Why is it So Hard to Find Athletic Swimsuits for Larger Swimmers?

A couple of weeks ago, this question came up as some of my friends and I were swimming. None of us are particularly large, but definitely at the top end of size ranges for most manufacturers (40-42 European, or 14-16 Canadian). Often, it is a luxury to be able to pick a suit because you like the colours rather than madly clicking away to get it in your shopping cart before someone else does. Supplies are extremely limited even though we are pretty sure there is a huge demographic (pun intended) that swimsuit companies are missing out on.

We want actual swimming suits because we are athletes. The roundest in our group is also the fastest and, around the age of 60, she completed SCAR. That’s a four-lake challenge over four days, for a total of 40 miles swum.

I put the question out to medium-larger swimmers who identify as women on Did You Swim Today, a very popular Facebook group for swimmers from around the world. I asked for their favourite suppliers of suits suitable for more athletic swimming, with a preference for companies worldwide or shipping to Canada.

Most of the answers were for brands I already knew, with maximum sizes being 40-42. A few people commented about specific challenges even in those sizes, such as having a longer torso than average. Others noted that options for fun prints disappear in the larger sizes, with most offerings being in plain blue or black.

Many commented on the difficulties of finding a suit to accommodate larger busts. One company was suggested because it does three versions of its suits, to accommodate a broader range of bust sizes. But expensive and maybe not really for athletic swimmers.

There were a few other interesting suggestions, though I’m not convinced that they offer the flat seams and snug fit with no chafing that I would require. One was for a company that has a unique fabric capable of stretching (and returning to its original size) to accommodate life changes including pregnancy. Another does bespoke suits catering to women above UK size 14, at fairly accessible prices but in only one style.

The last word goes to a contributor from Australia: At size 18-20 Australia (14-16 Can) it’s rare for companies to even stock suits in my size (and I can’t afford to order from overseas – shipping is a killer). If I do find something it’s plain black and I suspect not so much a ‘swimmers’ suit as something a more mature swimmer would like (ie lots of coverage, low leg cut, wide straps). It’s so annoying not being able to choose from the same range as my smaller friends. I compete in half Ironmen – I may not be the fastest but I’m definitely fit under my extra layers. Don’t get me started on trying to find a swimming wetsuit (I’ve so far managed to avoid needing one). I’m sure the demand is there – but it’s hard to measure demand if you don’t make the product available…

That last point bears repeating. It’s hard to measure demand if you don’t make the product available.

Back view of a woman in a black bathing suit walking into a lake on a grey day.

Diane Harper lives and swims in Ottawa

4 thoughts on “Why is it So Hard to Find Athletic Swimsuits for Larger Swimmers?

  1. Hear, hear! I have many imperfect solutions that offer not enough mobility. My “go to” manufacturer Aqua Sphere appears to have stopped making suits. Argh! And don’t even get me started on wet suits.

    I swim 4-5 mornings weekly and would love decent options.

  2. It’s maddening that the major manufacturers don’t make competition-style swimsuits in larger sizes! I am a size 16-18 US and wear a non-competition suit that works okay, but I much prefer the closer fit, especially wrt shoulder straps. Argh! And wetsuits: I’ve blogged about this and have nothing good to say about the makers of them. We need some makers to take notice of all of us who are above size 10 and swim! Thanks for putting it out there.

  3. This has always been a pet peeve of mine too. I am a larger swimmer, and I’m tall. In the past a store called “Long Tall Sally” had good racing suits that fit my frame. They still have one, but they’ve changed to mainly fashion sun suits. Lane Bryant has some, but I hate the heavily padded built in bra that seems to act like a personal floatation device. They also don’t come in long torso sizes. Take a look at Romans and Woman Within. They’re not the finest quality, but they have the largest size range anywhere. Lands End and Athleta also have extended sizes and better quality. I just bought a paddle board suit at Athleta. They tend to run large, because the customer service person I spoke to insisted that an XL would fit me fine at a US size 18/20. We’ll see. It’s in the mail.

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