Thursday, September 10, 2009

in the swim of things

I'm so seventies, originally uploaded by Soozs.

I know, I know. Summer time means dealing with swimwear. Few things fill me with dread quite like the annual reality check like no other.

Pass the choc chip cookies while I have a sigh and maybe a cry...

For years I did my best to hide in a black one piece, but it's always been hard to find a suit I liked and which fitted me and didn't squish my boobs down to my navel.

I can't remember when I sewed my first suit, but it was a long time ago and a move motivated by sheer desperation. How hard could it be? I thought to myself and set out with cotton lycra and lots of time. No pattern, just winging it.

Those early suits were really quite OK once I had recut, re-sewed and altered for a day or two. I tried making my own patterns, but since no two pieces of lycra are the same a healthy amount of fiddle is always required.

And then five or so years back I discovered the tankini and I was pretty happy to stay there. Nice boy leg black pants in chlorine resistant lycra and a tank top with an in-built shelf bra. I'm not saying I looked like a model or anything, but they were comfortable and serviceable.

But as the tank began to age and the straps began to loosen, the cleavage got a little deeper than I was comfortable with. In bathers as in most of my clothes I like firmness and any possibility of a wardrobe malfunction does not assist in relaxation.

So the tank remained in circulation, but wasn't really what I wanted. I was also increasingly finding it hard to avoid sunburn and was thinking perhaps it might be time to seek a little more coverage - a rash vest and board shorts were the next additions.

I don't know if it is just me and my shape, or whether this is a universal phenomenon, but I find board shorts really uncomfortable. I like the sun protection, but they seem to be loose and flappy and extremely unflattering at the same time as restrictive and tight whenever you are trying to move.

And the big black rash vest is eminently functional but somehow unsatisfactory too. Hopeless for feeling remotely summery or attractive and when sun isn't a big problem, unnecessary levels of coverage. Plus I really can't get over the need for a dedicated swim bra.

So now I find myself with no less than 5 pieces of swimwear, pretty much all of which are a compromise in some way or another. Now that I am spending a good slab of time living at the beach, swimwear is a daily reality.

Armed with a load of lycras in interesting prints I am setting out to remake the swimwear wardrobe. I'm boldly going away from black because I'm tired of it.

This is the first of the items I had in mind, a short sleeved rash vest. I used the same pattern that I use to make most of my T-shirts. After a trial wear this morning I decided it needs a bit of shortening and I might hem the edges instead of leaving them overlocked, but otherwise a much more pleasant garment to wear than the old rashie.

Next up, some hybrid bike/board shorts. I want something that looks more like regular shorts (ie less clingy), but has the stretch and comfort of lycra. I'm planning on using the jazz pants pattern I used over here.

After that I'm going to make a new tank and perhaps even a one piece just for the hell of it.

So how to you deal with swimwear? Do you make or buy? What kind of swimwear do you like? Where do you get it?


The Queen of Fifty Cents said...

I'm impressed! I tried making swimwear in my youth, but this was so long ago I don't think lycra had been invented yet. I have a pool so my swimsuit collection is pretty large (15 or so). All came either from the end of season dirt cheap sale rack or from yard sales. I know some people are squeamish about used suits, but I figure anything can be washed clean--and that suit you buy in a store has probably been tried on! Best deal ever--two piece tankini thing for 15 cents each.

DK said...

I've had those same problems for years, too. One pieces always squish everything down where it doesn't go or I feel like my boobs have no support at all, but I don't feel comfortable showing off as much skin as I would need to in a bikini. For years I just made do with a black one piece I bought when my sister forced me to go shopping for one with her. We were going on a family float trip in Michigan and I was "not allowed to wear just jeans and a t-shirt".

This summer my fiance and I moved to Maryland, on the water. It had been so long since I had tried to put on my suit living in Missouri (and I had gained roughly 35-40lbs from stress at a job I hated) that my one suit was no longer serviceable. My fiance set aside the time to help me shop around and find a suit that would work. Well, it was more like you can't fit into that ugly suit you've had for years and we're going to be living by the beach, you are going to *need* a good swim suit. I found a decently priced (less than $50) tankini and it works alright, but I'm still not 100% satisfied with it. t is, however, miles and miles beyond what I had been wearing in comfort, support, and style.

I'm just not brave enough to try to work with stretchy lycra yet.

Mary said...

I've made a lot of suits. I think the smartest thing you can do for bust support is to take a regular bra that actually fits you and cut the straps off to fit it into your suit. I've been using a swim dress pattern from Kwik Sew for years, and that works well as long as the suit has a high back.

This year, I bought a few RTW items, a tank suit one piece from Junonia (very nice, but too much coverage on the legs for me) and some nylon supplex shorts with bike shorts built in from Land's End. I have problems with thigh chafing, so the shorts are great when you are going to be doing a lot of walking as well as lolling and swimming.

We all struggle with swimwear, but I suggest going to plus size RTW websites and stores and doing some try ons and stealing some of their tricks. Then you can customize it to work for you.

Bianca Jae Makes Stuff said...

I don't know what it is about board shorts but I too have the same problem. Not flattering at all and clingy and blah. At the moment I have brought a pair but seeing as though we now have a pool and can pretty much swim all year round I am looking at other options. Will be watching with interest xox