Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bathing Beauties

It's that dreaded time of year again. You know the one, filled with poorly lit dressing rooms and highly unflattering swaths of spandex: swimsuit season.

Cue thunder and lightning.

I hate shopping for swimsuits. Even when I was a minuscule size six (which is around the size I start looking like Skeletor, as my body is just sadly not made that way), it was pure torture. I glowered at tiny yellow polka-dot bikinis, wishing we still wore bathing dresses. Whenever I watch Gidget, furious envy overtakes me at Sandra Dee's cute swimsuits that actually cover and - gasp! - flatter things.

This season, I'm not taking any - pardon - crap from swimwear. Over the course of my almost-a-year (!!) of sewing, the biggest lesson learned is that I'm in control of my wardrobe. Making your own clothes means you're not at the mercy of chain stores or current trends. It's liberating, not having to settle for something, just because it's the best out there on shelves. So, why should we have to settle when shopping for swimsuits? We shouldn't and I won't.

Before you get too excited, I should tell you - I am not sewing my own swimsuit. Yet. It violates my current sewing mantra of keep things pleasurable, it's a hobby. There's enough hand-wringing and fretting in my two real-life careers, so my creative outlet should be soothing. Can you think of anything less soothing than fitting your own swimsuit? I do not need intimate knowledge of how many precise inches of buttock I have, thank you. Instead, I'm leaving all those fiddly bits up to the experts. Namely, the online ones.

Did you know you can buy swimsuits online? Really, really cute retro inspired ones? This is genius, kittens. Not only do we not have to face fluorescent lighting, but a whole world of styles has opened up to us! Who wants the same swimsuit everyone else who shops at Nordstrom has, when you can have a suit designed by Esther Williams, the queen of glam swimming? She's just the tip of the iceberg, as I found out last week.

Retro-inspired swimwear falls into fairly delineated categories, all of which are amazing. Let's take an online swim tour, shall we?

The Polka-Dots:

[Esther Williams]

The Almost-Actual-Clothes:

[Unique Vintage]


[Unique Vintage]

The American as Cherry Pies:


[Pinup Girl Clothing]
[Unique Vintage]

With such great options, what did I choose? Well, shopping online is tricky, especially for swimwear. So, I went in with strict guidelines on what I needed.
  1. Must be a one-piece. In college, I had an emergency appendectomy. Thus, I have a few tiny scars that I'd like to keep out of the sun, for fear of color change. Plus...one pieces are super comfortable. Despite being 25, I choose not to be media pressured into a bikini.
  2. Have some structure, especially up top. When running down a beach (or, you know, lounging by the pool), no one wants to worry about wardrobe malfunctions.
  3. Nothing too cliched retro. I wanted something pretty, not something kitschy. That ruled out the Sailor and Cherry Pie categories.
A lot of great suits met my requirements, but one stood out. May I present The Marilyn Swimsuit, which I'll be donning at a pool nearby this summer...

Y'all, it's pink. It's inspired by Marilyn Monroe. It has a ton of structure. It's pink!

Have you ever seen a more perfect swimsuit? It was love at first sight. It's designed by Pinup Girl Clothing, one of my favorite online purveyors of retro-inspired clothing. My most beloved ready-to-wear dress is their Heidi dress, which I wore last year to a Very Important So Everyone Dresses Up Publishing Event. I trust their workmanship and sizing implicitly, so ordering online wasn't too terrifying. And the best part? I didn't have to stand in a dressing room. Score!

Have you every shopped online for swimwear? What do you look for in a swimsuit, retro or otherwise?


  1. I have a black esther williams suit that I bought a few years ago. It came with a detachable halter strap but I've since lost it. I'll need to either make a new one or buy a new suit if I plan on doing any major water park rides this summer.

    I'd actually really like to learn to make my own suit seeing as it has to be cheaper than buying one of the anthropologie beauties - I mean $368 for real!?!?! http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/catalog/productdetail.jsp?id=20501102&catId=CLOTHES-SWIMS&pushId=CLOTHES-SWIMS&popId=CLOTHES&navAction=top&navCount=78&color=095&isProduct=true&fromCategoryPage=true&isSubcategory=true&subCategoryId=CLOTHES-SWIMWEAR-ONEPIECE&templateType=subCategory

  2. All of those are so cute!! I even love the kitschy ones.

    I too like wearing a one piece or at least two pieces that meet in the middle, but I would maybe give one of those retro two pieces a try. :]

  3. I bought one swimsuit from victoria's secret online about 5 years ago, it was a disaster! I think I'm ready to try again this year with some bathing beauties from shabbyapple.com, their swimsuits are much more modest than many of the options out there for young ladies like ourselves (I'm 22)

  4. Obsessed with the red gingham ModCloth option!

  5. I always buy swimsuits online - and shoes and most clothes. Shoes and swimsuits take too long to shop for and require too many stores. Plus, dragging two small boys and a baby to Macys and making them sit for hours while I try to try on shoes / swimsuits? Not anyones idea of fun.

    btw - Anthro also has some beautiful retro inspired suits. I plan to try them one day. This summer, I may have to find a nursing one with lots of shaping power.

  6. swimsuit glam *LOVE* it