Who exactly introduced the unwritten rule that once you have been pregnant or hit a certain age, the bikini must be banished?
I totally disagree! It’s not like men have to give up their swimming trunks after sympathy pregnancy weight or aging. The year 2016 marks the 70th anniversary of the introduction of the bikini, initially known as the “atom bomb of fashion.’’ Granted not everyone is a Brigitte Bardot, but that shouldn’t stop us from rocking a polka dot bikini.
Joy, oh joy, social opinion is shifting! Designers are creating swimwear lines that include multiple cuts and sizing, options that allow for an entire chunk of the female population to (ahem) reenter the bikini pool.
Ashley Graham, a plus-size model, was on Sports Illustrated’s 2016 swimsuit edition cover, single-handedly making it OK not to have a stick figure in order to wear a bikini. The Renaissance was seemingly the last time it was acceptable to celebrate a full-figured woman. Have you tried to give birth to a child or three, raise them, and somehow maintain a washboard six-pack? Closest I’ve managed to get is actually doing the laundry — not exactly the same thing, although definitely still an applaudable goal.
Miami Swim Week, held in July, had numerous exhibitors who have created plus-size bikini lines. Carolyne Deshaies — head designer for swimwear lines Eidon, Skye, and Skye+ — is herself a plus-size gal.
“I have wanted to design this plus-size line for over 10 years; only now does the market allow it,’’ she said at the show. Walking her runway were an assortment of models who were plus size, over 35, and some who have had a baby within the past year.
Up and coming swimwear designer Koco Blaq creates a line that “caters to the curve market’’ and thinks about all of his potential clientele when designing. His gorgeous tiki-centric designs set him miles apart from his competition with vibrant colors and styles.
Bikinis are not particularly popular with the over 35-crowd, what with stretch marks, gravity, and depleting supplies of collagen and elasticity. Along comes SwimRISE, a clever little swim skirt created out of need. Co-founder Georgiene Laffey was invited out onto a friend’s boat, along with her daughter Avery, but was uncomfortable about her lower abdominal area and didn’t want a massive mumu coverup. Modesty led to entrepreneurial success. SwimRISE coverups have a hidden compression band attached to your choice of a palm tree and hibiscus flower print, or sexy sassy lace. Georgiene and Avery Laffey, who have family ties in the Boston area, are enjoying unprecedented demand in the first three months since the launch of their coverup.
The key to bikini happiness is finding a designer who creates a line with lots of choices. Bikinis that come in a variety of choices, bottoms that are high-waisted, absolute butt coverage, partial butt coverage, string bikini bottoms, full bottoms, triangle tops, bone-in supported bandeaus, over-the-shoulder strapped full cup coverage tops, bibbed bikini tops (think lobster) — even bikini tops with reinforced ties to allow for actual swimming!
Internationally, women are wearing a wide assortment of styles, although there is a strong sway toward the retro styling, with an emphasis on glam. Global luxury social media influencer and Boston-based blogger Tiffany Dowd, known as Luxe Tiffany, observes “Europeans in particular are less self-conscious and know how to glamorize their beach styles.’’
Canadian designer Shan offers a mesh full piece for the ultimate bikini aide. Worn on top of your bikini, you are instantly changed from mom, wife, and suburban disaster into one of 007’s alluring, sexy women of beachside mystery. I’ll take one of each!
Boston’s own beachwear goddess, Sinesia Karol, has always designed for all women, combining her Brazilian heritage with American sensibilities. She recognizes the variety of her customers’ shapes and sizes and tastes and encourages mixing and matching her tops and bottoms. “Social media makes us all more aware of our shapes and sizes so designers have to be more careful to meet the demand of all the market types,’’ she said in an interview.
With all of the options and inventions delivered by a multitude of designers, ladies, we are running out of excuses. Just remember to put on extra sunscreen on the areas that haven’t been exposed since the last time you sported a bikini!
I know that some of you believe I am crazy to think that keepsake bikini tucked at the very back of your drawer is ever going to be worn again. Got it. The great news is that swimwear designers have your wants in mind, too. Cut-outs, one-shouldered, mind-blowing prints, unlimited sexy black one-piecers and monokinis are all available to try on. The key to swimwear, like most clothing, is to find something that makes you feel comfortable and good about yourself.
Once that is accomplished you can even sass things up a bit with some chains, jewelry, and accessories that will make you sashay like you are walking the beaches of St.Bart’s.
Patricia Marks-Martinovich lives in a suburb west of Boston and is the author of reversecommuter.com, “a fashion blog for the suburbanly challenged.’’