It is here. Department stores have wheeled out the racks of tiny bikinis and bandeau tops and Victoria’s Secret has the angels parading in neon. Bathing suit season, in all of its sun-kissed-glow marketing campaign glory, has taken social media, billboards, and magazines by storm.
Not to say there is anything wrong with the styles primarily advertised, but personally, I have spent an unfortunate amount of money on ice cream and high heels thanks to a bathing suit shopping session. I nearly always end up frustrated and disgusted with the fashion industry, or frustrated and disgusted with myself. Depending on how confident I was feeling the morning of, it can result in a loud rant or a full-blown breakdown. I tend towards the dramatic.
I know I am not the only one. Whether you are lean, tall, short, chubby, petite, or muscular (I am trying to describe all body types, which is impossible, but you get it), you have at some point faced a harshly lit dressing room mirror in a department store and cried. It sucks. Bathing suit shopping really, really does. I have officially lost patience with it and am proud to say the last bathing suit I bought was a one-piece from Walmart for $15.96. It is boring and I look a bit like I am going scuba diving all the time. Also, my tan lines will be horrendous. But it fits, is supportive, and doesn’t make me feel bad about not fitting into things when I wear it.
I was having this conversation with a friend last summer when we both changed into our suits and realized we were wearing the same exact one. A bit of background: I am 5’3, around 150 pounds, and curvy by all measures. My friend is 5’11, lean, and small in all the areas I am not. We each looked good in this bathing suit, shocked to realize we were both wearing a size 10.
How is that even possible, fashion industry? How is it possible that the same bathing suit, in the same size, fits opposite body types?
This is a mystery that will forever plague me. My friend and I talked about it at length, relaxing by the water and pondering the world of measurements. We started with how ridiculous it was that it was hard to find bathing suits that we felt comfortable and confident in, and ended by swearing at the stupidity of both of us fitting into a size 10. We both have a hard time shopping for something to swim in (it is worth mentioning that my friend is pretty close to the “bikini ready” body splashed all over Pinterest).
I don’t know if I have ever been “bikini ready” because what does that even mean? Also, why does it have to be “bikini ready” and not “one piece, monokini, or wet suit ready”? Why can’t we all just be ready to go to the beach, get sunburned, and enjoy lazy days?
My gripe is not entirely with the fashion industry. Clothing sizes will forever be an organization tool and a marketing ploy, and when I go shopping, I don’t get frustrated because I need to buy an extra-large or a size 14 or whatever. It’s not the number that bothers me — it is how the suit fits. Small. Uncomfortable. Too much skin.
My gripe is with summer expectations of fabulous female appearance, filled with rules and ideas about what is sexy, beautiful, and desirable. I don’t want summer to be about being sexy. That is something I am all year round.
I want summer to be about swimming in salt water and getting sunburns. Eating too many hot dogs and having a beer with my boyfriend. Reading easy novels in floppy hats and falling asleep with sand between my toes.
I don’t want to be bikini ready. Actually, I don’t want summer to be about bathing suits at all.