their newer styles. Bras and Honey picked out the Luau Love style for me, in hot fuchsia pink. I tried the bandeau top which has detachable straps, and the skirted bottoms. There are three tops and three bottoms to choose from in the range, so there’s something for everyone.


As expected of Curvy Kate, the top is super supportive and well made. I can’t fault the construction. I think the strapless top is cut using the same (or a very similar) pattern to their famous Luxe strapless bra. As such, it gives a very rounded, forward-facing shape and is quite narrow across the front in comparison to some of the brand’s other bras and bikini tops. I tried the top in a 32E and I think I would have actually done better in a 34DD, as my bust is quite wide-set and I could have done with an extra inch across the front of the band. Getting into this top took a lot of “swooping”, but once I was in the support was incredible, with or without the detachable straps.


Now onto the bottoms. A lot of swimwear guides push bigger briefs and shorts for curvier body shapes, I guess the idea being that if you’re larger, you will want to cover up more. But it took me a long time to realise that sometimes, less is more. For my body at least, I feel like a fuller bottom actually just accentuates my widest part (my hips). As the years have gone by I’ve tended towards slightly skimpier bottoms which accentuate my waist, or something low-cut with a little frill.

So despite suiting my retro taste, this skirted brief was actually a bit of a departure for me. Luckily, the style is much more flattering than boy shorts (which I hate – camel toe ahoy!) and once I’d worked out where to position them on the hips, I grew to really like having the extra coverage around the bum and hips. The ties are adjustable and there’s a lot of fabric to play with; I preferred them pulled up relatively high on the legs, but if needed you can loosen them right down to an almost knee-length skirt if you prefer. I’m wearing the size 14 / L here. I’d say they run a little on the small side, as with most swimwear, but the shape is fairly forgiving so there’s some wiggle room (literally).


The good news if you love this set? It’s in the sale! The bandeau top is £29.75 and the skirted briefs are £21.25.

Disclosure: Product sample provided free of charge for review purposes.

Retro / Vintage, Swimwear

This Year’s Retro Swimwear Rundown

My passion for vintage-inspired swimwear has been well documented. When I started sharing my favourite retro styles each year, it was difficult to find more than a handful. Now everyone is embracing high waists, polka dots, vintage florals and halter straps. Obviously this is good news for fans of the look, and since this is still something that people come to this site for frequently, I felt it was time for a 2015 update. Hopefully there’s something here to suit every wannabe pin-up girl, no matter your budget. So let’s just get right into the good stuff, shall we?


Esther Williams Rock Lobster swimsuit £65 at For Luna

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was when I discovered that the Esther Williams brand has embraced my love for lobster prints. This literally combines two of my favourite things. These swimsuits are brilliant, and worth the cash if you can afford to splash out. They’re cut to proper vintage patterns and the fabrics are good quality and long-lasting. Be careful with sizing as they can be tricky to wriggle into, if you’re unsure, size up.


Hollywood gingham bikini top £28 and high-waisted frilled bottoms £20 at Boux Avenue

The red gingham is the most traditional version of this great retro-inspired bikini from Boux Avenue, but they also make a pink gingham version and two different florals. So if this is a shape that you love (and I’m betting with the cute frilled bottoms that it is) you can snap it up in various different colours. The moulded top is available up to a F cup.


Yellow lemon print longline bikini top £16.99 and high waisted bottoms £16.99 at New Look

I love the combo of retro and modern in this bikini, with the strappy cutouts on the high waisted briefs that give it a bit of modern sexiness to go with the full-coverage vintage shape. The strappy detail is a lot more flattering than you think, but only if you buy the right size. Bikini briefs always come up small, and there is nothing worse than a woman in a bikini that’s a bit too tight!


Contrast gingham swimsuit with black bottom £36 at Topshop

Three cheers for Toppers for combining one of the season’s best retro trends (gingham) with a really wearable shape. I’m basically recommending this swimsuit (or New Look’s £26 chevron version) to anyone, but particularly those who say they won’t wear a bikini because they’re conscious of their tummy. Who said a classic swimsuit had to be boring?


Floozie Green flamingos underwired top £26.50 and skirted bottoms £20 at Debenhams

The Floozie by FrostFrench brand at Debenhams is an absolute goldmine of gorgeous retro bikinis, and picking just one to feature was tricky…but it had to be the flamingos. As a bonus, this range comes in cup sizes, and while that range only goes from 32A to 38E, it’s a lot better than being forced to buy a ‘one cup fits all’ top by dress size. Debenhams cups always run big, so F cup ladies shouldn’t overlook this range either. You might get lucky!


Navy polka dot vintage boyleg swimsuit £53 at Boden

They don’t come much more classic than Boden’s polka dot vintage boyleg swimsuit. It’s the simple approach to retro swimwear, with none of the frills, ruching, or skirting that you see on some of the more dramatic looks, but the classic shape and print make for a tried-and-tested winner. If the idea of putting a swimsuit on fills you with dread, invest in one of these. Boden doesn’t scrimp on quality, meaning you’ll get plenty of wear out of it before it begins to sag or go thin, provided it’s rinsed and dried properly between wears.

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Retro high waisted bikini, from around £3 at AliExpress

If you’re willing to order from China and wait a while for delivery, this baby (which a lot of retro retailers also stock) is floating around both AliExpress and eBay at the moment from a whole host of sellers. I took a punt to see what it was like, and I was pleasantly surprised. The top is not the greatest fit and probably works better for someone with a wider back and smaller bust, but the briefs are a really nice fit and will go with plenty of my other bikini tops. If you’re new to this style and want to test it out without spending a fortune, here’s your naughty bargain!


Fuller bust Marilyn Caribbean floral print bikini £34 at ASOS

I’ve become a huge fan of ASOS’s brilliant trend-led swimwear, and surprised by the quality and fit of their fuller bust range. This is one of the best retro-inspired styles for this year; if nothing else I love the name! I love the extended band under the bust that gives it a longline appearance, and the classic high waisted briefs are full on 1050s. That said, if you prefer a lower-cut brief (which can actually look a lot better on someone who’s pear-shaped like me) there are options for that in the same range too.


Resort diamante belt playsuit swimsuit £29 at Very

This style works really well on athletic body types or those with straight torsos, as it instantly adds (or enhances) curves. Full coverage shorts are often recommended for pear shapes, but I actually find they look worse (at least on me) than a higher cut style because the straight line across the bottom stops at the widest part, emphasising it. That said, this is a look that deserves a try by everyone, if only so you can dance around your bedroom pretending you’re in a Beyonce music video!

Retro / Vintage, Swimwear

More retro swimsuits: because the Summer’s not over yet

We may be coming to end of the Summer, but with temperatures set to hit 32° in London today, and with my ‘Summer’ holiday not taking place until the end of September, I’m very much still in a sunshine mood and still obsessing over all the retro inspired bikinis and swimsuits I can’t have.

My love affair with vintage style swimwear began, almost accidentally, when I was about 12 years old. I saw a denim-look one-piece with shorts style bottoms and a halter neck in a copy of Clothes Show Magazine, and promptly hunted it down in my local C&A (yeah, remember C&A). It probably looked terrible on me (even then I was a size 14, but I was more tummy and less waist than I am now) but I loved the style and ever since that moment I’ve been all about the skirted bottoms, high-waisted styles, polka dots and vintage touches. I already have my new bikini for the season (hello, Freya Venetian) but that doesn’t stop me swooning over these amazing offerings…

Fraulein Annie ‘Ahoy Sailor’ bikini shorts £49 and Balcony bikini top £79 at Hepburn and Leigh – Ever since I discovered this bikini I’ve been dreaming about it. I simply can’t justify over £100 for a bikini I know I would ruin with SPF cream and salt water within a year or two, but I can at least enjoy it from afar. It’s reversible (the other side is blue and white slim stripes) so you’re really getting two bikinis for your money, but it’s still a bit investment. I just can’t get over that amazing cut and gorgeous print though. Oh, for a bigger budget!

Hibiscus print 1950s swimsuit £35 at ASOS – Oh, the one that got away! I’m gutted that this bargain swimsuit is sold out in my size or it would definitely be travelling to Vegas with me. I love the hawaiian inspired print, the cute buttons, the black trim and the low-cut shorts which would hide any stretchmarks! Sadly this is now only available in small sizes (8 – 10) but I’m crossing my fingers ASOS may restock the 14 – 18s so more of us can get our hands on the gorgeous cossie.

Seafolly La Vita skirted bikini £79 Beach Cafe – Seafolly does a brilliant line in retro styles, and though they’re expensive, they still often come in a bit cheaper than the pricey US imports. Right now I’m loving the classic black polka dot La Vita bikini, with its lovely skirted bottoms with cute buttons. This is available all over the place, so if Beach Cafe doesn’t have your size, try Cocobay or Simply Beach.

Fables by Barrie ‘Perfecting My Formalwear’ swimsuit $86.99 ModCloth – Fables by Barrie was one of the first retro swimwear brands I discovered, and its Etsy shop has featured on my much-loved retro shopping guide for years. The brand is also available at ModCloth, where I fell in love with this tuxedo-style retro swimsuit. I think this would look just as amazing tucked into a high-waisted pencil skirt as it would do poolside!

Beach to Beach chevron bikini top £18 and briefs £12 at Simply Yours – I’m amazed this is available in any sizes now after it made waves when Gabi wore it on holiday and it them became the inspiration for the much talked-about xojane ‘fatkini’ gallery. But there are a few sizes available and there’s no denying this is a seriously gorgeous bikini that says ‘screw you’ to traditional ‘rules’ about swimwear for plus sizes and looks bloody brilliant as a result.

Tropical kitten bikini top £42 and bottoms £42 at Kiss Me Deadly – this is the first year Kiss Me Deadly has done swimwear, and they’ve definitely hit the market with a bang, offering up a small collection based on customer requests, beautifully modelled, pirate-style, by long term Kiss Me Deadly model Morgana, and former Britain’s Next Top Model contestant Jessica Etonye. My favourite is the high-waisted tropical bikini, which just needs tiki shoes and a hibiscus in the hair to top it off!

Resort shapewear minimiser bikini top £18 and August 19, 2012 by

Retro / Vintage, Swimwear

Super swimwear for 2012 – my latest bikini and swimsuit picks for all sizes

It’s SUMMER, guys! And you know what that means. Holidays, hot weather, and the possibilty of having to strip off the layers and flash a bit of flesh. Despite not being a willowy size 8, I’ve never really had a huge problem with stripping down to swimwear in the Summer. To be honest, I’m less bothered about the amount of flesh on show and more worried about the inevitable “you’re so PALE!” comments. Perhaps being such an English rose (ha!) helps to detract from the cellulite…but it also helps to have a killer swimsuit or bikini to draw the eye in. I tend to favour very feminine, vintage-inspired designs and anything with frills or spots. My favourites this year are a mix of frilled swimsuits, cool modern styles and bikinis that make the most of a voluptuous figure. Here are just some of my favourites…

Red or Dead ‘maps’ two piece bikini £36.50 at Amazon – I’m so sad this is yellow (one of the colours that just looks terrible on me) because not only do I love the frilled skirt for hiding that diggy-in hip thing anyone with a bit of flesh will always get with a bikini, but also because I absolutely adore the London map print. So cute, and so apt for a Londoner on tour! Red or Dead make some of the best retro-inspired swimwear on the market right now, and this is my fave for 2012.

Skirted swimsuit with piping detail £38 ASOS
– I have the plan black version of this swimsuit from last year, but I’m really excited to see they’ve bought the shape back this year with added white piping. It is without a doubt the most striking swimsuit I’ve tried – I truly believe it looks better on a curvier figure than on a slim one, so I’m sad ASOS only make it up to a size 16. Hopefully a Curve version is coming soon, because this deserves to be worn!

Curvy Kate Caribbean bikini top £32 and briefs £17 at Simply Yours – Let’s talk about how excited I am that Curvy Kate have branched out into swimwear! I’m a huge fan of their lingerie; it’s comfy, stylish, affordable and available in a good range of sizes, so getting all that in swimwear too is a big deal. At Simply Be you can get the bottoms up to a size 20 and the top up to a K cup in some band sizes. There’s also a tankini if you prefer a bit more coverage.

Kansas bikini top £34 and frilled brief £28 Freya – I was blown away by the quality of the swimwear at the Freya press day. So often when you get DD+ swimwear, style and trends have been sacrificed in the name of fit. But Freya manage to combine both, and I love their retro-inspired ranges. A lot of pieces have frilled bottoms, high waists or skirted bottoms. For 2012, Kansas is the new kid on the block. The pale blue gingham is a nice change from polka dots, but still has that vintage touch. It hits stores / online in July, so get your reminders set now!

Blue floral frill swimsuit £38 Floozie by Frost French at Debenhams – I know a lot of you will probably turn your nose up at an adults swimsuit that looks just like the ones worn by 5 year olds in the 80s (go on, you know you had some frilled florals). But I love my swimwear cutesy, and this is about as cutesy as you’re going to get. Just add cats eye sunglasses and chunky wedge sandals to complete the look.

Marilyn swimsuits in royal blue $102 Pinup Girl Clothing – If it’s good enough for Dita Von Teese, it’s good enough for me. I’ve spoken a lot about Esther Williams swimsuits on here before (and I own one of the bikinis) but if you fancy a proper 50s inspired swimsuit from elsewhere, Pinup Girl Clothing is the place to go. This royal blue is my absolute favourite, but the Marilyn comes in plenty of other colours too.

Black parrot print Pacha beaded bikini £26 River Island – Though I’m not exactly the Ibiza-dwelling target market, I really love the River Island / Pacha collaboration, mostly because of the immense amount of co-ordinating pieces you can get to go with all the swimwear. Want a strappy beach maxi, or a one-shoulder scarf dress? No probs! And the bikins themselves are pretty cool too. This frilled parrot print one is my personal fave, I love all the beaded frills.

Blue rio print one-piece swimsuit £34 Topshop – This swimsuit is the complete antithesis of my usual style, but for some reason I just love it. So much so I’ve used it in outfit picks before, and I’m sorely tempted to treat myself before they sell out. I love that it could easily be worn as a top in the evening on a beach holiday, tucked into a pair of shorts. The only thing that would make it better is if the print were Las Vegas, not Rio!

Fifties swimsuit £49 Boden – I don’t own a thing from Boden, but I do think their swimwear is really pretty and very good if you want something with a little more coverage than most younger stores give. The fifties swimsuit comes in various prints and has ruching down the sides to streamline and make the most of a good waist. There’s also a lovely polka dot bikini / tankini set that you can mix and match depending on how confident you’re feeling!

Espana ruffle one-shoulder swimsuit $148 Monif C – If you’re plus sized and tired of all swimsuits being ridiculous skirted floral numbers and ugly, frumpy designs, Monif C is the designer for you. The one thing her designs are not is boring! I love the one-shouldered Espana, which has boning and powermesh for a great fit, and ties to adjust for the right fit on the leg. This design also comes in red.

Green floral padded bikini top £16 and frilled bottoms £12 Next – Green is a really great colour both tanned and pale skin, making it a great choice if you’re off to sun yourself, and I love this shape which really makes the most of those ‘assets’. A padded bikini top works for any cup size; it pushes up smaller boobs for a bit of a lift, and it shapes and holds larger ones for a great shape. Next swimwear also has the benefit of being really good quality – this will see you through more than one Summer if you take care of it.

Brown and white leaf-print bikini top £8 and bottoms £4 George at Asda – This is my favourite bargain bikini of the season. Teaming a bit of cool neon with a classic print, it’s a great one for showing off a tan and the shape is very classic and works on a variety of body shapes. I also applaud George for going up to an E/F cup too.

Tummy control scoop neck wrap swimsuit £29.50 Marks & Spencer – Ignoring the ‘tummy control’ element of this, I just love the unusual wrap design and clever colourblocking that make it a bit different to a classic plan swimsuit. I also really like that it comes in a longer length, making it a perfect choice for tall women who want something a bit unusual.

Retro / Vintage, Swimwear

The retro swimwear rundown: my top vintage inspired swimsuits and bikinis

If you’re a longterm visitor to the site (or indeed, a friend) you’ll know that vintage inspired swimwear is a huge passion of mine. I’ve yet to venture into proper vintage (it’s the fear that it’s been a bit to close to someone else’s ladyparts that stops me!) but I do buy a lot of retro stuff. If it’s polka dotted, ruched and contains the same amount of fabric as at least a dozen tiny triangle bikinis, it’s likely to find its way into my swimwear ‘wardrobe’. I must have about 20 bikinis and swimsuits by now, which is a bit ridiculous given that I don’t go swimming, am not a member of a gym, and have only had one beach holiday in the last four years.

But after waiting ages to find the perfect retro 1950s style swimsuit or bikini, I went a bit mad when dozens came along at once. This season it’s easier than ever to pick up something that’ll have you feeling like Marilyn Monroe in those famous beach photos. So here are some of my current favourites that are easily available in the UK. For Etsy finds and more authentic bits, try my list of retro & reproduction fashion retailers. These are the more mainstream offerings in a variety of sizes, colours and cuts…

Ruffle Swim Dress £35 at ASOS


– I own this swimsuit, and it’s nothing short of fabulous. There are full bottom under the skirt, which you can adjust to sit just where you want it. The halter top is supportive even for my DD’s, and it looks fab – playful, but the frills aren’t so big it looks ridiculous. I’m thoroughly tempted to buy the white too!


– Orange is a bit more unusual than your usual black or red polka dot, and I love the clever gathers on this cotton-look swimsuit, which make it look more authentic and vintage than some of the more modern ruched spandex styles. The colour looks amazing with a tan, too!


– There are loads of Jantzen swimsuits floating around TK Maxx stores at the moment and they’re not only really well made, but also have some great vintage touches. This is perhaps not the most easy to wear print, but try your local branch for block coloured ones, and pink polka dots. I picked up a turquoise one with a gathered skirted section. This is a brand that’s got great heritage, too. Look out for the mentions on Mad Men!


– Joules also make a frilled halter swimsuit in the same fabric, which is perhaps even more vintage-esque, but I couldn’t resist the fab photo which really shows off the retro detailing of this cute bikini. If you’ve got the bod to pull it off, this baby is a lovely way to add a touch of retro style without going overboard. Just add big white cats eye sunglasses!


– I’ve spoken about Red or Dead swimwear before. They make great modern pieces with real retro inspiration, and this year one of the standout pieces is this fish print bikini with ruched, semi-skirted briefs. It’s not cheap, but it is fabulous! There’s also a skirted swimdress, lots of bandeau styles and some reworking of last year’s sailor suit in the new range.


– A rare find; not only does this classic ruched cossie come in larger sizes (up to a 32) it also comes in a longer length version for those who struggle to find swimsuits that fit their torso. The look is pure pin-up girl and will never go out of style.


– What, you thought I’d let this rundown go without a mention for the ultimate retro cossie? Esther Williams sells styles based on the ones she wore in films during the Golden Age of Hollywood. And they’ve never been more popular. I bought my red bikini from For Luna which I absolutely recommend as a UK stockist, but Modcloth also stock a selection (including plus sizes) or you can order direct.


Cherry print has long been associated with anything pin-up and retro, after Ms Monroe wore a cherry print dress in Misfits. This bikini has quite a modern shape but the cherry print, gathered sides and bow lend a bit of a retro feel.


– A lot of the more retro inspired styles have halter necks or bandeau cuts, which are great for sunbathing but not so good for swimming. If you need more support around the bust, this one has wider straps and a great shape that makes the most of a killer cleavage. It’s expensive, but well made.


– Trust Toppers to deliver the perfect vintage-inspired swimsuit in the perfect show-off colour! If you want to stand out and show off a golden tan you can’t go wrong with yellow. Definitely not one for the faint-hearted, but it is fabulous. I love the frills, which don’t look quite as young and girly as ones around the waist.


– If you prefer a higher cut on the thighs this is the one for you, in four different polka dot patterns. Boden have come up trumps with something that nods to the vintage style without being a full-on copy, so it’s great if you’re a bit frightened of looking like you’re wearing fancy dress.


– With a name like Marilyn, you have to expect a real va va voom swimsuit! I love the twist on a classic style, adding the white trim to grab a bit of attention. Monsoon have a few great 50s inspired styles, but this is my current favourite.


– Though there are loads of retro style swimsuits about at the moment, finding them for less than £40 can be a struggle. Luckily, catalogue brand Resort has saved the day with a very pretty 50s style bikini. I don’t think the photo does it justice, but on a woman with the right attitude, this £20 gem could really work.


– Ladies with larger busts, rejoice! This Freya swimsuit is not only gorgeous, with a touch of retro and a really flattering waist belt, but also affordable! BraStop’s great deals make this one a no-brainer. It should be £48 but it’s now less than £20! Snap it up now before I do!


– Yes, it’s ridiculously expensive. Yes, it’d probably look frumpy and ridiculous on 99% of us, but I couldn’t resist this number from Seafolly purely because it teams up two of my favourite things – retro swimwear and shabby chic cabbage roses. There is nothing I don’t love about it except the price!

Swimwear, Tried & Tested

Product review: Designers at Debenhams swimwear

I know many women finding the perfect swimsuit or bikini a shopping nightmare. I love swimwear when I find the right piece, but hunting down something well-fitting is on a par with finding the perfect pair of jeans or the ideal winter coat. In short, it’s a nightmare!

Once you’ve narrowed down your basic choices (swimsuit or bikini, skimpy or full-coverage, plain or printed) there are so many other things to consider. Luckily, this season it’s pretty easy to find something for everyone. In last few years more brands have latched onto the fact that not all women are the same size all over, selling bikinis as separates (ideal if you’re big up top or pear-shaped) and increasing the cup sizes and choices of bottoms. The swimsuit is also back in fashion, so those who feel more confident in a one-piece can wear it with no fear of feeling frumpy.

A while ago, Debenhams very kindly offered to send me a piece from their swimwear collection to try. I decided to give the new modern one-piece a go, and opted for a black and white palm print halter swimsuit by queen of the beach Melissa Odabash…

The swimsuit I tried is £40 – not cheap for swimwear but a far cry from the £150+ you’d pay for something from Melissa Odabash’s mainline range. I liked the look of the halter top and was intrigued by the tummy control panel, but I also liked the fact there are loads of accessories and cover-ups to match, because I am all about the pool glam!

This wasn’t my first piece of Designers at Debenhams swimwear. I have a Butterfly by Matthew Williamson bikini and matching kaftan that I love so much I refuse to throw out even though it’s yellowing inside from all the suncream! That bikini’s seen me though a fair few Summers, so I knew to expect a good quality piece.

And that it is. There’s a lot of attention to detail in this swimsuit. The front is fully-lined, and the ‘tummy control’ comes from a powermesh panel that goes from under the bust right down to the crotch. The back is low and not lined, but the fabric is thick enough that even when wet, it didn’t go see-through.

The halter top has textured silver rings to attach the straps to the cups. I’m always cautious of metal trims on bikinis that might get hot in the Sun, but a quick bite (not even kidding) assured me these are plastic and perfectly safe. The cups and empire band are trimmed with shell-style beads, tiny pearls and seed beads, which is a nice touch. Odabash is famous for her zebra print swimwear, and the black and white palm print of this swimsuit is a cool way of imitating that for her cheaper line without just recreating something she’s done before.

Being between two sizes, I often struggle to get swimwear that fits properly. I tend to go for the smaller size to avoid saggy bum syndrome when wet, but sometimes that can mean it digs in around the top of the thighs. Designers at Debenhams pieces are notoriously generous size-wise, so I went for the smaller size in this swimsuit, which fits well. It could perhaps be a couple of inches longer in the body, but apart from that, it’s great. The Tummy Control panel really does seem to smooth and flatten the tummy, too. It doesn’t work miracles – I’m not saying it makes me look a size 10 – but it would definitely be a bit of a confidence booster!

Next up, and probably most important, I should talk about how it holds up in the boob department. I’m not a fan of padded swimwear really (as my friend and I discovered one year, the padding soaks up loads of water meaning you have to squeeze your boobs in a completely non-alluring manner when you get out the pool or you’ll drip for ages!) but they are flattering when you’re sunbathing or sat at the bar. Luckily the ones in this cossie are removable, so I get the best of both worlds. The cups manage to contain my boobs which is a minor miracle, and I suppose a lot of that is down to the support you get from a halter neck. However, I do find I sometimes get a mark on my neck wearing a halter swimsuit or bikini because I tie it too tight in an attempt to hoik up the girls – a lesson to be learned there, I think!

Overall, I’m impressed by this costume and will definitely be taking it away with me in the Summer, though I suspect it’ll become a swimsuit more than a sunbathing suit (I’ve got a retro bikini for that). That said, I’m sorely tempted to get the matching kaftan (down to £28) just in case!

Disclosure: Debenhams sent this swimsuit free of charge for me to review. However, the review is honest and I was not paid to publish it.

Clothing, Dresses, Lingerie, Retro / Vintage, Special Ranges, Swimwear

Vintage reproduction clothing (Pin-up, burlesque & rockabilly) – The ultimate shopping list!

It’s not hard to see why so many  women turn to fashions from the 40s and 50s when it comes to making the most of their bodies. The era’s pin-up girls, ‘cheesecake’ models and Vargas girls all had waspish waists and sexy curves. Actresses had hourglass figures that their clothes could barely contain (think Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Diana Dors) and all women wore girdles that sculpted their bodies to perfection and bullet bras that gave the appearance of a Joan Holloway-esque bosom on even a petite woman.

I know from reading comments and looking at search terms that many of us wish we could eschew badly-designed, poorly-fitting modern pieces for something more flattering from the past. But finding true vintage pieces from that era for a larger figure can be difficult. Most good pieces are expensive, and many come in very small sizes, especially on the waist.

So three cheers for the many great brands and retailers who’ve allowed us to get a bit of that old-fashioned glamour in modern sizing. Some of the labels below stock plus size, some don’t, but I’ve chosen to include them all for reference.

This page lists some of best vintage reproduction or vintage inspired online retailers I’ve found. The list covers everything from 40s tea dresses to 50s tiki dresses, and I’ve also included some burlesque lingerie and my favourite retro swimwear brands so you can get the complete package. Don’t forget your hair either! Every wannabe pin-up girl should invest in a good set of hot rollers, some hair set and Lauren Rennells’ amazing ‘Vintage Hairstyling’ book for the perfect pompadour or pin-up set!

UK Stores

L – R: Vivien of Holloway, Tara Starlet, Get Cutie, Pin-up Emporium, Pin-up Parade


Vivien of Holloway – Famous for her circle-skirted halter dresses with boned tops, Vivien actually offers much more, including amazing sarong dresses, pencil skirts, sailor trousers and loads of different prints. Plus sizes are stocked, but the dresses use vintage patterns, so it’s worth heading to the Holloway Road store if you can to try a few on. I’ve got six VoH dresses and can’t speak highly enough of the fit, but you must go by waist measurement.

If you want to know more about this brand, see my reviews of Vivien of Holloway dresses: The Jezebel, The Grace and The Peggy Lee!

Pin-Up Parade – One of the best stockists in the UK for vintage repro brands from the USA like Stop Staring and Bettie Page Clothing. Move fast if your size is in stock, and keep an eye on the sale pages – I got a Bettie Page dress for £35 recently!

The Pin-up Emporium – A UK option for big US brands Stop Staring and Bettie Page Clothing (stock is limited but they have key pieces like the Bettie Page ‘Captain’ dress) as well as What Katie Did lingerie.

Tara Starlet – If Swing is your bag, this label offers up some brilliant floral tea dresses and early 40s styles. Unfortunately sizing is limited so anyone over a 14/16 (myself included) may have trouble…but if we hassle them enough, maybe they’ll increase the range?

Collectif – 40s & 50s inspired dresses, cleverly divided into full-skirted and fitted, wiggle dresses. Well-priced (approx £40 – £70 for a dress). Lots of rockabilly prints including tropical, nautical and polka dot. Also some lovely Mad Men-esque coats and pin-up girl tops. Good range of sizes with most items available up to size UK 22.

Dolly Dagger – Rockabilly-influenced online store that stocks Tara Starlet, Stop Staring and many others. Good for polka dots, pencil skirts and swimwear, plus a lovely range of exclusive 50s style dresses in florals and taffeta.

Love Ur Look – Lovely capsule collection of vintage inspired dresses in quirky prints including florals, cowboy print and bird print. Prices are all under £100.

Freddies of Pinewood – Do your best land girl impression in Freddie’s high-waisted jeans and 40s tops. Or try some dungarees if you dare!

Get Cutie – Not technically a vintage repro company, but if you like the full skirted styles and the rockabilly look, these cute dresses handmade in Brighton will be right up your alley. Choose your dress shape and then pick your quirky print (including some cool Varga girl style offerings and tattoo prints).

Vintage Allure – 30s – 50s style dresses for around the £70 – £100 mark. Lots of nice polka dot circle skirted dresses and some beautiful wiggle dresses with wing-bust detail in the ‘tinseltown’ section. Limited sizes (up to a UK 16 approx).

Big Beautiful Barbara Brown – Huge selection of pre-made and custom dresses, including a section of Marilyn Monroe-inspired dresses (Niagara pink dress, The Misfits cherry print etc). 1920s – 1970s covered, though the real emphasis is on the 30s – 50s with lots of floral tea dresses and fitted suits. Sizes 6 – 26 available.

Soho’s – Primarily a punk / emo clothing store, this makes the list because it stocks Hell Bunny, an alternative clothing brand that does a lot of 50s halter dresses in prints, lace and polka dots for a lot less than you pay for the more pin-up style brands. That said, these are simpler styles with none of the boning or super-wide skirts you’ll find elsewhere. Also look out for Criminal Damage, who do a great sailor dress with a pencil skirt.

Puttin on the Ritz – Art deco inspired website stocking 1930s and 1940s inspired reproduction clothing with a big emphasis on daywear. ‘The Harlow’ dress is worth looking at for potential brides. Customers can provide measurement for the perfect fit.

Able Grable – Small collection of custom-made dresses with a 30s / 40s inspiration. Great silk pieces, including evening gowns, day dresses and a nautical number. Keep an eye on opening dates – they can be limited and at time of writing the store is closed for Winter.

Lady Vintage – Swing dresses and floral styles, the classic ‘Hepburn’ a-line dress in polka dots and lots of lovely affordable full-skirted dresses (£30 – £50). For a review of the swing style, click here.

US stores (most ship internationally)

L – R: Bettie Page Clothing, Bernie Dexter, Pin-up Girl Clothing, Mode Merr, Stop Staring


Stop Staring Clothing – Probably the best-known producer of vintage-inspired wiggle dresses and bombshell frocks. Loads of great stretch dresses, satin cocktail dresses and swing dresses. Check sizing – stretch bengalene is not particularly forgiving. This has celeb approval too. Paris Hilton is a big fan, and Ashley ‘Twilight’ Greene was their model before she hit the bigtime.

Mode Merr – Retro dresses with a modern twist, separated into ‘good girl’ and ‘bad girl’ sections. Lots of embroidered detail (anchors, horseshoes, poodles and so on) and pencil skirts, fitted dresses and ruched gypsy style tops.

Daddy O’s – Rock and Roll store with a massive range of Stop Staring dresses (probably the biggest online away from the official site) and men’s bowling shirts. It’s a bit of a nightmare to navigate, but the stock is great.

Pin-Up Girl Clothing – One of my favourites for gorgeous wiggle dresses and pin-up styles. This big boutique stocks most of the big vintage brands and their own ‘Pin Up Couture’ label. Also the place to go for some very cute retro-inspired shoes and swimwear.

Bettie Page Clothing – Discovering the flagship store in Las Vegas was like stepping into my dreamworld, so this is another favourite of mine and I own three Bettie Page dresses now. Like Stop Staring, the best items are fitted wiggle dresses that make the most of a waspie waist! – If you visit the shops above already, you’ll know Bernie. She’s modelled for just about every vintage reproduction retailer going. Now she has her own store selling some beautiful pieces for burlesque and vintage chicks.

Babygirl Boutique – One of the biggest boutiques for rockabilly and alternative clothing. It’s got all the big names, plus lots of accessories that can be hard to find elsewhere. Check out the sunglasses!

My Baby Jo – website of the cute LA boutique selling great vintage styles you won’t find elsewhere (look out for the gorgeous garden party dress) and brands mentioned above. The undergarments section has some great retro lingerie too.

Whirling Turban – Stunning bombshell dresses, tiki frocks and 1950s style wedding dresses, many with a trademark ‘wing’ detailing on the bust. Offers off-the-rack or custom (in some styles) in loads of prints, from leopard to bright tropical florals.

Trashy Diva – Clothing line specialising in great dresses and suits with a 40s / 50s vibe in amazing old-fashioned prints. Lots of nice Summer circle dresses and shirtwaisters. Very good prices (lots for circa $100) and international delivery is affordable too.

Corsets and Lingerie

L – R: What Katie Did, Fairy Gothmother, Playful Promises, Hepburn & Leigh


What Katie Did – The place to go for corsets and lingerie, including fully fashioned stockings (with the must-have french or cuban heel). If you want to go the whole hog, the bullet bras and proper girdles are a great alternative to modern shapewear (and much sexier).

True Corset – Classic overbust and underbust corsets in various fabrics, sizes go up to about a 24, plus loads of other burlesque and lingerie treats. For a review, see here. – The biggest range of fully-fashioned stockings made on vintage machinery by brands like Gio and Cervin, as well as plenty of more affordable modern interpretations. Also have their own range of 40s-style suspender belts and matching lingerie.

Playful Promises – Modern lingerie brand with a big dash of pin-up inspiration. Come here for longline bras, pretty girdles and suspender belts, and diaphanous, boudoir-inspired sets.

Hepburn and Leigh – stockists of Kiss Me Deadly, for a modern take on vintage lingerie (think suspender belts, deep knickers and push-up in lieu of bullet bras). The styles are pretty, the items well-made (I’ve got the ‘Alouette’ set) and kudos to KMD for going up to an E cup! The site also stocks Playful Promises, Cervin and others.

Miss Katie – Yet more corsets, this time a bit more costumey and over the top. Think blue corsets with big sailor collars and white pinstripe numbers with matching skirts.

Fairy Gothmother – Don’t let the name fool you, this site stocks a lot of really beautiful high quality steel-boned corsets and has a good crossover from its goth roots into the world of burlesque. They’ve also now got a big dress section. Definitely worth checking out if you like the wasp-waisted look.


L – R: Modcloth, Skinny Dip Swimwear, Pin-up Girl Clothing (above), For Luna


Esther Williams – Williams appeared in countless movies during the golden age of Hollywood, often in fabulous high-waisted bikinis or sexy one-pieces. Now she sells them to the public. Ignore the terribly 90s photography – these are the bees knees when it comes to retro swimwear. At time of publication, sales on the site are suspended, but some of the sites below (Modcloth and For Luna) stock the line.

For Luna – Small but perfectly formed online swimwear boutique. The only UK stockist I’ve found for Esther Williams, also has What Katie Did swim and Jantzen. Also stocks the Red or Dead swimwear collection which has some fab pin-up girl styles.

ModCloth – Retro and indie superstore with an amazing selection of very reasonably priced retro swimwear, including polka dot two-pieces, nautical inspired sets and Esther Williams swimwear. If nothing else, it’s a good place to see the line photographed in a more modern way!

Skinny Dip Swimwear – retro-inspired swimwear from the people behind lingerie / hosiery brand Leg Avenue. Includes cherry print halter bikinis, white broiderie anglaise trimmed swim dresses, and plenty of polka dots.

Etsy stores

L – R: Dig For Victory, Zombie Doll Clothing, Audrey and Grace, Fables by Barrie


Dig For Victory – Beautiful 1950s style dresses made from vintage fabrics. Sized up to 16 with custom sizing available at extra cost. If you’re a Betty Draper fan, this is the one for you! I’m definitely saving up for my own floral frock! You can also shop in the UK at

Jack’s Daughter – 40s, 50s and 60s inspired dresses, including buttoned tea dresses, halter neck swing dresses and a good dash of polka dot. There are also some very cute bikini top and skirt combos in tropical prints. Made in Australia.

Zombie Doll Clothing – Made to measure dresses, tops and corsets in rockabilly and retro tattoo prints. Lisa will even do custom designs, so if you’ve see a fabric you love, drop her a line.

New Vintage Lady – A seller who specialises in plus sized vintage. The store is mainly patterns, so you’ll need to get crafty, but you’ll occasionally find clothing there – usually items over a 40″ bust.

Miss Brache – Amazing retro ‘maillot’ swimsuits (take a look at the ‘ooh la la’ set!) and rockabilly dresses. The designer will custom make everything up to a US size 24.

Fables by Barrie – Vintage styles with a modern twist – mainly sailor-inspired. Amazing red, white and blue swimwear and button-detail pencil skirts.

The Red Dolly – Very well-priced retro swimsuits and bikinis in spots, stripes, block colours and animal prints.

La Drama Queen – More retro swimwear. Cute bikinis with halter tops and ruched sides, and amazing chevron striped swimsuits.

Note: This is by no means a complete list of retro reproduction shops and sellers, but it did take a long time to put together. Please do not republish it without my consent. If you wish to borrow portions of it, or if you use it to compile a list or feature of your own, please link back to this page – share the love!


Things to get excited about: Red or Dead swimwear


Friends and longterm followers will know I’m a huge fan of pin-up inspired style (in fact, I love just about any look from the 30s to the early 60s). Retro swimwear, in particular, is something of a speciality of mine. I’m so excited that after years of nothing but skimpy triangle bikinis and badly-fitting styles, brands are slowly branching out into vintage-inspired pieces. Swimsuits are no longer the frumpy option which is great news for those who prefer a bit of extra coverage.

In fact, 40s-inspired cossies with ruched detail, concealed panels and pull-down skirted styles are becoming a really stylish alternative to the modern bikini, and the best news is this style looks much better on a curvier woman than it does on someone with no hips! Think Marilyn Monroe on a beach in her white swimsuit – this is all about voluptuous glamour.

Red or Dead are the latest to jump on the retro bandwagon, with a capsule collection of swimwear set to launch later this month. I saw samples of these at a pop-up shop opening a while ago and completely fell in love with the sailor swimsuit (which also comes in red) but there are also halter swimdresses, classic maillots and lots more besides. They’ll be around the £40 – £60 mark.

If you love the collection, try looking in department stores like Fenwicks in the second half of the month, or online stockists Oli and Amazon.

If you love the look but need a bigger selection of sizes, another great discovery is which stocks pieces from retro brands What Katie Did and Lolita Girl and is also one of the only UK stockists I’ve found for the brilliant swimwear by 1930s movie star swimmer Esther Williams.

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