Posted by: foodtalker | September 5, 2010

the breast stroke

When I was a child in the sixties the bathing suit for the developed figure was boned, trussed and reinforced.  Not so much sewn as engineered.  The built in cups were pointy, and it really didn’t matter much if you filled them or not.  They were constructed to hold you back and uplift the content.  They did a good job and managed to defy the elements of water.  Although for those who lacked the essential physical filling factor, the lining could sometimes float out and create an embarrassing moment. 

Today the stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a figure carved from a potato chip. 

Now, as a child of the sixties approaching my own sixties I have a choice.  I can either go to the maternity department and try on a floral suit with a “modesty” skirt, coming away looking like a hippopotamus who escaped from Disney’s Fantasia or I can wander around every run of the mill department store trying to make a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer range of fluorescent rubber bands. 

As I am not yet ready to throw in the beach towel, I wandered around, made the sensible choice and entered the chamber of horrors aka the fitting room.

 The first thing I noticed was the extraordinary tensile strength of the stretch material.  The Lycra used in bathing costumes developed, I believe, by NASA to launch small rockets from a slingshot, give the added bonus that if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you are protected from shark attacks as any shark taking a swipe at your passing midriff or other bulges would immediately suffer whiplash. 

Fighting my way into the bathing suit and twanging the shoulder strap into place, I noticed with horror that my chest had disappeared.  Eventually after some contortions, I found one flattened breast cowering under my armpit.  It took a while to locate the other.  It had taken shelter beside my seventh rib. 

The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups.  The mature woman is meant to wear her boobs spread across her chest like a speed bump. 

It’s possible to find a bathing suit, but unfortunately it fits only those bits that are prepared to stay inside.  Everything else oozes out rebelliously from top, bottom and sides.  I felt like a lump of play dough wearing undersized cling wrap, a line of masking tape, or an oversized napkin in a serving ring. 

I played pretend and struggled into a leopard skin number, thinking I could pass as Jane.  Tried on a frilly black combination and looked like a jellyfish in mourning.

Finally I found a suit that fit … a two piece affair with a shorts-style bottom and a loose blouson type top.  But when I got home the label read “material might become transparent in water”. . . . 

So when recently there was a chance to debut this matronly outfit, I played coy and begged a pair of shorts and a tee-shirt.  I was encouraged to know that I was still able to swim the breast stroke.



  1. love it!

  2. I know the feeling. I order from Land’s End or LL Bean so I can have the horrible experience of the first look in the safety of my own dressing room with a shot or two of tequilla!!

  3. I love this! You are too funny, girlfriend.

  4. You are toooo funny. Guys don’t have quite the problem you lasses do! Just that stylish swimwear for guys are all made to hug down on the pelvis…for me OK, but makes for some weird looking dudes with large tummies!

  5. You crack me up! What a great way to start the day! LOL

    I order mine from J Crew……so I can try them on ata home in dimmed light and think the world is OK!

  6. OMG Kate, this is a fabulous article!! I have been there. Only I was spilling out of the suit! The humor is outstanding. You are an excellent writer! I really enjoy your work.

  7. Why is it we always think we are the only ones who suffer the great indignity of having to see what our bodies look like in a bathing suit (or jeans!) in a florescent lit dressing room with a three way mirror. And the flattened boob thing is so true – who’s the architect for those things?

  8. Hilarious! Boden has some decent swimsuits….but I’m not volunteering to model! Nice blog, Kate.

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