I remember the first boy/girl pool party I went to. I was in 8th grade, it was the summer of 1998, and I wore a navy blue two-piece from Limited Too. It was a halter top that had turquoise piping and the bottoms were little shorts.
I don’t remember being particularly nervous or worried about my appearance – I’ve always had an average body type, and have never stressed too much about what I eat (especially as a kid).
The first time I remember being aware of my looks was in high school. I was on the dance team and rumors rippled through our squad that the traditional uniform included a cropped top.
The rumors were true. It was a royal blue long-sleeved mock turtleneck leotard cropped top – fitted, with sparkles. There was a matching mini skirt, but we mostly wore black “dance pants” – the shiny black flair pant with a v-cut at the waist.
I spent many a night at home, watching TV while doing reps on an ab roller. I am certain I did likely hundreds of reps – but I was also 14 – and carving out a few abs wasn’t an issue then, especially on top of our grueling practices each week.
I didn’t gain weight until college – I lived up to the “freshman 15”, if not 20 pounds or higher. Many of my favorite clothing items no longer fit, and I felt disgusting. But I also felt low, and eating felt good.
While I got things a little under control over the years – I didn’t really understand the whole picture until after graduating from college. My first reality check was when I decided to do a “detox” – it was a 14-day plan designed to reset the body by cutting out caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, red meat, and excess salt and sugar.
I started looking at food labels and quickly realized that everything I’d been eating was terrible for me. I made my own brown rice, beans, and grilled chicken. By day 3, I was having a “healing crisis” – properly withdrawing from my daily cycle of caffeine and alcohol. It wasn’t unlike me to drink coffee from the time I woke up until lunch, then have a diet coke, and then back on the coffee until I went home, where I would drink wine.
The thought of this makes me cringe.
After the detox, I felt much better and I changed my eating habits. Soon, I joined a boxing gym, and had a strict diet – I was in the best shape of my life. Over the years, I’ve done the Paleo diet (I went strong for 3 months), low-carb, vegetarian, and vegan.
I quit the boxing gym when I moved to Austin (even though there is a franchise near my apartment) and joined a dance studio. The dancing classes aren’t as rigorous a workout as the boxing was, so I know my body has softened.
And over these last few years, I’ve developed a little bit of low self-confidence about the way my body looks. In general, I feel okay each day and I like how most of my clothes fit (it has taken me years to get rid of clothes that don’t make me feel good).
But… swimsuit shopping? Ugh. As a kid, I remember going swimsuit shopping with my mom – and she hated it – but I never understood why. Now I do.
It’s less about my body and more about what’s available to women with curves. Last summer, I realized it was official: I could no longer get by with cheap string bikinis. So, I threw all of mine away.
And thus, the search for the perfect bathing suit began.
I quickly realized that I needed to search for suits in size large or XL, even though I am not those sizes. I’m typically a small/medium, a 4/6. But I guess if you have a C bra size, you’re a large.
I also came to see that the suits offered in “my size” were mostly just plain black and/or looked like they were for women much older than me – brandishing skirts or ruffles – I didn’t want that.
I eventually found a 1-piece at Old Navy that I liked. It had everything on my mental checklist: underwire, adjustable straps, fun pattern. It was $35 and it was the only suit I bought (and owned) last summer (here’s a similar one).
This year though, I was determined to build up my swimsuit wardrobe. I wanted at least one suit that was “luxury” – I was tired of buying cheap suits that wouldn’t last and didn’t fit that great. I also needed additional suits for my upcoming beach trip.
At first, I looked through all of the suits I liked on my favorite fashion bloggers on Instagram. Giant mistake. While their suits were cute, nearly all of them were made for women that were stick-thin, with no breasts.
These suits had no lining (what? This should not even be allowed), no cups, no underwire, and often no coverage on the butt. Great!
I ended up at American Eagle, a place where I feel like I should not be shopping, but they’ve done me well. I discovered that, not only do they not use traditional models, they also feature actual customers on their site.
This sounds simple, but it’s actually amazing when you’re shopping for a suit – I could see how the suit would look on a body similar to mine, and there were even comments that included women’s height and weight, and this was just amazing!
I ordered two suits online, one basic (a solid one in olive green that was voted as a best-seller) and one sexy, more risque one. I debated on this one, worried it might be too much skin for me, and then I thought, “No, I’m 33, and I shouldn’t be ashamed of my body, my cellulite” and just bought it. Also, and my larger-chested readers will understand, but when you have bigger breasts, nearly everything looks “sexy” – it could be a crew neck, hell, a turtle neck, and people are going to find your body distracting. Yes, that’s me rolling my eyes!
Anyway… Would I go running down the beach in it? No. But it’s definitely cute and I’ll be perfectly fine wearing it while lounging in my cabana.
When the suits arrived at my apartment, I was nervous to try them on. But alas! The basic one fit perfect – it was smoothing in the front, and even though it didn’t have an underwire, it was supportive. The back is completely adjustable with a lace up, which looks neat, too. If this suit were offered in brighter colors, I would buy more.
The other suit (the Aerie Plunge One Piece) fit as I suspected – it was skimpier than my usual attire, but hey, it was cute – light pink and navy in thick stripes. I thought it would be cute with denim shorts.
With two new suits, I was feeling good. But there was still that “luxury” suit I wanted. I lucked out and got the American Eagle suits for around $30 each.
I was eyeing two suits at Nordstrom, but the universe quickly decided for me when one sold out! The other one – a mauve crochet lace one-piece by Becca that was sheer in all the appropriate places – was still pretty expensive, but if I wore it for a few summers, it would be fine. But then… it went on sale, 50% off, and I got it for $70.
I’d seen many pictures of different-sized women wearing it, and it was flattering on all shapes and sizes. I’m happy to say that it looked great on. The color would look much better with a dark bronze glow (for which I have been applying sunless tanner), but hey, all the more reason to lounge in the sun (slathered in SPF, of course).
I got myself a swimsuit coverup – this was another thing I cleaned out of my closet. I noticed that all of my “swimsuit coverups” were actually just old sundresses that I wore to tailgates in college. Cute then, not now. So, I treated myself to an ACTUAL swimsuit coverup, from Old Navy. I picked the pattern hoping it would match my beach tote and a few various sandals.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be satisfied with the way my body looks – it’s much too easy to see other women that look different and I sometimes wish I were thinner or more toned (aren’t we all guilty of this sometimes?) – but I’m slowly learning to appreciate my body for all its done for me.
After all, a different body type doesn’t necessarily mean better – we are all made different, and our bodies react differently to all sorts of things.
I am more concentrated on eating healthy to stay alive and well, and also doing exercises that help my mind and my mental health. If my body tones in that process, great.
Regardless, I know I’ll be comfortable in my bathing suits, either by myself at the pool with a book, or surrounded by my friends at the beach who aren’t judging me or what I’m wearing.
Cheers to having fun in the sun, no matter what type of body you have and what suit you’ve got to wear!