Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Two-Piece Lament... Or Just Say 'No' to the Tankini

AND THE WINNERS ARE: Tor/Forge is honoring 3(!) of yesterday's commenters with a copy of Carrie Bebris's "The Deception at Lyme" hot-off-the-presses paperback edition. So: Linda, Leslie and Susan! Congratulations! Email Carrie your mailing addresses (emailcarrie "at" carriebebris dot com.)

LATE BREAKING NEWS: Today we're giving away 3 COPIES of the gorgeous trade paperback edition of Julia Spencer-Fleming (aka "girl" wrestler)'s fabulous  "A Fountain Filled with Blood" to a lucky commenter.

HALLIE EPHRON: Once upon a time, I could wear a two-piece. I was young and adorable and I was obsessed with my nose.

Now it takes weeks to just screw up my courage to shop for a bathing suit. I have not yet bought one with a skirt, but soon. Mine cost more than my winter coat because I hope that if I throw enough money at it, a miracle will occur: I will put it on and look like something other than an Idaho potato with legs.

This year I tried shopping on the Internet, hoping that buyer feedback would guide me to the right choice. I am drawn to Magicsuit and Miraclesuit. Hope springs. AKA swimwear as Spanx.

The reader comments are illuminating. For an "Underwire Tankini" with "tummy control," one customer advises:
- ¨Order a size up! This has a very tight control material and a I could barely squeeze into my size (10). Pros: Very form flattering, shows off curves, makes your boobs look full, ruching and control tummy hid the lumps. Cons: Not great for the full-assed. The "panty-line" is quite tight and cuts into the meaty part (not in a flattering way).¨
And these words to the wise:
- "This did have great tummy control; however, it seemed to just squish everything to the top of the pant causing the dreaded muffin top to appear! I had even ordered a size bigger as suggested."
Magicsuit is apparently not all that magical. So, dear Reds, share the joys of swimsuits...

LUCY BURDETTE: oh my gosh, this is hysterical Hallie! (BTW, You could not look like Mrs. Potatohead if you tried!) I'm definitely off the two piece suit now too. For a couple of years I was seduced by the tankini idea. But in the end, all that does is emphasize exactly what shouldn't be highlighted. Usually I end up ordering a new Speedo when the old one is so thin you can just about see through it.

Here's a time when I could have worn a bikini!

JAN BROGAN: You know you are getting old are much more excited about the bathing suit coverups than the actual bathing suit. In defiance of turning fifty, I bought a bikini on the beach in Martinique (it was my actual birthday) but mostly for the coverup that went with it. I only wear it when conditions are right (my kids are nowhere around to embarrass and I haven't eaten a large meal for days) But still, I'd rather just lower my expectations about what I'm going to look like than be uncomfortable wearing what amounts to a girdle.

And you are right, Hallie. Beauty is definitely wasted on the young.

HALLIE: That's Jan over on the right at about 15 years old on the Jersey shore. So adorable!

RHYS BOWEN: I swim every day so I need a functional suit. But I now have to have one withsome kind of built in bra or my top looks like shapeless scrambled eggs and my theory is that if attention is drawn to my attractive boobs, who will notice the little paunch beneath

I did buy a super cute bikini in Nice two years ago and dared to wear it there, where so many older and uglier women than me run around topless. But I took it to Hawaii and it stayed in the suitcase.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Rhys, I'm convinced you must look like Helen Mirren in a bikini. (That's Helen Mirren in photo on right.) Go for it!

I've basically thrown in the towel and admitted that no swimsuit is going to miraculously make me 38-28-38 again. (Yes, those were my real measurements in my twenties! If only I had appreciated them back then.)

I have a sensible full-coverage tank for doing laps at the Y - like Rhys, I swim most days. I have the "swim dress" for when I'm at the beach or the river with friends and don't want to bother with a cover up. And I have the glamour tankini with the fabulous pareo that's meant to be worn with lots of jewelry and blingy sandals. I wore it once - ONCE - in the water, and the girls floated out of the highly-engineered top. I had to wrap the pareo around my neck and wrestle them back into place in the pool's changing room.

HALLIE: Julia -- 38-28-38?!?! So where's the picture??

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Let me just say this. We have a swimming pool in our back yard. I DO NOT GO IN. Because if I did, I would need a bathing suit. Wait--I would need to WEAR a bathing suit.

I HAVE them, oh yes, dear Reds, I have them. A tank-y black one, and structured a black one, and a tankini black one with little pants (not boy shorts, NO ONE looks good in those), and another tankini black one with a skirt. But they are in a drawer. And there they will stay. Argh argh argh.

Can we talk about something else? 

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, Hallie, so painfully funny.  Rhys, good for you!  If I was brave enough to buy a bikini, I'd sure as hell wear it!

I have a "tank-ini" (no boy shorts--ugh.  No skirt--ugh.) But I swear you need to be Houdini to get in and out of the top, even when it's dry, and when it's wet, I have imitated Rhys stuck in the tube dress in the department store fitting room. (Still laughing about that one, Rhys.)

So if I really want to swim, I pull out one of my old stretched-out Land's End one pieces.  Maybe next year I'll buy a new suit, but I think I'll definitely go for the one-piece.  The tank-ini thing is highly over-rated.

As for how we used to look, I've attached a picture of me in the famous green bikini (circa 1973) about which my husband still reminisces fondly. Unfortunately, it doesn't actually show much of the bikini.  But I will say that I wish I'd appreciated how damned good I looked in it.

HALLIE: The picture doesn't show ANY of that bikini but we can use our imagination. You were so adorable, Debs.

Please, share your sad bathing suit saga because misery loves company...


  1. Sticky topic. Julia, I love your description of the "ladies" rising up!

    I WISH I were brave enough to wear a bikini again. I did wear a cute two-piece kind of retro suit in the late nineties when I was running a lot, and I would wear it again if I had a private beach or pool, since I love the feel of air on my skin. But my midsection just isn't in shape for public viewing any longer, alas. So I stick with your basic black tank with built-in bra, of course. And if people on the beach don't like what they see, hey, don't look!

  2. LOL, Loved this thread. I remember when I was a tiny size 8 lass with a good perky bust, I was embarrassed to wear a bikini because my skin was so white (redhead), now at 43 I WISH that was my only problem with a bikini!

  3. Ah, Julia said it was "the girls floating up." So funny.

  4. Skirts on bathing suits aren't so bad. I found the longest one possible at Lands End which also, Julia, features a bra. Swimming must be done at times.

  5. Ohhhhh, bathing suits! I recently lost almost 250 pounds so I can FIT into a size 10 or 12 bathing suit but the extra skin (lots of it) that I have FLOATS! So I chose not to wear a bathing suit or swim anywhere that anyone other than my husband will see it. LOL

    I recently bought my first 2-piece ever but it was a tankini with a skirt. I wear it in the backyard only where I read in the sun.

  6. I love Julia's description too, Edith.

    Alma, you reminded me of the time I went body surfing at Manhattan Beach (that's near LA) and lost the top to my bathing suit. Horrifying moment. Fortunately it had those foam insets in it and floated.

  7. Robin: Don't you find taht bathing suit skirts float like an air-filled balloon, rising up in the water? Then you have to keep beating it down or it suffocates you. Sounds like a Stephen King story.

  8. A few years ago, I called my mother to chat.

    Me: "Swim club opens next weekend. Sometime this week, I have to buy a new bathing suit."

    Mom: "Oh, I'm so sorry."

    Swimsuits would be a lot less traumatic if there were not dressing rooms with mirrors and that bad lighting. It's the bad lighting, you know, that causes those unfortunate...lumps.

    Nevertheless, I love the ocean and it will take more than a swimsuit--or, more accurately, how I look in a swimsuit!--to keep me out of it. But as for an item of clothing with an -ini in it, forget it. I will take a Martini, however.

  9. I love the ocean, too, Ramona, and have mastered the move: shed-the-coverup-and-make-a-mad-dash-into-the-water.

  10. Gaack, bathing suits. I have not had what I considered a bikini-worthy bod since 1984.

    However, in high school I had a one-piece while everyone else had the skimpy (for 1967) two-piece suits then, but I got so many compliments on mine. Taught me a lifelong lesson: that you don't have to show tons of skin to look great.

    For those of us wishing for the full Monty of covering up, there's always the "modesty suits" of the devout:

    Neck to knee, baby!

  11. After six children, the thought of a swimsuit has kept me out of the water for five years! I am not very overweight, but everything has shifted to another location! Maybe one day I'll say who cares and just enjoy any activity I desire.I have seen those modesty suits and it just seems you are swimming in your clothes.

  12. My normally very conservative mother helped me pick out a yellow polka dot bikini for my high school senior trip to Florida. No strings, but contoured cups and full tushie coverage. Not va-va-va-VOOM, but cute. The most virginal yellow polka dot bikini in fashion history.

    Of course, there was a boy in our class I liked, but I wasn't even on his radar. But I knew my life would change because I had a secret weapon, my cool new swimsuit.

    So, in St. Augustine, I went out with my pals to the hotel pool chaise lounges. I was sure I'd be noticed - finally. And I was.

    When I propped myself up by my elbows to say something to my friend next to me, the chaise lounge flipped me like a burger.

    Right now, I'm laughing so hard I can barely type, but I was mortified then. Also, thanks to what I know from later years in which I did wear string bikinis, I'm especially grateful for the coverage that little swimsuit provided when I flipped up toes over bikini top.

  13. Laughing so hard, too, Rhonda! Hilarious description - and a real itsy bitsy teeny ween yellow polka dot bikini! Speaking of being afraid to come out of the water, am I the only one who bought a swim suit that turned out to be semi-transparent after it got wet??

  14. I am still laughing about this:

    "Mine cost more than my winter coat because I hope that if I throw enough money at it, a miracle will occur: I will put it on and look like something other than an Idaho potato with legs."

    I would just like to suggest that the "wish I appreciated how good I looked then" applies to how we look now. In 20 years, we'll be looking at our boobs in our lap and wishing we had appreciated what we have in this very moment. Let's celebrate what we've got. Cheers, ladies!

  15. Ah yes, shopping for bathing suits. The worst part of the "Age of Shift" is that bathing suit makers have patterns that rarely match the true female form. As a teen, I had to make my two-piece (wasn't really a bikini, had more coverage than that) because my "ladies" didn't fit in store-bought tops if the bottoms did. Some weird sizing thing that went on for years--wasn't until Bali came up with separates that I could buy a suit that fit. Now, as my "ladies" attempt their trek to my knees, I mourn that self-conscious young girl that didn't realize how beautiful she truly was. But, that poor self-conscious girl also lost her bottoms diving into the pool. At sixteen, a disaster of epic proportions.

  16. Love this related post about how Lands End jumped the shark with the swimsuits in their catalogue:"
    (THANKS, Kate Bradley Geiselman!)

  17. Jess Lourey: Is that supposed to make us feel better???

  18. Lost her BOTTOMS!?!? Diane, that tops my semi-transparent thing.

  19. I think Jess is right--let's enjoy:)

    I went hiking a long time ago in the Smoky Mountains and then we all got into bathing suits to enjoy a waterfall. As the gorgeous water beat down, I did not even realize it had stripped my suit to the waist. utterly humiliating...

    They still call it Titty Falls

    ps Marianne--250 pounds, hurray for you!

  20. Lost bottoms??? Egads, Diane - what did you do? How did you get out of the pool? Did you just tread water and wave over a trusted person to provide a towel? Steal the closest towel?

  21. Roberta in the Smokies - oh, mercy!

    Ya know, I'm starting to wonder if Swimsuit Disaster Stories aren't right up there with shared nightmare stories like Bad Blind Date Stories?

  22. LOVE the "Land's End Jumps the Shark" blog by Kate Geiselman! I didn't even look at my catalog this year--too busy writing-- and now I'm glad I didn't. "Grecian swim skirt?" Gah.

    Marianne, congratulations to you! What an achievement! Wear that two piece suit!

    Diane, LOL!!! Snort!

    And I wish I could have found a picture of the famous green bikini in its entirety, but while I may have looked cute in it, Rhys wins the Goddess award hands down!

  23. Finding bathing suits is a real challenge if you are short and very curvy... Lands End and Bare Necessities both offer suits with larger cup sizes, but that doesn't solve the length dilemma for a one-piece suit. And I'm not interested in trying a two-piece again, even one with a lot of coverage. I have bad memories of a two-piece top ending up around my neck when I jumped off the lower high-dive platform. I was about 11 at the time, so there wasn't much there to keep the suit in place... but it was humiliating. I've avoided two-piece bathing suits -- and high-diving platforms -- ever since.

  24. Laughing so hard at this I almost spewed hot tea on myself!

    Hank, I'm with you. I have a bathing suit in my dresser that never leaves it.

    Like Diane, I never could wear two-piece suits when I was young and gorgeous (without realizing it) because tops to fit my ladies made the bottoms too big for my hips. But I always (and still do) have problems with one-piece suits since I'm very long-waisted, and suits never quite pulled up enough to really cover the ladies well.

    Now, like all of us, I wish I'd appreciated what a great body I had when young. Now, my hips have grown so much I wouldn't have that problem with a two-piece--just the problem of fat stomach with a huge surgical scar bisecting it top to bottom. Still have the problem with short bodies on one-piece suits, though. And if I could find one that really fit well, I'd still not wear it because... well, everything's so much larger.

    I'm excited to win Carrie's book! And don't include me for Julia's. I have multiple copies of all of hers. xoxo

  25. No bad bikini stories - but a mortifying bathing suit story which causes me to cringe too many decades later! I had the most fabulous lime-green one-piece, trimmed in white. The sides had 2 cut-out circles, also trimmed in white. I looked pretty fabulous with my lovely summer-gold skin, I thought. So I went off to the beach with my friends and sister and headed straight for the water. Had a great time swimming and playing around. Sitting on a towel for a break, one of my friends casually remarked, "Hey, did you know that your suit is see-through when it's wet?"

    Uhhh... NO, I hadn't known!! Sigh.

  26. Yes, folks, losing half of my suit was embarrassing, trying to salvage some modesty was near-total failure. My suit bottom sank to the bottom of the pool. Retrieving it was the problem--after a big breath, I dove for it. Unfortunately that's when my very white butt mooned my friends around the pool. I was able to retrieve the missing item and pull my way into it, but the damage had already been done. I was the object of many "desert moon" jokes after that.

  27. I always felt that I did not have the kind of body that would look good in a two piece bathing suit...never mind a bikini! A couple of years ago I was looking at photos of me from high school, and I realized that my figure was much better than I have remembered it. The figure has changed a lot over the really DID get bigger...I lost a lot of weight and wear a much smaller dress size than before weight loss is MUCH more modest than Marianne's (congratulations!) but I have not stopped being self conscious about my oddly shaped body...ladies that go where they want to (mostly down, when they are not bulging out of a sculptured built in swimsuit bra and threatening to suffocate me),and one hip that has always been much larger than the other. (WHY am I the only one who can see that? Is there maybe something wrong with my eyes?!Am I too self conscious?Probably!)

    My iron-clad rule is that Iwill only wear a bathing suit if I am someplace where nobody knows me. A few years ago I had to do aquatherapy before I could resume land PT after spinal fusion surgery. Fortunately, I had to wear one of those heavy-duty body cast type of braces that covers the entire torso in those days,including over my suit when I was in the pool, so nobody local got to see my odd body:-) Unfortunately,the darn thing was like one gigantic push-up bra. I did my best to keep THAT part of my anatomy under water!

  28. The young and fit are not immune to swimsuit problems. My oldest (a.k.a The Smithie) and several of her friends complain about how difficult it is for them to find suits that are cute and youthful, but aren't teeny-tiny bikinis. The trend in our area seems to be "If you've got it, flaunt it in a two-piece that makes the swimwear in Rio look puritanical." As Smithie's best friend said to me, "You have to at least take me out to dinner to see that much."

  29. I'm wearing a two piece this year for the first time since I was probably 14, inspired by a woman in her 80's I met at tai chi class. She showed up one day having had her hair dyed auburn. She told me she'd always wanted to dye her "mousey brown" hair red, but had listened to her mother, her husband and then her daughter and not done it. She said she decided if she didn't do it soon she was going to run out of time and if people were going to stare she was damn well going to give them something to stare at.

  30. On the subject of Julia's daughters and her friends "The trend in our area seems to be 'If you've got it'"...
    Can I just say CLEAVAGE. Why is there so much of it out there, and not rising out of a bathing suit? At least we're done with the the bare hips and midriffs and rear cleavage of a few years ago, but walk down a city street and there is cleavage everywhere.

  31. Hallie, you are so right . I don't get the cleavage thing!

    Used to be (imagine crone-ish cackle here) you'd be EMBARRASSED. Now it's as if --it's just how people dress. Or not. It drives me crazy. But then you know I'm the prissy one.

    And you can tell by my photo I was always a cover-up kind of gal, right? When you asked for photos, I must say it NEVER crossed my mind to send one of me as an adult.

  32. AND remind me to tell you about the story I did at a swimming pool where I had to buy a swimsuit at the gym's shop and wear it for a stand-up.

    It was black, but had yellow and white stripes across the front. It was pretty cute when it was dry.

    But when it was wet--the yellow and white stripes across the chest were ABSOLUTELY TRANSPARENT.

    Which I did not realize til I got back to the station and viewed the videotape.

  33. Honestly, do'nt they TEST these things? So now I'm imagining the equivalent of lady crash-test-dummies for bathing suits.

  34. Remember those tan-through suits from the 90's? They were all transparent when wet.

    Linda, there is one company that makes swimsuits for women with longer torsos. Macy's sells them. And they sometimes have suits with cup sizes, which I love. Everyone is NOT a B.

    Still laughing at the yellow bikini flipping like a burger! Glad you can laugh about it now, at least.

  35. See through swimsuits? Really? I remember see-through dresses. And I remember the Rudi Gernreich topless bathing suits which were hideous.

  36. Ha. I always thought those topless suits were a scam. They were just the bottoms of a two-piece, but with a ridiculous, diagonal strap.

    Naturally they cost twice as much, for half the suit!

  37. I remember all the furor over those hideous topless suits . . . I’m alternately laughing over some of the stories and wincing over comments about some of the suits. Despite having grown up on the Jersey Shore, swimsuits are most definitely not an essential element in my wardrobe and not a single bathing suit resides in any of my drawers. If I did have a suit, I can guarantee that it would stay in the drawer.

    Let's see . . . I know I purchased a black one-piece suit in Hawaii a dozen or so years ago specifically to go "swimming" with the dolphins in the lagoon at the hotel where we were staying. [Since I didn't pack a bathing suit to go to Hawaii in the first place --- that would be because I didn't own one --- swimming was obviously not anywhere on my list of important things to see or do . . . .] I remember it was surprisingly comfortable and it had a skirt, but you surely couldn’t see much of it beneath the life jackets we had to wear to stand in water that was, at most, mid-torso deep. However, the “swimming” with the dolphins was such a fantastic experience I’d probably go right out and buy another swimsuit if I had the opportunity to do it again.

  38. OMG, Julia, Hallie, Robin, and Rhonda, I am laughing out loud!

    I'm tall, long-waisted, and plump. SIGH. There's nothing I hate more than bathing suits, unless it's seeing gorgeous women in bathing suits. (Julia I'm so jealous of that 38-28-28!)

    The only place I find suits that fit is Lands' End. I, too, have mastered Hallie's "shed-the-coverup-and-make-a-mad-dash-into-the-water."

    Cathy AJ

  39. Until I lose another 100 lbs, yo'll find me at the bar with Ramona and a Grey Goose martini, dirty.

  40. This is no place for someone like me to chip in; never wore a swimming top in my life, and if I did, trust me, if girls popped out it would've been the event of he millenium. What I'd like to ask you all to consider is this: I'm married over sixty years now and the fires are banked (waiting for the next awakening) and no matter what kind of swimsuit my Carol put on, this one went blank for several seconds, at least. So take this to heart - for every one of you, there's some poor soul like me out there who doesn't share your concerns for an instant. He's too preoccupied holding his breath waiting for you to come out of the dressing room. Bet on in. Live it.

  41. This post is hilarious. Had me laughing so hard I was crying.

    My strategy is to find secluded beaches, get in the water quickly and stay there.

  42. Reine, I absolutely refuse to believe you need to lose another 100 pounds. You'd need a toddler swimsuit!

  43. Hah, Karen... you're just trying to cheer me up. I can tell. xo

  44. Don McQuinn, you are ADORABLE. Lucky Mrs. M!

  45. When I was 14 and swimming in the Lake of the Ozarks (Missouri for those of you not familiar with the Midwest) I had on an old bathing suit with straps attached with safety pins. Honest. My mother said that the lake water was dirty and would ruin a new bathing suit. (Actually, I think we called them swim-suits in Missouri.) A "boy" whose parents owned the cabins we were renting -- very cute -- asked to teach me to water ski. So we took off with the boy's father driving the boat, the boy spotting me and me dragging behind still in the water struggling to get to my feet. Oh, I was successful, got up with a flourish. Unfortunately the safety pins weren't as successful as they popped with the force of the water gushing through my skimpy top. Off went the top (with no floaties in them either. That swim suit was history.) and there I was water-skiing bare-breasted. At 14. Horrified, I dropped back into the water facing the new problem of how to emerge in dignity. I don't know who was more embarrassed: me, the boy, his father. I no longer remember what happened next. I can't even remember the boy's name obviously. But I sure remember that hot blush even in the cold water of the Ozarks!

  46. I LOVE that story, Pat! How deliciously mortifying.

    Just one question: What was your mother thinking allowing you to wear a 2-piece at 14?? Safety pins or no safety pins...

  47. Just to clarify that swim-suit held up by safety-pins wasn't a bikini which we didn't have when I was 14. It was a VERY modest two-piece, brown and white (very glam!) model which probably covered more skin than today's one piece suits -- as long as the pins held.

  48. Pat... best story... but poor little girl! I loved the Lake of the Ozarks. We picnicked there one year on an adventure trip to visit the places my English professor (now dear old friend) talked about. She is from Eureka Springs.