If you're not pleased with your legs or hips, the sarong is your best friend.

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Spending time at the beach and the pool are what make summer so fun. But while swimming and lying in the sun are enjoyable activities, for many of us, slipping into a swimsuit often isn't. Let's face it, the styles that look great on an impossibly skinny, astonishingly symmetrical supermodel are often less than flattering on other normal-looking humans who have perfectly good, if not quite perfect, bodies.

But cheer up. There's no need to spend your summer days indoors, kvetching resentfully about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. It's possible to find a swimsuit that'll make you look stunning by emphasizing the most attractive parts of your appearance, while concealing or taking attention away from the features you don't want your admirers to notice.

The reality is that no one swimsuit will look good on all women. Each woman has a different body type, so the first thing you should do is take a look in the mirror. Do you have a small bust line or a large bust line? Are your legs short or long? Do you have generous, fertility-goddess hips, or are you more narrow and slinky? Have you been keeping up with your workouts, or has your exercise ball sprung a leak?

Cinch in Your Middle

Couture experts Jill Martin and Pierre A. Lehu, authors of the how-to manual "Fashion for Dummies," advise that your first decision should be whether to go with a two-piece or a one-piece swimsuit. Unless you're a Pilates or diet fanatic, you might have at least a teeny bit of a belly. Lucky for you, many one-piece suits come with built-in tummy control panels, and some one-piece suits include ruching, a sewing technique in which fabric is gathered to subtly shape and flatter your figure. Because it covers more of your body, a one-piece swimsuit gives you more options for emphasizing -- or concealing -- various body parts. For example, if you're pleased with your newly toned shoulder and back muscles, choose a suit with a low-cut back.

Accentuate the Positive

Here are some other tips Martin and Lehu provide on how to make the best of your body's unique characteristics:

  • If you have a bust like Katherine Hepburn rather than Christina Hendricks, buy a suit with ruffles or other decorative flourishes across the neckline. That will create the illusion of curves. If you're slender and fit, you might want to go with a triangular bikini that will emphasize your buffness rather than your bosom.
  • If you have a Rubenesque bottom, try a two-piece suit with a brightly colored top and a dark-colored bottom. That will take attention away from your rear end. If you're busty, you can draw attention away from your ample bottom by wearing a two-piece top with a revealing neckline.
  • If you have short legs, pick a suit that's cut higher at the hips, which will create the illusion that your legs are longer.
  • If you're a little too round in your middle, pick a one-piece suit with colorful top and bottom sections that are clearly differentiated, and a dark-colored middle. As you may have guessed by this point, dark colors tend to make things look smaller.

If you've picked out the most flattering suit but you're still a little shy about walking around in it, Martin and Lehu suggest adding a colorful sarong to your bathing ensemble. You can wrap this versatile garment over your shoulders or around your hips when you're not in the water. It covers your least favorite features. And it looks stylish!