Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Survival Guide, Part II: The Bathing Suit

Just the mere mention of the words "bathing suit" has the power to turn even the most ardently feminist, logical, level-headed among us into a squealing mass of estrogen, tears, and chocolate shavings. I don't care how thin you are, how peaceful and zen you are about your body, you probably have some jiggly bits that you are less pleased with showing to the world. ACK, indeed.

However, bathing suits are a very real reality, especially if you have kids. There is the errant pool party or the incredibly hot day where anything else on your body feels oppressive. I spent a couple of years in CA when I didn't buy one--the beaches in Norcal are not prime bikini spaces--but really, I'm happier when I have one in my arsenal. Think of all the joyful moments of your childhood. Summers in the water, friends at the how many of them were you wearing a swimsuit? If you are anything like me, you have more than your fair share. Having a bathing suit that is comfortable that you like and enjoy is like having a key to a whole bunch of summer fun.

Getting to that point, though, can be a bit trying. I don't know anyone whose idea of "fun" is defined by taking a stack of bathing suits to the dressing room. And we've all been there, haven't we, doing the best we can under the harsh lighting, trying to make sense of what magazines tell us will surely flatter us and then finding that perfect suit in your size. It really is horrible, and actually, very avoidable. Quick tips for you (in list form because that's the way I roll):

1. Order your suit online. The easiest thing to do is skip the whole shebang and order online. That way, you can try things on in the comfort of your own home and do a whole bunch of crazy moves to make sure it stays in place/flatters your boobs in all positions. Make sure, however, to find an online company that has a great policy for returns. You can do a couple of things here--a) either order a panoply of sizes and pick the best fitting of the options, or b) talk to a service rep, either by chat or by phone about picking the perfect suit. This is what I did last year. I knew I have quite an issue with bathing suit--I have big knockers, and a not so big waist and very problematic hips--so I got on chat and talked with a Land's End representative. If you go this route, be ready with a tape measure to give them your measurements. The rep will be able to tell you not only your size, but what suits they offer that can most play up your assets. They can also guide you as to what styles come in special sizes. For me, I had to get a top that had DD cup sizes if I wanted to order my dress size in tops OR I could get a bikini top (that did not have a DD cup option) in a larger number size. I ended up ordering one top and one bottom and when it came in, it fit like a glove. Crisis averted.

2. If you can, pick a suit that you can mix and match with other pieces. I am going to risk sounding like a huge Land's End commercial with this post, but really, I'm so in love with their suits that it will just have to be that way. My suit last year was a tankini with low rise bikini bottoms from their Beach Living collection--black with white polka dots. I wanted to order more pieces at the end of the year, but this desire got kind of tabled when I started seeing fall stuff hitting the stores and wanted that more. What can I say? I'm like a dog going after something shiny. At any rate, I had the tankini and that was enough. However, earlier this summer, Land's End put some of their pieces from last year on super, super sale. I was able to get a bikini top and a swim mini in the same matching print in my size and ready to go for a SONG. Like, less than a song, like a clip of a song. And the fit is still the same and looks amazing. I was chatting with another blogger about this and she said she had done similar things with the swimsuits from Land's End Canvas--she had a great navy blue tankini from there last year, and this year, was able to score cute orange striped bottoms that looked complementary, as well as navy blue boardshorts. If you go relatively neutral, you can really play with it and come up with a swimsuit that is as unique as you are. And having an extra change is perfect for those days when your suit is still wet but there is fun to be had.

3. Once the suit comes in, test it. I call this the "Do a Load of Laundry" test. When you try on your suit for the first time, keep it on. Walk around your house and do normal stuff. Can you do a load of laundry without adjusting yourself? For me, if I can navigate the toys in the living room, pick up a child, switch the clothes around, walk back in the living room, laundry basket and kid in hand, fix a sandwich, turn on a baseball game, and fold the laundry, all without being uncomfortable or showing part of my genitalia, I may have found a winner. Come up with your own test, and if you can complete it, it's a keeper. If not, keep looking.

*This test also applies to high heeled shoes, thongs, and shorter skirts.

4. Know your limits. I have really tried to shy away from blanket statements like "Don't wear a bikini if you are over 40" or "Don't wear anything in neon green." I think we all basically know what styles and colors do us no favors. For instance, if you have over a B-cup, please do not wear one of those triangle tops. Unless you are just really, really happy with your uber perky bosoms that can, you know, stand up and do tricks on command. But really, only you can know exactly what your limits are. I used to think that I would never wear a bikini top (as opposed to a tankini). But now, I'm kinda thinking that the one I have is a fun, cute look and flatters me. Remember that as long as you are confident and own the look, you can get away with a lot more. If you aren't confident, you're going to look like shit, even if you've been doing P90X everyday for the past five years. So find the suit you want, make yourself happy with it, and rock the hell out of it.

5. Don't wear pants at the beach. Remember the video for Wilson Phillips' "Hold On" (which was my JAY-UM way before Bridesmaids came and co-opted it)? They're all singing and they're happy and they're feeling it and my God after all these years, I still want Chynna's hair, and wait...they're on a beach. And Carnie is wearing a suit? Were you fooled then? Did you think that maybe she was a size 2 because all of her fluff was hidden by a curtain of black polyester? No? Well, no one else was either. And they won't think you are suddenly thin if you show up to the beach in pants. Buy a bathing suit that you like, rock it, and fuck that haterz. No one is looking at you anyway--they're too busy looking for sharks/reading that tell-all about Suri Cruise's shoe closet/giving their husband sand boobs/HAVING AWESOME FUNTIMES BEACH FUN. NO ONE CARES IF YOU HAVE BUTT DIMPLES. And if they do, well, you shouldn't want to impress them anyway. They probably watch a lot of Nancy Grace and call "frappuccinos" "frah-pu-CHIN-os." Bastards all.

Here are some links to help you on your journey. If you haven't ordered a suit yet (and I realize I'm pretty late in the game with this post), you're in luck because there are some jim-dandy sales going on.

This tankini is similar to mine, although mine is a halter. Note that you can get D, DD, and DDD cup sizes, along with a host of other choices.

Swim mini's are great in between bikini waxes (just sayin').

The Crew always has beautiful one pieces in amazing colors if that is your thing. I used to have one--purchased for a song on Ebay--and it was lovely.

Old Navy is the master of the mix and match suit. Especially if you don't have the healthy bosoms (does it creep you out when I say "bosoms"? Cause I'm giving myself chills over here.)

Finally, a quick story as to why all this is important: my elementary school boyfriend runs our local pool. Yeppers. And my daughter, who I may have disowned shortly after this incident, managed to squeal "MOMMY, IS THAT THAT GUY THAT YOU SAID YOU LOVED IN LIKE FIRST GRADE OR SOMETHING WHO CAN DO THAT LIZARD FACE?" In front of him. While I was wearing a bathing suit. Ah, yes.

Anyone want a 12 year old for hard manual labor? Preferably something that involves poop?


  1. Awesome story at the end!

    And I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. It's so easy to hide in the summer and miss out on fun... or shove yourself in a dowdy girdle suit out of shame. This year I am rocking a Lands End Canvas halter one-piece and I think the fun print and my confidence makes me look tons better than wearing my matronly old MiracleSuit or street clothes. And who gives a damn anyway, if someone is analyzing my mama pooch that hard on the beach, they're going to grit on it whether or not I am attempting to hide it with a sarong!

  2. I will only buy Lands' End swimsuits. I haven't bought one anywhere else since 1993. No joke.

    I still feel self-conscious in a swimsuit, but I'm sure you're right and no one's looking anyway so who cares? I'll try to remember that. :-)