All posts by lydia

Beach Bawdy – My (now) Vintage Swimsuit

Ever wear a baggy swimsuit? Take a dive and the whole thing just kind of slips from your shoulders and starts to peel off backward? Not fun if, like me, you actually swim instead of just bob around giggling when you are in the water. The last time I wore my favorite suit, that was the name of the game. Try any stroke with one hand pressed to your cleavage to keep your flappy useless suit from flying off and you will see what I mean. Not fun. A friend tied the straps together in the back with a shoelace so I could manage the rest of the camping weekend… that was back in 2009, but wearing the Red Green treatment in beachwear is just not my thing. Since then, I have only been swimming a few times even though I was given a very nice pirate-theme tankini that fits really well. It performed well during a quarter-mile swim to a forgotten Gatineau island in summer 2011 and looks great on the shady shore so I really need to get out in it more often.

Anyhow, back to the old suit. It was bought around 1992 when Wonderland opened it’s water park. I was 17 years old and absolutely not comfortable wearing anything remotely like a swimsuit in public. I was doughy and without an ounce of true muscle. At the time I had lost a bit of weight, but a struggle with body-image and womens-media had begun and I was suddenly faced with a decision: either buy a swimsuit I liked and accompany my friends to the new waterpark, or sit out and grumble. I had three swimsuits to choose from at home, but they were hideous and cheap.

I usually wore a shirt over them and swam with family or friends so it never mattered. They were also at home and I was 200 miles away. I was stuck among 20,000 people, three friends, dozens of cute boys, a blazing hot sun and quite possibly the most amazing water slide ever. I rationalized as best I could at 17. Buy the most expensive suit on the park grounds and promise yourself you will wear it forever and ever, Amen. It cost me $80, which at the time was half of my spending money for the trip and a lot to pay for a swimsuit. Sigh. Worth it? Yes. Very.

You see, this was probably the first item of clothing that worked for me. The piping was flattering. It created shape where I had none. It showed off a figure that was only barely there. It hid everything that needed hiding, and it was black. Gorgeous, sumptuous, and gothy-dead black. I loved it. It even made me feel a little tiny bit sexy. I didn’t wear a shirt over top for the first time I could recall. It was the first piece of clothing that I wore and actually gave Not One Fuck about how I looked. Not One. I cared about how it felt, and it Felt Just Fine.

That day, onward, my weight changed from 160-ish pounds to the top weight of 210. All the while, I wore this suit. At 160, it fit. At 210, It was tighter… but that is what lycra is for! Since It was a top brand (Body Glove or Ocean Pacific, I forget and the tag is faded and specifically bought it since it had no logo imprint) it was destined to look great and last forever. Trust me, if it still fit, it would still look great.

Once I aged and gained all kinds of muscle from eating well and weightlifting for a few years, it stopped fitting when I hit 155 pounds. Although the numbers on the scale are close, my body has changed dramatically from the day I bought it. In contrast, the suit has not changed one bit.

Not one stitch has come loose. Not one inch has been overstretched. The gusset is spotless. The white thread is pristine, and the black is still dark as coal. All this despite it seeing me through three years as a camp counselor, countless laps in chlorine pools, swimming lessons with the YMCA to get my bronze cross, tanning (yup, tanning), and exactly one million midnight dips and camping trips. It lasted from that long day at SplashWorks when I was 17 to the last camping trip in Mattawa when I was 34. In the photo, you may be able to make out a little zinc cream on the left strap. That was from the last time I tried it on and had a laugh at how floppy it was.

I can’t seem to part with it. Those in the know, know that I am the least sentimental person for miles. I don’t save x-mas cards or children’s artwork for long and I certainly do not save clothes that I don’t wear. I have a few trinkets that live in a jewelry box, but they are small and go undetected when I purge most things I own.

Wednesday, I purged four white trash bags worth of clothes. Something like ten pairs of pants, eight sweaters, three dresses, a jacket and three blazers, let alone random blouses, skirts and t-shirts. Since I lose an average of five pounds a year trying to stay healthy, I ditch clothes that are too big annually. Buying clothes is far more painful. I have no problem tossing clothes and never have. Good riddance and to Goodwill with you!

This time, half way to the St. Vincent de Paul, I got talking about this suit. I even tried to pawn it off on my friend who was helping me carry the overstuffed bags down the street. A swimsuit that is almost as old as she is is a tough sell, and understandably so. After talking it up, I stopped. I dug out the suit. I stuffed it in my purse, and brought it home. I’ve never really done anything like that before. Had a sentimental-ish moment with a piece of clothing. It’s a weird feeling for me and now I have no idea what to do with it.

Maybe a thoughtful or crafty type of person could suggest something. Do I get a dress-form and leave it to collect dust? Shall I pin it in a shadow-box and call it art? Right now it is hanging on the wall in the dining room – classy, I know. I guess it’s going to go back in the drawer from whence it came. Perhaps it can whisper low in its archaic way and teach my fishnet apparel or corsets a thing or two.