The magazines have started. We are now in the pre-season — the “unless you’re already quite thin, it’s time to start losing weight if you want to show your body in public this summer!” phase. (If you are quite thin, please wait for our May issue, when we’ll tell you you’re too pale*, hairy, blemished, and unfashionable, your boobs are too small to go with your butt, you could still stand to tone up those muscles, and your body insecurity is a real turn-off.)
With regard to all that, please go re-read Marina’s guest post, “28 Days to a Bikini Mind.” Today, I want to talk about more practical issues: To wit, how much plus-size bathing suits suck. I’ve been shopping for a new one lately, and I am not a happy fatty.
To be fair, bathing suit shopping just sucks, period. I didn’t find it much easier when I wore a common straight size. But at least I knew I could walk into several different stores and find options in “my size,” even though most of them wouldn’t fit me right anyway. As a fatty, I pretty much have my choice of Target or Wal-Mart — which would be fine (ethical concerns about big-box retailers aside), if they carried suits that work on my body. (More on that in a mo.) They don’t. Oh, I can also rent a car and drive to the suburbs to hit a Lands’ End** Inlet, where they will have about 4 plus-size bathing suits among the 900 non-plus ones. There’s that.
So. I’ve compiled a list of requests I wish everyone making bathing suits for fatties would take into consideration.
1) If you’re a retailer that sells both online and off, put some fucking suits in your bricks and mortar stores. You don’t have to put the entire line in there, but could we please have a handful? So we might have the tiniest little prayer of being able to buy a bathing suit we’ve actually tried on, instead of having to guess at sizing and spend a whole lot of time and money ordering suits and shipping them back?
2) There has to be a happy medium between fabric that “takes 10 pounds off” while squashing your internal organs into a single blob, and see-through, lightweight shit that has no stretch left after it’s been in a pool twice. Please find it.*** I actually don’t hate the “control” fabrics as much as I probably should, given that the marketing is all about body shame; they have the side benefit of being far more supportive than regular suits, which comes in handy if you do anything other than lie by the pool. But A) being able to breathe is also handy, and B) the more “control” there is, the more they charge. So I don’t need a fucking Miraclesuit for $150 — taking off “10 pounds” around the middle will not actually prevent people from noticing that I’m fat — but I do want something that will keep my boobs and gut from flopping around in water aerobics class or, you know, walking to the beach.
3) If you are a retailer who sells both straight and plus sizes, don’t have the same bathing suit available in 19 different colors for thin people and just black, brown and navy for fat ones. I know, I know, plus-size suits in light colors don’t sell as well, but that’s because we’ve all been brainwashed to believe that A) looking fat is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a woman, and B) dark colors have magical slimming powers that, like control fabric, will prevent anyone from noticing that you are, in fact, a fat woman wearing a bathing suit. I promise, we’re working on getting women to stop believing that bullshit! But meet us halfway, would you? It is so fucking demoralizing to be clicking through the suits (or anything else) at Lands’ End and go, “Oh, I love that color!” then click on the “plus” button and find out some decision-maker doesn’t think I have any business wearing that color. It doesn’t matter that what the decision-maker actually thought, in all likelihood, was just that that color wouldn’t sell well enough to the plus market. It feels like a slap in the face, and you can only slap your customers in the face for so long before they start wondering who else might need their money more.
4) Two words: adjustable straps. My chronic issue with plus-size clothing being cut for people with way broader shoulders than mine is just that much more irritating when it comes to swimsuits. And I’d imagine women with broader shoulders have a similar complaint.
5) Two other words: cup sizes. You don’t even need a broad range — just “smaller” and “larger” would be a step in the right direction. Since we’re dealing with stretchy fabric, it’s possible for one swim bra to work with a lot of different boobs. But as it is, different manufacturers usually go too far one way or the other. I love Junonia because their suits will (mostly) accomodate the rack of doom — but accordingly, I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone who wears smaller than a C-cup. On the flip side, the main reason I can’t buy suits at Target or a zillion other places is that anyone who wears larger than a C-cup is basically SOL there. JMS offers a couple of their suits in regular and D-cups, which is all I’m really asking for, but why the hell aren’t more folks doing this with a wider selection of suits? (Also, if you’re smaller of boob, do the “regular” options in that case fit you, or do you wish they had a third option?)
6) Give us options for bust support that don’t involve some sort of hook/clasp around the neck or across the back. The clasp just throws a whole other fit issue into the mix — OK, the bra fits, but will that stupid clasp be too loose or too tight on me? Also, on the rare occasion when I’ve found one like that that does fit, I have not noticed one whit of actual support coming from the clasp. Make the backs higher and the bras stronger, whatever it takes, but fuck the clasps. (I don’t own one of these, but I think it’s a brilliant concept for increasing support across the back while keeping the suit reasonably easy to get into.)
7) There’s also got to be a happy medium between matronly and sexpotty. Find it.
8) Empire waists and defined cups are great for those who like them, but they’re not the end-all and be-all. And here, I am looking straight at Lands’ End, 2009. They’ve finally made a cover-up skirt I really want, but it’s meant to coordinate with a bunch of tops I can’t wear. Last year, there were at least a couple of tankini tops that didn’t look like ass on me, but this year, not a single one.
9) Women who wear above a size 26 like to swim, too. See point 3.
10) Put your plus size bathing suits on fucking plus size models. I don’t look anything like a plus model, but I cannot even begin to imagine what a suit will look like on me when all I’ve got to go on is an image of a very tall, very thin woman wearing it. I’m sure there’s yet another argument here about how stuff sells better on thin models, but I really, really don’t care. It’s offensive and frustrating — and it’s also pinning all your hopes on self-loathing customers, instead of customers who already believe they deserve nice things and won’t hold off on buying clothes until they lose weight.
11) Finally (for now), if you’re selling exclusively online, you need to post a size chart for every brand of bathing suit you carry, and ideally every single suit. Oh, and if there’s any sort of skirt or shorts involved, YOU NEED TO MENTION HOW LONG THEY ARE.
All right, that’s all I’ve got right now. Shapelings, tell us what you’d add to the list!
Oh, and for the record, here’s a list of all the plus-size swimsuit retailers I can think of off the top of my head. Please feel free to add more of these in comments, too.
Eddie Bauer (mostly, if not all, Miraclesuits)
*If you’re a woman of color, you’re probably exempt from this one, but on the downside, we have no idea you exist.
** Did you ever notice that that’s where they actually put the apostrophe? As in, the end of many lands? My sister pointed that out to me a while back, and it continues to drive me nuts.
***Junonia has come closest to finding it, in my experience. Their “Quikshape” fabric is like Miraclesuit-lite, and their spandex-free, chlorine-proof suits — at least, the one I got a couple of years ago — are quite supportive, though they feel weird and are a bear to get into. But then, Junonia’s got other problems. (See points 4 and 5.)