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Most women would rather have a tooth extracted than try on a bathing suit.

But after years of humbling hours spent in badly-lit dressing rooms (standing in front of mirrors undoubtedly purchased from circus fun houses) I have a few tips for obtaining the best result.

1. Be sure to apply makeup and comb your hair before leaving the house. If nothing below your collarbone looks particularly good, it will be less damaging, psychologically .

2. Bring a range of sizes into the dressing room – some larger than you think you’ll need. You can always cut the size tag out of the suit once you own it, but pieces of Spandex run small and “sausage casing” is never a good look.

3. Once you have a swimsuit on, turn your purse upside down and empty the contents on the floor. With your back to the mirror, bend over and pick up everything you lost, replacing it inside the purse. Finally, stand up and face the mirror. Are your breasts still inside the suit? Is your gluteus maximus still encased in the bottom?

Though suntan models recline in perfect splendor, the average woman chases children, picks up shells and even swims in her suit. Who knew? She doesn’t want to continually adjust it or continually fall out of it. (The sight frightens children and innocent beachgoers.)

4. Considerable engineering goes into the manufacture of today’s swimsuits: Tummy control panels, under-wire cups, strategic color placement and draping are ingenious ways to camouflage figure flaws and draw attention to assets . These suits may cost a bit more but are worth it, since you are wearing a bit less and have fewer ways to cover or conceal problem areas.  Burkas are an option, of course…

5. Ignore all swimsuit models (including the Michael Kors version pictured above) and realize magazine photographs are airbrushed, even teenagers have cellulite and no one will be as critical of your appearance as you are.

Photo by Peter Gould/Viewmedia