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:
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:
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)
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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