It's that time of year again - the time when I begin to contemplate swimsuits, and curse under my breath.
You see, the last several years, Mr. Z and I have sworn off birthday, anniversary, and Christmas gifts for each other in lieu of saving our cash for a week-long escape to a sunny, sandy locale sometime in December.
It's the perfect time to go. The leaves have been wind-torn off the trees and dutifully raked up into a pile for composting. Nothing's left of November but bare branches, gray skies, and the grim march of five weeks of holiday-themed commercials on t.v. and radio. Some of you may feel that there are the holidays themselves to look forward to, and I congratulate you on having been born into families whose interactions are blithe and joyous and mutually supportive at all times, even under the strains of shortened daylight hours and holiday stress. Myself, this time of year, the promise of a week where my biggest decision is what reading matter to take with me for my day long nap on the beach is the major thing that gets me through the first part of December. Memories of my blissful week help me survive the rest of it. If we could afford it, we'd go right over the Christmas holiday and New Year itself, but it's usually significantly cheaper to go a little before.
Anyway. Every year around this time I begin the bathing suit panic. A few years ago I made the grim pilgrimage and managed to purchase a suit that did not make me vomit when I looked in the mirror and was reasonably comfortable. It will suffice - I break it out only on these annual trips, since I am no swimmer. But it would be nice to have an alternate - this one's starting to show some signs of wear, despite its light usage, and sometimes your suit just isn't completely dry by the next day.
I will be making a trip to a local Nordstrom, which confirmed over the phone that they do have swimsuits in stock, but I was not encouraged by what I viewed on their website. I am not a twenty-something anorexic anxious to present myself as a 21st century beachgirl reinterpretation of a 19th century saloon hall call girl. And yet, these are the types of suits presented for my consideration when I chose to search their collection by my bodytype. I did appreciate this feature but, alas, none of the options were "fat-ass menopausal feminazi", so I picked "pear". Amazingly, none of the swimsuit models rendered in the search were remotely pear-shaped. All of them did have fetchingly and (literally) impossibly thin arms. I worried that their little twig-arms might just snap! in two if they ever actually tried to use them for anything. Perhaps for Christmas they should ask for an air-brush, and given themselves back their arms.
Here is the bathing suit I want, in case any bathing suit designers out there are listening and care to satisfy my desires, since I've heard that marketing these days is all about the niche, and meeting the needs of the individual. Or is that just what they tell us as they try to sell me my own "personalized" Twilight New Moon iPod skin? Yeah, I guess you can skin it any way you want, as long as "it" is a hard shiny piece of technology, and not your feminine self.
What I want is a pair of swim trunks, not unlike the comfy, roomy, quick-drying ones Mr. Z wears, that have pockets. I would, of course, like a top to go with them, but not one of those stupid tankinis that just stretch ridiculously over my non-flat, non-anorexic, woman's belly. I will be happy to wear some sort of bikini top with my swim trunks, and it ought to be reasonably easy to construct a bikini top that is comfortable, provides support, looks pretty, and dries quickly. I just purchased a bra today that offers the first three features and I am pretty damn sure the forth one can be wrangled in there - we have the technology.
I have discovered online that there is something called "board trunks" but you can only purchase these if you (1) are anorexic, since they don't come in real women's sizes and/or (2) are willing to show off your belly button and about three inches of skin beneath that, i.e., you don't actually want a pair of swim trunks.
A friend of mine has taken to buying her shoes in the men's department - she likes the solidity and sturdiness of men's shoes, the width of the toe box, the thickness of the sole - and they go so much better with the style of clothing she prefers to wear than do any women's shoes she can find anywhere. I'm thinking maybe I just have to take a note from her page - find myself a pair of swim trunks in the men's department, and buy a nice bikini top to match them, even if it means I have to buy a whole bikini. All I want for my save-my-sanity-at-Christmas-beach-trip is a pair of swim shorts. Is that so much to ask?
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Lands End has a couple of women's swim shorts, but they're not comfy-looking. However, you can buy men's or boy's swim shorts there PLUS a bikini top by itself. You might try it out?
swimsuits for all .com is a pretty good resource.
I have a hard time finding a suit that fits too, because it seems that you can either be tall with a tiny bust size or not tall with a large bust size, but not both tall and well-endowed, at least according to swimsuit manufacturers. I buy a lot of tops from Eddie Bauer because they have tall sizes, but their tall swimsuits don't have enough room in them for me.
Have you tried Athleta.com or title9sports.com?
The models are still universally lithe (though they do look fit rather than anorexic), and they have a wide variety of mix-and-match suits that range from bikini to board short and are actually designed for *gasp!* swimming, or surfing, or whatever other activity you might enjoy while wearing a swimsuit other than surreptitiously-picking-it-out-of-your-butt.
I think that Athleta even carries most of their self-manufactured items in "plus" sizes (a term that annoys me to no end, but it is nonetheless appreciated that they know "bigger" women can be "athletes" too). Selection might be kind of poor this year,but it might be worth a look - enjoy your holiday!!
I found shorts with pockets! (BeanSport Lined Shorts)
I have sewn my own swimsuit before. I do not recommend it. But there has got to be a metric bumton of money to be made in some commercial supplier making custom swimsuits.
I had some rafting/canoeing shorts from REI that had pockets and worked well for alternately hiking and swimming. Not too baggy, not too tight. Paired them with sports bra and T-shirt for hiking, sports bra alone for swimming. Wish I could find the same exact shorts again, now that I have a kayak.
I spend a lot of time in a swimsuit and have found the easiest solution to be Ye Olde One-Piece Speedo/other brand of racing suit + men's board shorts. Totally comfy & holds the boobs in (though does cause a uni-boob effect).
I also like these lifeguard shorts over a one-piece - they're shorter than the men's, but very lightweight & fast-drying.
Hm, I'm with you on a lot of this, but the thin-bashing really caught me off-guard, because it's not the kind of thing I expect to read here. Not all people with eating disorders are thin, and not all thin people have eating disorders or other health problems.
Make you own; lots of people do. http://sewing.patternreview.com/ (search or browse for swim wear)
Hie yourself over to LandsEnd.com. They are your best bet. I have a pair of their bathing suit shorts and they are pretty comfy. The outside shorts part tends to inflate with air when you first get in the water, but I think that is a problem with men's suits as well. There's an inside liner that gives good "coverage" (I hate that term, but we all know what it means). Lots of options for tops as well. Personally, I find tankini tops a lot more forgiving than regular suits.
I love my Title 9 catalogs, but frankly their suits are less than ideal if you have a big ass. I bought a tankini bottom from them that supposedly had lots of coverage (that word again!), but I have never suffered such ass-creep in my life. Their board shorts look great, but again they do not seem designed for the well-endowed caboose. My butt either hangs out the bottom (blech), or I show major crack at the top, or both.
Anyone who marketed suits for the "fat-ass menopausal feminazi" would absolutely get my business.
Volcanista, I would genuinely appreciate it if you could help me understand a bit better what you see as "thin-bashing" in my post. The models in the swimsuit photos on the Nordstrom page I looked at had clearly been airbrushed - no one in the world has arms as unnaturally thin as they did, even in relation to their already extremely thin (and no doubt also airbrushed bodies). In addition, it is no secret that the modeling industry prefers its models to be excessively thin and that eating disorders are one tried and true way in which models are able to obtain and maintain the unhealthy body standards the fashion industry imposes on them (and thus, on the rest of us). But even when they starve themselves, they can't make themselves thin enough for presentation, and that's where the airbrush comes in - to give us those preternaturally thin arms, vacuumed waists, carved out necks, and so on.
I have nothing against being thin - and in earlier years, I was quite thin myself, without having an eating disorder - and my dearest wish for every woman, including myself, is that she would just love herself the way she is, and do what she needs and is able to do to maintain her health. What I have a problem with is unrealistic images of unhealthy thinness being foisted upon me and every other woman as some sort of highest ideal imaginable of female beauty, as a daily taunt that this is what I need to achieve in order to be beautiful and lovable. Being opposed to THAT is different, I would suggest, than "thin bashing".
I too would definitely try Land's End for a tankini top and the shorts bottom. Their tankini tops are long enough to not gap. I like their faille separates for coverage, but they are not going to be particularly fast drying. And I love the advantage of a two piece when taking a nature break.
Also look for "rash guards"--nasty name for a garment, but they tend to be a little longer than tankini tops, with the added bonus of sleeves (which means less sunblock).
Unfortunately, most stores don't have much in the name of swimwear this time of year, even here in sunny SoCal where the temperature is still warm enough for swimming even in November.
Land's End is a good suggestion, but I would try JC Penny's online catalog also. They have a wide range of sizes and most of their swimwear is on clearance, so bonus!
But if you want real board shorts, you might try Board Shorts World which has an ugly web site, but carries exactly what you are looking for.
Just get 'em in the men's section! I buy most of my clothes from there, these days. They fit fine. Just go for lower-waisted things, if you've got comparatively shorter hips than most men.
I can't say I speak for volcanista, but I found the line, I have discovered online that there is something called "board trunks" but you can only purchase these if you (1) are anorexic, since they don't come in real women's sizes... to be problematic. I understand your frustration with unrealistic beauty standards and heavily airbrushed models, but there are women who wear teeny bikinis, fit into small sizes, and don't have eating disorders. Even very thin women with eating disorders are still real women. The equation of fuller figured women with "real" women (and the unstated converse, i.e. thin women shouldn't be counted as real women) is not unique to this post, and I find that it diverts rancor from deserving targets (the jerks who feel the need to electronically remove ribs, muscles, internal organs, and so on from models into order to make them look "prettier") onto innocent bystanders and/or victims of the same bad guys.
Attempting to force all women into the same mold of physical appearance is undoubtedly wrong, but so is blanket dismissal of women who happen to fit that mold by coincidence (or even not by coincidence -- a woman who does unhealthy/harmful things to her body because she has been psychically wounded by our culture's fucked up beauty standards deserves sympathy and support, not vitriol). I understand that women of size are typically the ones on the receiving end of much nastiness, and that they suffer much more from appearance-based judgments than thin women, but I still have to call BS on body-snarking.
That said, I can appreciate how easy it is to get carried away on such a rant-worthy topic as swimsuit shopping. I think that is a near universal inducer of "BLECH" for all women, and I sympathize.
Okay, I absolutely agree that the impossible photoshopping is a problem. It really bothers me, too (I've even written about it myself a bit). My complaint was more directed at your particular phrasing that assumed-anorexia = thin = not-real-bodies. Bad/obvious airbrushing aside, you cannot tell anything about a woman's mental or physical health just by looking at how thin (or fat!) her abdomen is. Anorexia may help some models be as thin as the industry demands, but that's also self-selecting - a lot of anorexic women do not ever become thin (and they'd never be employed as models). And at the same time, a lot of women have very flat stomachs because that's just how they're built, and it's not any less real or less inherently healthy than any other body shape.
I also picked up a disgusted tone about anorexia and eating disorders. Women who are ill still deserve respect. Health is not a virtue.
Laura, you have a good point about the "real women's sizes" phrase.
Volcanista, I absolutely do not feel disgust towards women who suffer from eating disorders. I have friends who have suffered from them, and the best therapist I ever had in my life devoted a large part of her practice to treating women with eating disorders - over the years I learned a great deal from her, about how very difficult that work was. And you can't spend years in formal women's studies education without studying and grappling with this issue. I would just like to emphasize again that what does disgust me is exploitation of women and facilitation of their development of eating disorders in order to sell clothing and a body image that is essentially unattainable for the vast majority of women, at least, not without adopting those same unhealthy eating disorder behaviors. I don't think there's anything about that which is deserving of respectful treatment.
If, for example, reasonable bathing suits for "pear" shaped women were marketed via images of women with actual pear-shaped bodies, whose arms had not been airbrushed into kindling-width thinness, alongside other types of bathing suits for women with thinner body types, it would be a different issue, wouldn't it? But the marketers are trying to sell me on the idea that my fat-assed menopausal femnazi body, once squished into their pear-appropriate bathing suit, is actually going to look like a twenty-something flat-bellied girl with kindling arms who does, in fact, appear to be suffering from anorexia. Not healthy-thin, regular variation on a woman's body thin, like I see when I walk around town and obvious the amazing splendor of women's variety and see all manner of bodies from short to tall, thin to fat. But someone who looks like she's starving herself to be thin. Or has been airbrushed all out of recognition of what a woman, any woman's, body actually resembles. Even thin women have arms.
Just buy some dude shorts! I do it. You can get athletic tops to swim in that will work and are not specifically for swimming.
@jules, I love patternreview.com and I love sewing, but I've found that eldercare and clothing design/construction don't mix as well as I'd like them to. Zuska may find the same, even assuming she has a sewing machine.
Sad, isn't it, that buying a machine, learning how to sew, and making your own clothes really seems like the simplest solution for some folks, given the limited sizing in the ready-to-wear clothing market. For many more, however, the just-do-it-yourself approach is not an option. Companies need to step up and make clothes for everyone.
@ Zuska, I had a problem with the "real women" sentence in your post too. Thanks for addressing the criticism--your considered responses are one of the many reasons I like it here.
The best suit I've had in a long time was a tankini. What made it awesome was that it was loose, so you could get a little bloated from a soda or swimming or something and not feel like the suit was going to bust. It was tight and supportive around the bust though. Also, it was long enough that the top touched the bottom. It came from Target. Unfortunately, it only lasted through 2 seasons of very minimal wear.
Good luck finding shorts you like.
I started buying exclusively men's pants and men's jeans several years ago, around the time the "skinny jean" started to come into play. I like being able to specify my waist and length within a certain "style". Would be nice if women's clothing started going in this direction. Women's slacks still seem ok, but for anything casual I shop in men's.
Side comment: I think the outrage at Zuska's comments on body size is a little overdone. I think it's fair to blame a fashion industry that encourages non-realistic body sizes for women. If you are thin and get angry when one of us non-thin people complains about how hard it is to find clothes or how inhuman the clothing models are made to look, perhaps you need to direct your anger elsewhere. I'm not saying thin people don't have body issues. I'm just saying at least you can find clothes in your size without being reminded how utterly you fail society's expectations of womanhood every single time you go shopping, open a magazine, turn on the TV, look in the mirror, see how other people look at you...once again I recognize thin people have their own hangups. Please let us non-thin have our hangups as well, no need for us to fight amongst ourselves when the problem is structural.
I think the outrage at Zuska's comments on body size is a little overdone.
There was no "outrage"--just a reminder that all women are "real women".
perhaps you need to direct your anger elsewhere.
This "find something important to get mad about" bit is done to death. Seriously. It's a standard silencing tactic that feminists hear every day.
It was not about thin women getting angry at non-thin women. Perhaps you need to re-read.
I just want to say, it is rarely easy to have these sorts of conversations. Nobody likes to hear someone say "hey, what you did/said/wrote didn't come across in the best way". The initial reaction is almost always, I think - at least for me, and for many others - to feel hurt and upset, for surely, one thinks, I am a good person, and did not mean to give offense, and why can't people just understand what I mean to say? But if you can resist those early reactions, or at least just sit still and not say anything dumb and/or reactionary for awhile until they subside and you feel a little calmer, then you can realize (again) that it's not about what you meant to say, but about what others heard in your words and actions, and how they felt as a consequence despite your intentions, and what you might learn from that information.
The older I get, the more I realize how very much I still have to learn about all the issues I care about the most.
Oh, and by the way: in the midst of managing another mom-related crisis yesterday and today, I did get a little shopping in. Maybe I'll take a photo of what I bought and post it later. Thanks to all of you for your many helpful suggestions and encouragement! You are all wonderful.
FrauTech- beauty 2K compliant females may be able to buy clothes more easily, but that hardly means they are more privileged than other women. The kind of oppression women face for beauty/lack of it is different, but it doesn't seem to me that either is pleasant or acceptable. The social expectation is double edged, women on either side of it are punished for it. It's the Hillary/Palin dichotomy of beauty; being conventionally beautiful or not makes woman fair game. The appearance of division (that there are women who 'win' from being conventionally good looking) makes it a lot harder for women to get together and decide that being subject to such a system at all is the problem, not any particular kind of appearance or size. So I don't think it was overblown at all. Alienating each other, getting into oppression olympics, not discussing internalized sexism, etc doesn't help anyone. I am glad people call bs on it when it happens.
Skeptifem, have you ever heard of thin privilege? Pointing out social hierarchies doesn't qualify as playing the Oppression Olympics.
I read the piece of thin privilege, and I still very much think that it is one side of the same coin. I can find comparable harassment for attractive/thin women. We all see it every single day. I feel like I am rewriting my last post, but the media treatment of hillary clinton and sarah palin illustrates how all women lose. The harassment of thinner/conventionally attractive women is equally acceptable in society. Those women are supposed to take it as a compliment (or punishment for "seducing" men with their appearance), while fat women are supposed to accept their harassment out of guilt. Either way the message is the same, that men have the right to assign women worth based on their potential sexual use and it is the womans fault for looking the way she does. The root of the kind of behavior in the thin privilege piece extends to all women, there is a serious misogynist component to fat hatred.
Either way the message is the same, that men have the right to assign women worth based on their potential sexual use and it is the womans fault for looking the way she does.
I agree with you there, and disagree with you here: "I can find comparable harassment for attractive/thin women."
I know what you are saying--it all comes from misogyny and control of women--patriarchy, in short. But, fat women have extra prices to pay. There is a lot of misogyny in hat hatred, yes, and there are other elements as well--making the body a moral issue, for example--and fat women pay multiple penalties.
Things are not equally tough all over.
Also, part of the point of this post was that women in the upper size range do in fact have a hard time finding clothes that fit and are well-made. FrauTech made the point that women need space to acknowledge that without hearing "well thin women have it hard too!" (kind of a "what about the men?" analog). I took issue with FrauTech's comment, but not with that part of it, just to be clear.
And Zuska, I'm glad you found something good!
Ahem. You can probably figure out that I did not mean to discuss "hat hatred" above. Although perhaps there is a post in there somewhere, but not this post!
Thanks for your careful and considerate responses, Zuska. I know you work hard to make your blog a safe space for all women (and a safe space for passionate discourse!), and that your intentions were good. If I thought you didn't care, I probably wouldn't have bothered to nit-pick about your wording.
Congrats on the successful shopping trip! And, I hope your mom-related crisis is under control now.
Yes, your friend is right. You can buy swimwear or swim shorts for your self online too. I'd like to recommend that as you are looking to select and match it on your own, you can checkout the Swimsale.com (http://www.swimsale.com/) website. The online store offers huge varieties of swimwear like bikini separates, bikini sets, cover ups and more. It allows you to choose and select things as you want and truly, the designs and quality of their products is outstanding.
Have you tried Junonia for swimwear? They have all sorts of swim separates, including swim shorts and various types of tankini tops and rashguards. Sizes start at roughly a misses XL, which may or may not be the range you're looking for. Their workout wear is terrific, so I imagine the swimwear is of similar quality.
Shut your mouth.
heh heh! I wondered when the wrath of the shoe goddess would come down upon me for that bit of writing...!
Zuska, I can see that you have been taken to task by a few people for the anorexic comment, but I will do it too b/c it cannot be said too often: You cannot diagnose an eating disorder by sight. Unless you are the woman's doctor, do not call anyone anorexic. Even dieting to extreme to keep a modeling contract is not anorexia. Anorexia is a psychiatric disorder, not a weight class.
Oh, and btw, I buy swim trunks in the men's section. I highly recommend it for all ladies who want pockets while swimming.