If you're an Australian woman who fancies the occasional – or daily – summer swim in the sunshine, there's a red-hot chance you own a least one bikini.
And good for you! Bikinis are great fun. Some are really pretty, and if you find the right one it can make you so damn confident, you'll feel like you should've been the star of a '90s rap video.
(One without the low-key misogyny, of course.)
But how easy is it to find these ~holy grail~ bikinis? According to us – and many human ladies we know – it's too damn hard. Especially if you have big boobs, like we do.
To see if our complaints are really warranted, we decided to visit a variety of stores in Sydney to test our theory that it's almost impossible to find a bikini that covers all the right places and perfectly shapes the others.
And hell, extra points to everyone involved if we can have at least a tiny bit of fun along the way.
Before we took our boobs on this adventure of a lifetime, we set some rules:
- We each had to buy one bikini from every shop. If our dream bikini wasn't available, we had to buy the next best thing.
- When possible, we had to ask for help from the store's staff.
- We had to keep open minds. This meant trying on any bikini top suggested by the store staff or another member of our bikini-hunting group.
The first store we visited was Seafolly, a pretty well-respected Australian brand that specialises in swimwear.
Tahlia: This bikini actually covered all the parts I wanted covered. It’s not my usual style, but it suited me a lot more than what I thought it would. The main problem is that it’s a little out of my price range. While sometimes you can justify a more expensive bikini (especially as a woman with bigger boobs), it’s hard to do so if you’re not totally in love with it.
Gyan: OK, so this is supposed to be an F cup, and the middle still doesn't sit against my chest. What the hell? This top is fine – but if I'm paying this much money for something, I want to look in the mirror and think, Wow. I look damn gooooooood in this. Instead, I feel like this top ticks all the boxes on paper, but it just doesn't make me feel like my best-boob self.
Anna: I've been a fan of Seafolly forever, and I've always found their swimwear range pretty decent. I gravitated toward this bandeau style because it has a simple design (not a floral pattern in sight!) and it came with removable straps, which is great for active beach days. I like it!
Jenna: NGL, I was pretty excited for Seafolly. They are so expensive but I love their ~aesthetic~ and bikinis are what they specialise in, so you know they are going to make them for all body shapes. My excitement levels diminished when the sales assistant showed me three options that went up to an F cup. Then they hit the floor when she explained they didn’t actually have any Fs in stock but a “DD was close enough”. Riiiight. So, look, what I ended up with is OK. But for $124.95, I don’t want OK. I want to look fucking fierce.
The second place we walked into was Billabong, a place where most of us first tried on a bikini many moons ago.
Tahlia: I went into Billabong quite apprehensive after years of traumatic attempts to find a (string) bikini for my 16-year-old self. To my relief, Billabong isn’t all itsy-bitsy bikinis anymore. The one I tried on wasn't totally offensive, but I didn’t feel like it did much to accentuate my shape. We bigger-boobed women are a fussy bunch; I don’t want to look too big, but I also don’t want a bikini to squash my boobs out like a lumpy pancake.
Gyan: Praise the non-halter-neck lords! I'll never understand why more designers don't replicate bras when they're designing swimwear. This top is a little too padded for my liking, but it's not going to leave a red mark on my neck after 45 minutes of wear, and that's enough to make me smile.
Anna: This style is just so reliable for big-boobed girls because it actually covers the sideboob! And it offers awesome support. The thick straps hold up the goodies too. I actually think I've fallen back in love with Billabong.
Jenna: Before walking in to Billabong, I imagined nothing but the string bikinis of my teens, which were such a GREAT experience the first time around (in hindsight, I actually looked great, but my 15-year-old self did not feel the same). So I was super surprised when the very helpful shop assistant showed me three options that I actually really liked. One I even loved – the pattern is just so pretty, and it’s quite supportive. I would have liked to try a bigger size, but I was pretty damn happy overall. And the price wasn’t too bad, either. Score!
Next we visited H&M, an international chain everyone's been collectively losing their shit over since the Melbourne store opening last year.
Tahlia: I picked up the bandeau H&M bikini and gave a hearty, kind of crazy laugh to myself. HA HA HA, I thought. This is a good joke. The last time I wore a bandeau top I was probably 12 and had just hit puberty. After trying it on and a bit of wee stretching into the right places, to my surprise it actually fit. I definitely wouldn't wear it in public, but it'd be a great bikini to sun-bake responsibly in.
Gyan: This style of bikini top didn't come in a DD, but instead jumped from a D cup to an E cup. My best choice was to go with this one, which is not only physically uncomfortable, but also makes me feel like I have my boobs out for the world to see. Not my aesthetic at all. I can already feel myself reaching for my beach towel.
Anna: Ugh, no thank you, sir! If there's one thing I will happily dedicate the rest of my life avoiding, it's underwires that dig in.
Jenna: I love H&M and have bought many bikinis from there when I’ve been travelling – but not since my boobs decided to evolve from jigglypuffs to wigglytuffs. I was nervous, to say the least. But then I saw those precious F-cup tags and choirs of angels sounded in my head. But alas, it was only disappointment to follow. There was something not quite right about the shape of these cups, and they weren't making me or my boobs feel any good.
Finally we visited Target, the one place it's assumed you can find literally anything you so desire.
Tahlia: No. No. No. No. Target, you are cheap and that’s fantastic, but the bikinis I tried on were so ill-fitting. This one was the best of the bunch and still I’m afraid at any moment my boobs are going to pop out either at the front or the side and make a desperate escape from the jail they are enclosed in.
Gyan: This bikini top makes me feel like I have one giant uniboob. I'm spilling out at the sides of this, and it was a real struggle to get on. Someone save me, please.
Anna: The Target bikini range was just what I expected. Sure they had some ~trendy~ styles, but hardly any that were suitable for big boobs. This top just feels awkward. What is with these cup shapes anyway?
Jenna: I wasn’t very hopeful about Target until I walked in and the first bikini I saw was an F cup. AND I liked it. I went a little nuts and tried on about 11. Aaaand then, bikini after bikini squished and stomped on my boobs, and my hopes and dreams of happily buying each and every one were crushed right along with them. The bikini I chose was literally the only one that covered my boobs properly. I actually don’t hate it, but it gives zero support; it’d be fine for hanging out by the pool, but I could never wear it to the beach. It wouldn’t last through one wave. Sigh.
Many change rooms and bikini tops later, it was time to look back on what we'd learned along the way.
Tahlia: The Seafolly top was comfortable – albeit very expensive – and covered all the areas I like covered. It did the trick and didn't make my boobs look ridiculously out of proportion to my body. To be completely honest, shopping for bikini with a D cup is still as un-fun as I remember it being when I was an F cup. The swimwear industry needs to realise women with big boobs come in all shapes and sizes; just because I’m 5 feet doesn’t mean I’m an A cup, you guys.
Gyan: Out of all the bikinis I tried on, of course I like the most expensive one the best. Sure, I found something that technically fits me and is my favourite shade of black, but the fact that this top costs over $100 (without bottoms included!) is a little ridiculous considering I don't have that abnormal a body shape. I may not have cried on this trip but I still feel pretty fucking frustrated.
Anna: I'm a no-frills shopper – I like the experience to be quick, easy, and without drama. Bikini shopping has always been the opposite of that for me because there just aren't a lot of options out there. Until brands and designers come up with stylish cuts that are big-boob-friendly, I'll keep my T-shirt on in photos, thank you very much.
Jenna: I think the Billabong one was actually my favourite. The whole shopping experience in there was surprisingly pleasant – I found a print and style I really, really liked, and I don’t have to worry about flashing anyone if I actually wear it in public. What more can a girl hope for, really?
I feel like my expectations were all completely reversed – when I was hopeful, the bikinis were terrible, and when I was unsure, they actually turned out pretty great. So the moral is, as painful as it is, you just have to try them on. But seriously, when the hell are swimwear designers going to finally nail the whole coverage and support thing?