Custom Fit

The idea of standing under bright lights in front of a mirror wearing nothing but a bathing suit strikes fear in the souls of many women. But Maria Salajko, owner of Coral Coast Custom Swimwear in Mississauga, has a no nonsense objective demeanour about her that convinces even the most nervous sceptic to give it a try. Remember, she's dealt with tears, plenty of complaints, a list of insecurities, medical issues and even one fleeing customer (who later came back in and ordered three custom made suits).
“We do one thing, and we do it well,” says Salajko. And what she does is seemingly impossible: design and sew swimwear the average woman feels comfortable wearing. “When you wear a bathing suit, you are essentially walking in front of people in your bra and panties,” says Jen Fennell, one of the company's three designers. “You need to feel as confident in your physical appearance as possible.”
It's a Herculean task, but one the petite Salajko has embraced with confidence for 20 years. She's been designing and producing, on site, bathing pieces after being inspired by a visit to Florida with her sister. “As far as I know, I'm the only one in the area doing custom swimwear,” she says. And clearly there's a demand and a satisfied customer base because 90 per cent of her business comes from referrals. When the bikini fits, women tell their friends.
The selection, design and production process is simple, but not instantaneous: there are 85 sample pieces to select from and try on. Salajko and her team recommend combinations and adjust accordingly, but ultimately it's up to the customer to decide what she likes best. Then she picks the fabrics and returns for one or two adjustment fittings.
“People are used to the idea of fitting a wedding dress but not a bathing suit,” Fennell says. A flattering fit requires some adjustments, and usually the final tweaking is done while the customer waits.
“The trick,” says Salajko, “is to find the right bottoms that are perfect for you then work on a selection of tops. Most off-the-rack bathing suits don't have enough support.” Coral Coast has bottoms with a wide wrap waist that look good on everyone, she claims. Because there's no elastic, there's no muffin top.
The designers also add the “Power Push Up” to their list of secret weapons. It's both cup and underwire that's “much safer and cheaper than surgery,” says Salajko. Most women say they want a full piece. But Salajko suggests revealing a bit of middle is more flattering. “I'm 53,” she says, “and I've cut all my one pieces into two. There's a difference between a two-piece swim suit and a bikini.”
Other tricks? Coral Coast can easily adjust leg openings for each customer, and graphic prints are a lot more forgiving than solids. Also, very few women are the same off-the-rack size on the top as the bottom.
Clearly, fit and flatter are the first two necessities keeping you focused on enjoying the sun and sand free from self-conscious naggings. The third of course, is fashion. And trends in style, colour and pattern are not to be ignored in the name of function.
Tankinis are still very popular, probably the best seller, Salajko says. These are two piece bathing suits with the middle covered by a tank top. Coral Coast builds in full underwire support unlike the shelf support in store-bought versions. Some clients purchase both a tankini top and bikini top to a match a single bottom.
The design Salajko likes best though is the monokini ““ a one piece with side cut-outs that she designs to suit each person by literally drawing on the client to show how much skin will show. There's tummy coverage (the area most complained about) down the front enhanced by the “Power Push Up.” From the back, it looks like two pieces. 
Other trends? The '80s are back. In addition to cut-outs, prepare yourself for neons, bright colours like yellow and pink and sporty looks. Patterns are all about graphics and geometry with a hint of '60s retro, along with the bathing suit staple: the polka dot, though how teeny weenie you go is up to you. There's less animal print this summer, though that's now considered a classic rarely completely disappearing from the radar. And a strangely, skull and crossbones print was a hit with the 40-something sect.
And no matter how good the suit looks, cover-ups continue to be a must purchase item, and the longer the more versatile. Coral Coast's pareo is a tie sarong that double duties as wrap dress or tie skirt. Also a matching circle dress or swing skirt makes walking from beach to poolside bistro possible without any quick change in between. Resort and cruise wear bathing ensembles are suitcase staples this year whether you're travelling somewhere warmer than home or to cottage country in Canada. And if the suit fits, wear it ““ all summer long.