We love hearing from our FGG readers. You girls help keep us tuned in to the questions and issues that are real and relevant in your diverse lives right now. This week's reader question is a great example:
"Hello! I love to go snorkeling, jet skiing, etc., but find my time in the sun causes more than the occasional sunburn. I'd like to get one of those rash guard shirts that offer sun protection, but can't seem to find one to fit me. I wear a size 20-22 top and I know they're supposed to be slim fitting, but I end up looking like an over-stuffed sausage! Have you guys had any experience finding any in plus sizes?"
Worn during all types of watersports from surfing to kayaking, or just while swimming, rash guard athletic shirts (so named because they protect the skin while sliding on and off a surfboard) are made of spandex and nylon or polyester. In addition to providing protection from UV rays (shirts are given UPF ratings, similar to the SPF ratings seen on sunscreens), these shirts can be worn snugly over a swimsuit or layered under a wetsuit to minimize skin chafing.
The ideal fit is close against the body without making anyone resemble breakfast meats. Choosing a plus-size rash guard with the correct fit is important because UPF drops as a shirt stretches and the material thins out over your skin. The largest selection of extended sizes comes from Solartex Sun Gear, which offers women's rash guard shirts in sizes as large as 5XL, which fits 52"-54" chests. In addition to short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts, Solartex also sells plus-size, unisex rash guard shorts, tights and loose-fitting swim shirts (up to size 6X), as well as a ladies' rash guard swimsuit.
For a less pricey alternative (approximately $20 cheaper than the Solartex shirts), consider a short- or long-sleeved Lands' End AquaTerra™ rash guard if you can comfortably wear sizes 1X-3X (16W/18W - 24W/26W). We like Junonia's sporty, color-blocked rash guard with a zip-front style, but as of this writing every single size and color combination is on backorder.
Finally, the least expensive rash guard we found was from SunGrubbies.com: The short-sleeve version costs just $29.95 and is available in sizes up to 4X, which claims to provide "skin-tight" fit on women weighing 230-250 pounds, or a looser, "t-shirt fit" that's comparable to a ladies' 2X. Our only issue? A 5'2 woman weighing 250 pounds is likely to carry her weight much differently than a 5'11 woman of the same weight. Using weight as a sizing guideline sometimes makes things more confusing when the intent is to be clear.
Rash guards and swim shirts are gaining popularity, especially for their sun protection properties. Are you a fan? Tell us which brand and fit you prefer, and share your experiences about sizing in the comments.