I’ve said many times that I’m a fairly modest gal. Not afraid to show off the bits I’m proud of, by any stretch … but also not interested in revealing tons of skin or wearing super tight duds. And, as such, I always figured that one-piece swimsuits were my only option. They generally offered the most coverage, and always felt like the best bet for someone who wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible whilst paddling ’round the pool.
But one-piece suits do nothing for me. OK, strike that, they do all sorts of things for me, but all of them are BAD. They flatten my already-teensy boobs, they mask my smallish waist, they cut into my hip-flab in a most unsightly manner, and when I disguise that by wearing board shorts, I just look like a tree trunk. A flat-chested, waistless tree trunk paddling unhappily ’round the pool.
So, for years, I assumed that looking and feeling crappy in a swimsuit was simply my lot. I mean, what non-model feels good in a swimsuit, right? Non-model-Sal feeling this way was, undoubtedly, normal. And I never swam much anyway, so it didn’t bother me. Not much.
Several months ago, Husband Mike got fed up with waiting for me to finish my admittedly lengthy gym workouts, and decided to start swimming in the gym pool to kill time. And he kinda loved it, and started prodding me to join him. But I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to put on my tree trunk costume and climb into the water to paddle unhappily around.
But then it dawned on me: I actually do enjoy swimming, I just don’t enjoy how my body has always looked in swimsuits. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past few years it’s that changing what you wear can drastically change how you feel about your body. So I went questing for a new suit.
I have sweet upper abs. I do. I also have a spare tire, so a traditional bikini wasn’t something I wanted to wear. But I knew that a structured bikini TOP would probably work better for my bod than the ol’ boob-flattener. And I figured that if I could find some shorts that sat a bit higher on my waist than my old voluminous board shorts, I’d be in business. I was lucky enough to find a padded bikini and these tap-pant-like shorts at Opitz on my first suit-questing outing.
And Sports Illustrated isn’t breaking down my door to get photos of my pasty-white ass, and there are plenty of gals wandering around the pool in actual bikinis who look far more toned and slender than I. But I feel comfortable and confident and GOOD when I wear this suit to swim. I don’t worry about my body, or fret about being stared at, or think about anything other than getting from one end of the pool to the other without sucking in a gallon of chlorinated water.
For me, this is the ultimate testament to clothing’s power to alter self-perceptions, and even influence actions. I mean seriously, friends, I never in a bajillion years thought I’d wear a bikini. Never ever. For crying out loud, I’ve got butt-cellulite and a poochy tummy and lots of unruly body hair in unfortunate places. But my modified bikini makes me look better than I ever have in a swimsuit, and that makes me FEEL better than I ever have about my body when I’m swimming. I found a suit that covers all of the areas of my body that I am least comfortable with, and shows off all of the areas that I am most proud of. And now, I am empowered to wear it, feel awesome, and partake of an activity that I have avoided my entire life.
You can change your body if you want to. You can change its shape and size, reconfigure where it is large and small, get rid of textures and add new ones. But you can also change how your body looks simply by learning to dress to accentuate your favorite features. I mean, I still have that spare tire and that cellulite … but all you see when I wear this suit is the waist, the upper abs, the legs. My body is the same, but I still changed how it appears just by changing my clothes.
This is not to say that there is a swimsuit out there that will make every last one of you feel like a goddess of the waters. Swimsuits are hard, and I am fully aware that I really, really lucked out with mine. But perhaps my experience with this particularly tricky garment can serve as a more general object lesson: Clothes are powerful tools, and how you dress can have a huge impact on how you feel about your body. Learning to dress to your figure is an investment in confidence and happiness.
I never swam much because I hated how I looked in a suit. Now, I don’t swim much because swimming is HARD, but I could do if I wanted to because I feel fabulous in my new suit.
Now I just need to find an outfit that will make me want to clean the bathtub …