Plus Size Swimsuit Review: GabiFresh x Swimsuits for All
Disclosure: These items were purchased by me and all opinions are my own. This article contains affiliate links.
Since it’s debut in 2013, the partnership between Gabi Gregg and Swimsuits For All has produced some of the most coveted plus size swimsuit designs. Recently, TLA covered the editorial campaign starring Gregg herself. New designs, re-releases of previous designs in new colorways, and a few accessory items comprise the partnership's 5th collection. I’m excited to review a couple of my favorite suits from this round of designs. I purchased the Reflection Underwire (a new design) and the Champagne Swimsuit (a design from last season available in a new color) and am quite pleased with both.
In a color hovering somewhere between plum and burgundy, the Reflection Underwire suit is effectively a monokini. While I'll always adore a true fatkini, the color, cutouts and mesh detailing on this suit make it a must have. Monokinis are still rare in this size range, and most of them are black. This style, in such a rich color, is highly unusual.
It's worth noting, as compared to how it appears on the model, a great deal of the sides and the front of the bottom half are mesh. This isn’t a deal breaker for me, but could be for those more self-conscious about hanging tummies or fat in certain places (and that’s okay!). After spending some time in the suit, it's become one of my favorite swimwear pieces. It’s unique, comfortable, and undeniably sexy. Even I couldn’t stop looking in the mirror!
I love the way the brownish-mauve color of the Champagne Swimsuit looks against my skin. Also, there are mesh details at the top of the leg, which add visual interest. Up until recently, plus size swimwear has largely been basic one pieces, so this suit stands out. In terms of fashion-forward design, most retailers initially pushed high-waisted bikinis, so I’m excited to see well-designed styles in other cuts.
Since the inside contains a surprisingly supportive shelf bra and the brand addressed past cup size fit issues, I'd recommend this style for those with smaller busts.
I do have a minor aesthetic complaint with this suit. I’m not a fan of the zipper. I love that it's gold, but it appears to be a yellow plastic zipper with a gold paint job. I can’t see the paint holding up for long. It’s also unfortunate that the zipper’s pull, which is actually metal, doesn’t match the teeth of the zipper.
My only other feedback is I wish this color came in a two piece style as well.
As a frame of reference for my usual swimwear sizing, I purchase a 3X on top and 2X on bottom when purchasing separates from Forever 21+. I also like the fit of the 18 or 20 in swimwear from ASOS Curve, depending on the style. Torrid’s swim styles are most comfortable in a size 2. Old Navy’s plus size swimwear works best in either a 2X or 3X, depending on the style. I purchased a one piece from City Chic in their size L, which is a 20.
I purchased a 22 E/F in the Reflection suit and I’m extremely pleased with the fit. I think that's because I paid close attention to Gregg's fit information, as well as used my own previous experiences purchasing suits from SFA. If you're in-between sizes, the site advises to choose the larger size, but I also think it’s wise to purchase a size larger size than you would at another retailer anyway.
For the Champagne suit, I made the initial error of purchasing a 20 D/DD. I incorrectly assumed the style of the swimsuit would allow for more flexibility and purchased something closer to my “usual” size. The 20 D/DD did fit, but due to the torso length and bust size, it wasn’t particularly comfortable. I decided to follow the fit guide more closely and returned it for a 22 E/F. Even after sizing up, I don’t find this suit as appealing as the Reflection swimsuit. It's still comfortable, but I find the chest pads to be a bother. If I wasn’t concerned about altering the nature of the suit or having zero nipple padding, I’d probably remove them. My only other fit issue relates to my body shape. Because of a large lower belly, it feels like the suit is tugging in a way that's somewhat uncomfortable. I don’t believe sizing up would solve this problem as it's a length vs. width issue.
I’ve purchased other swimsuits from Swimsuits For All and found them to have similar fit issues. In my opinion, suits historically run a full size smaller than other retailers. In spite of addressing some of the issues over time, I still believe these suits tend to run a half size to full size smaller than they should. I have no issue sizing up, but because of the limited nature of the size range, I'm concerned about what this means for shoppers who are on the edge (or completely sized out).
Brand Observations & Feedback
Cost relative to quality is a frequent issue with plus size shopping in general. Most of the suits in this collection are regularly priced between $90 to $100 USD, and I take no issue with that price point given the quality of the suit. (It’s worth mentioning a quick search yields a number of cost-cutting coupons, starting at 30%, for these suits.) I spend a lot of time at the pool in the warmer months and my previous GabiFresh x Swimsuits for All pieces handle wear and washing well. I predict the same for these. Also, both suits, for lack of a better term, “look expensive," which some plus size designs still lack.
While I feel positively about the actual suits, I do have other concerns. With any collaborative effort, it's important to hold the correct party accountable for both praise and concerns. While I enjoy Gregg's designs, I think the SFA brand undermines this collaboration. I think the spirit of the “New Year, Same You” branding is a little lost given we are five years into the collaboration and other than an expansion in cup sizes, Swimsuits for All has failed to expand the sizing of this collaboration, or any of their more trend-driven suits past a size 24, with no sort of explanation or promise.
Additionally, feedback through countless tweets and blog posts from the plus size community, myself included, suggests the brand’s suits generally fit at least one size smaller than comparable brands. As a result, Swimsuits For All should consider revising the fit of their suits. While fit isn't just about a number on a tag, it does undermine your brand’s mission if you’ve chosen to produce a collaboration that is already limited to sizes 12 to 24. What are the implications if your sizing is more reflective of sizes 10 to 22? And what does that mean for other collaborations with even more bizarrely narrow size ranges? Given that many brands aren't interested in showing the plus bodies that frequently struggle with certain types of fit issues, I'm curious about the extent to which SFA works to ensure a good fit for a wide variety of bodies.
Swimsuits for All should also use more diverse models. Featuring Gregg in her own designs is wise, but reverting back to the much, much smaller models on the product pages is problematic. It's inconvenient for potential customers to wait for bloggers, media outlets, or individual shoppers share their photos to see these suits on larger or less curvy bodies. (It's also worth noting Gregg largely shares those photos on her social media, but the brand does not.) If shoppers don't wait, they are subject to Swimsuits For All's bizarre return policy. Using the provided prepaid label results in a store credit instead of a refund.
Ultimately, I love the swimwear and feel positively about the potential of the collaboration. It’s exciting to see the swimsuits sell and debunk the myth that fat shoppers won’t spend money. It’s fantastic to see the images of other non-model individuals, like myself, slowly trickle to social media as we receive our orders. However, in order to share the full enthusiasm this collaboration deserves and to truly honor the spirit of GabiFresh’s fun and innovative designs, I do need the brand to address some of the persistent criticisms since the first collection.
What do you think about these designs? How do you feel about the Swimsuits For All brand?
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