Swimsuit shopping is stressful for every human being on the planet. But there are ways to make it less painful: good store variety. Kind lighting. A stiff martini. You won't find any alcohol, but you will find the other two stipulations at these places.
Good ol' Emeralds. Just a hair above Strut in terms of clothing price point and quality, it's girly swimsuits are more affordable than you'd think for their S. Lamar real estate.
Swimsuits for your inner Michael Phelps: This is the swimwear store for athletes, with styles and "technology" to help you glide down the lane. The prices are a little steep, but then again, this is for those folks who view swimsuits as proper sports equipment, not cute pool outfits.
So while Petticoat Fair continues to be the most amazing bra store, ever, in the history of Austin and possibly the world, their swimsuit selection is not too shabby either. Some of their stuff is pretty darn matronly, but these people know boobies, and with enough digging you can usually find a style that comfortably, and stylishly, supports yours.
So here's the deal: Everything But Water is probably the best place in Austin to buy a suit. The selection is ginormous, and they sell for a variety of wallet - and body - sizes. There are also lots of styles here, from lounging-on-the-cruise-deck-sipping-a-Mai-Tai, to Zooey-Deschanelesque-vintage.
There's more swimwear for dudes than for ladies at Whole Earth, but of what they offer, this stuff is made to last. I know because I bought a swimsuit from Whole Earth sometime during George W. Bush's first term, and STILL own/use it.
Wallet-friendly wares: The quality of the clothing varies at Strut, but I've found plenty of dresses/pants/tops at this affordable boutique -- and they haven't fallen apart on me. The style here is very LA: Think empire waists, flowy shirts, and purses large enough to tote a small animal. No swimsuits here, but lots of cover-up-like dresses to choose from.
Yep, it's pricy. And swimsuits here are a seasonal offering. But if you like a beaded, printed, Indian Summer type of swimsuit, Lucky Brand has some surprisingly good options. Pieces are sold separately, and start at $66 a pop.
Peddling ski, snowboard, swim, and even terra firma workout gear, St. Bernard Sports is on the pricier end of the spectrum, but frequent sales at this massive 2nd Street make up for the heftier price tags. Also nice? The fact that St. Bernard carries sporty going out clothes, like wrap dresses and tank tops.
I'm pretty sure that Gallery D carries one line of swimsuits exclusively - Voda - and fortunately, their stuff is super cute. NOTE that these suits are for the enthusiastic bikini aficionado with lots of push up action, so if that's not you, keep driving until you hit Petticoat Fair.