Ready to Wear: Trying on a bikini requires pragmatism first and foremost

By Susannah Frankel

Shopping for swimwear is never the easiest or the most enjoyable of activities.

Unlike shopping for shoes (the most instant and satisfactory of fashion fixes), trying on a bikini in particular requires pragmatism first and foremost: if you’re over 25, a sequinned string might not be the order of the day, for example.

Then there’s the flip side of the coin which is wishful visualisation: when I’m not quite so pale and marbled maybe, just maybe, I will look more like Gisele Bundchen/Angelina Jolie/Helen Mirren – delete where appropriate.

And so I find myself in Selfridges, only days before a brief break in the sun, doing just the dirty deed in question.

Although some are of the opinion that anyone post-childbirth might do well to stick to a one piece, this particular fashion follower’s view is that a tanned stomach that has clearly seen tauter days is better than a bleached one. First up, then, Freya, purveyor of marginally Fifties-style bikinis to women who need, well, let’s just say a little help in the gravity department.

In fact, the sort of under-wired, balconette design that might not unreasonably be described as a foundation garment is quite fashionable just now (think Dior main line, think Stella McCartney underwear) and so one in black, that fits perfectly, and is not exactly cheap (around the £50 mark) but won’t break the bank either, seems like a decent enough purchase. It looks more like Jane Russell in Howard Hughes’ revolutionary support bra (that’s the wishful visualisation part of the story) than Pamela Anderson circa Baywatch but there’s nothing much wrong with that.

With the bikini in the bag, it’s on to a swimsuit for those moments poolside when modesty – and style – might be an issue. Even the sales assistant in the department store in question balks at the price of Eres swimwear. Costing around the £200 mark, this is eye-wateringly expensive swimwear by anybody’s standards particularly given the diminutive amount of fabric concerned. But what fabric.

Eres, a French company founded in 1968, is one of fashion’s best-kept secrets. Its swimwear is quite the finest in the world. There are no ugly flesh-coloured support underpinnings, only the softest boning, the fabric is entirely matt and in subdued, as well as more eye-popping, colours. I have two one pieces already – they’ve lasted ten years and look as good as new. I try one of this season’s designs on for good measure and the effect is like plastic surgery – a lot of plastic surgery – with none of the mess.

I tell the sales assistant, still reeling at the cost, and she resolves to have a go too. As well she might. Every woman should have one of these.