The great fat grrrl bikini quest of Summer 2013

For years I didn’t have a swimsuit. I had long ago grown out of the one swimsuit I owned, and plus size swimsuits were either ridiculously expensive and/or absolutely hideous. Besides, I lived in Cincinnati and swimming options were limited — why invest in swimwear? So I would usually wear some combination of a ribbed tank top and boxers:

Photo: Swimsuits for Summer 2013 Photo source: Google Images, Anita Butch Me wearing tank top and boxers at GenderBloc retreat
Photo: Swimsuits for Summer 2013 Photo source: Google Images, Anita Butch Me wearing tank top and boxers at Beksly

It wasn’t pretty.

Shortly after the last photo was taken, I scored this tankini from Torrid when they were running an additional 50 percent of clearance promotion:

Photo: Swimsuits for Summer 2013 Photo source: Google Images, Anita Butch Original swimwear Torrid polka dot tankini

I’ve worn this swimsuit for a few seasons now. It wasn’t the bathing suit of my dreams (but, then again, the ideal bathing suit in my head for some reason always came with a smaller body), but it fit relatively well and fell within my budget. The underwires have popped out and I had to replace the bottoms because they stretched out quickly (and were literally falling off), but it was a real swimsuit I could wear for the first time in a long time.

Around that time, I saw the first bikini for fat people, designed by Monif C. It was a retro, high-waisted little number. I loved how it looked on the model, but I knew I would never dare to bare so much skin. Actually, It had never even occurred to me a plus size person could wear a bikini, let alone someone my size at a 24/26. It wasn’t even in the realm of possibility to me. My mind was blown.

The next season, Torrid offered up a similarly cut bikini for their swimwear line. It was cute, but again, I never really thought of wearing it. But I did take notice that a large, plus size retailer was offering a bikini. While Monif C had already stocked similar swimwear, it is a more high-end boutique with a niche market. Torrid serves a wider, ready-to-wear market.

Fast forward to this spring, and I see Lane Bryant has stocked an adorable high-waisted bikini in white and black polka dots. Lane Bryant! Of all brands! I would have never guessed pieces so bold were from LB, which I find to be more often frumpy than fashionable. And all this, when last summer was the first year blogs were abuzz about the fatkini, and it was a novelty and rarity for big babes at the time. Way to be on-trend, LB.

But then, there was an explosion of fatkinis. Forever 21, Walmart, ASOS Curve, Lands End, Evans were all offering bikinins in plus sizes. They were everywhere. And I went a little wild. I first found the Forever 21 bikinis and ordered the leopard print in a 3x right away. A few days later, it was completely sold out. (But there are a few on eBay)

Photo: Swimsuits for Summer 2013 Photo source: Google Images, Anita Butch Stock photo of Forever 21+ cheetah print and black high waisted retro plus size bikini

At about $25 total for both pieces, I considered the swimsuit a steal. When it came in the mail, I immediately tried it on. It felt just so weird because I’d never actually worn a bikini before. Really. This was the first time in my life wearing a swimsuit that showed my big belly, my thunder thighs, my back fat, all of me.

Photo: Swimsuits for Summer 2013 Photo source: Google Images, Anita Butch Me wearing Forever 21+ cheetah print high waisted retro plus size bikini

I wore the leopard bikini for a few hours, just to get used to it. The bottom of this bikini isn’t as generously cut as I’d like, but the top is very supportive and has a wide band to keep it in place.

The idea of being so naked on a beach in broad daylight was terrifying to me. Sure, I’ve stripped during performances many times, but that was different — that was for a queer audience that roared with applause and appreciation. I was going to wear this bikini in public where everyone could see me, and that could easily turn into a fat shaming field day.

I decided to wait a few days before returning the bikini in case I wanted to keep it. In the mean time, I popped into a Forever 21 and ran across the same retro-style bikini in hot pink:

Photo: Swimsuits for Summer 2013 Photo source: Google Images, Anita Butch Me wearing Forever 21+ hot pink high waisted retro plus size bikini

There were only two of these in the store, both a 3x. The pink suit wasn’t on Forever 21’s website (this bikini is on eBay, too), so I bought it to compare the two bikinis at home, making sure to save my receipt and keep the tags on so I could return the ones I didn’t want. Clearly bikini fever was setting in.

But then, I saw this:

Photo: Swimsuits for Summer 2013 Photo source: Google Images, Anita Butch Stock Photo of Walmart Catalina Navy and white anchor print plus size bikini

And this:

Photo: Swimsuits for Summer 2013 Photo source: Google Images, Anita Butch Stock Photo of Walmart Catalina red and white polka dot retro halter one-piece swimsuit

Walmart.com has stocked pinup-style swimwear for summer 2013. I looked at all the styles and all the colors. While they also only go up to a 3x and at about $35 they are slightly more expensive than the Forever 21+ bikinis, I still had to try them. I ordered both the Catalina high-waisted bikini in anchor print and Catatlina shirred one-piece swimsuit in red with white polka dots.

Photo: Swimsuits for Summer 2013 Photo source: Google Images, Anita Butch Me in Walmart Catalina Navy and white anchor print plus size bikini

Photo: Swimsuits for Summer 2013 Photo source: Google Images, Anita Butch Me wearing Walmart Catalina red and white polka dot retro halter one-piece swimsuit
Each swimsuit is touted as “slimming,” and comes in a variety of colors and patterns. I really like the bottom of the bikini, but the top is very small, offering little support for my chest because the band twists around because it is too thin.

I often have problems wearing one-piece swimsuits because I’m very tall and have a long torso, but this one-piece actually fit quite nicely and looks super cute.

Upon trying on all the swimwear again, I ultimately settled on the red one-piece. While I really, really wanted to rock a bikini, I didn’t feel right in them. The proportion of the suits is much different on me than the models, and at a size 24/26 with a long torso and big belly, I think I really need a larger size (and probably much more expensive) bathing suit to really feel comfortable in a bikini. So back to the store they go. But at least I still got a cute new suit.

UPDATES: Marie Denee of The Curvy Fashionista has also posted lots of swimwear tips and seemingly all the swimwear offerings for 2013. Check out her plus size swimsuit guide here.

Ali Buttons reviewed the galaxy swimsuit from Gabi Fresh‘s swimwear line for Swimsuits For All. Watch it below:

Follow me on Instagram for my latest raw photos from the wild.

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14 responses to “The great fat grrrl bikini quest of Summer 2013

  1. Pingback: OOTD: Instagram roundup May 2013 | Plump Pinup Life & Style·

  2. You are so beautiful. Seeing someone who wears the same size as me with the courage to wear a bikini and who looks absolutely stunning in it makes me want to do it too.

  3. I think you rocked the crap out of that leopard print one. especially with that bright red hair! but at the end of the day it’s YOU wearing it so YOU have to be comfortable. 🙂

    • Thanks! I like the bikini, but I really do need a larger cut and more support. If the bottoms were a tad larger and the band was bigger on top I would wear it. The band provides most of the support for the chest, so a thin band just won’t cut it.

      Jessie Dress wrote a post about this same issue.

  4. Ohhhh!!! i really like all of them, but I LOVE the leopard bikini <333
    there's a forever21 in my city, i hope they have it but it would be strange because they have only a little part of plus sizes on the shop.
    I live in Spain and i have a looooot of problems to find clothes in my size… 😦

    you're amazing!

    PD: Sorry for my bad english, i hope you understand me! 🙂

    • I got mine online. The F21 I frequent had the black and pink bikinis in-store, but not the leopard. I think most of the swimwear is sold out, but I would look online to see what’s available. I don’t know how much international postage is, though. Good luck! 🙂

  5. Pingback: OOTD: Test driving retro-style swimwear at the beach | Plump Pinup Life & Style·

  6. Thank you thank you thank you.
    You give me so much courage and inspiration with every post.
    I’m also size 24/26ish (at 20 years old) and it’s nice to know that there are other bathing suit options that aren’t just Torrid (even though Torrid is 90% of all of my clothing, haha). I just moved to Chicago from NYC and this was a much needed push to not continue the pattern of being ashamed about my size in a new city. I appreciate everything you do on here! And on Thought Catalog 🙂 I’m a follower.

    For now, I’ll stay inspired.
    Emily

    • Thank you! I’m just trying to be true to myself and love myself so I can share my love with others. I’m glad you are feeling better about yourself. Self love is a journey. I’m still not perfect about it, but I’m getting there.

      Also, most of my closet is Torrid. But I generally only buy from there with Haute Cash or when they run 50 percent off clearance. But Torrid was the first brand I discovered that offered cute clothes in my size, so I’m still a devotee.

      Best of luck!

  7. Pingback: Its all about the one piece this summer for me | Charee MagazineCharee Magazine·

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