Let me start by saying this... the VERY last time I went bathing suit shopping was in November 2005. It's been almost 10 years. I remember that shopping trip well. My husband and I had just finished our Peace Corps service in Moldova, and we had taken a 3-week post-service vacation to Thailand on our way back to the States. We explored the wats in Bangkok, trekked through the jungle in Chiang Mai, and then headed south to Phuket and the island of Ko Phi Phi Don for a week of snorkeling and sunbathing.
I didn't have a bathing suit when we arrived in Phuket, and I knew I needed one, so I went shopping. I remember walking into a bathing suit store, feeling a little apprehensive as one does when shopping in a foreign country where you don't speak the language. Almost immediately a Thai woman approached me and said, "We no have something for you. You too fat."
She didn't just SAY I was too fat once, she said it OVER and OVER and OVER again, AND then she pointed at my butt and used expressive hand motions to emphasize the point.
I left the store in tears.
In retrospect, I know things were a wee bit "lost in translation" and I don't hold any grudges. But I do remember the shame.
Me and my fat American ass (I'm kidding!) did eventually find a bathing suit... but it was THE LAST TIME I went bathing suit shopping, until just a couple of days ago.
I'm not saying I haven't worn a bathing suit since then... sure I've patched tops and bottoms together over the years, but never in a way that made me feel good. They were hand-me-downs or thrifted good-enough tops and bottoms.
This year I said NO WAY. Because I will NOT spend another summer at the beach with my kids, pretending that "it's not really hot enough for mama to swim", just so I can stay safe tucked in my beach chair where nobody can see me in my suit.
So I went for it... I went bathing suit shopping. And here's what I learned.
1. I didn't go BATHING SUIT SHOPPING. I went on a FREEDOM EXPEDITION.
Yes, I reframed the experience so it made more sense.
Let me ask you this... How much money would you PAY a fairy godmother to give you the freedom to run, play and swim with your kids at the beach for an entire summer without all the self-conscious body-image-baggage we so often carry with us?
Me, I'd pay AT LEAST $500 for an entire summer's worth of THAT kind of freedom and fun with my kids!
This reframe benefited me BIG TIME in two ways:
- I knew that no bathing suit I'd ever look at would cost $500, so no matter what I spent, I knew I'd be getting one hell of deal. Spending REAL MONEY ON SOMETHING NEW became a non-issue for this thrifter, because I was buying something far more precious than simply a swim suit. I was buying FREEDOM from almost-naked-body-shame.
- Because I was gearing up for a FREEDOM EXPEDITION, I prepped and planned like any good expedition-ette would.
2. Prepping for my FREEDOM EXPEDITION was KEY to my success.
I didn't just hop in the car and go shopping willy-nilly. I planned. Because I knew that walking into the store FEELING GOOD and with the right attitude would be the key to my success.
So here's what I did before I left:
- I gave myself a hot pink mani/pedi.
- I waxed my legs, bikini line and pits using THIS DIY sugar wax recipe.
- I put on a dress that made me feel strong and athletic.
- I OF COURSE wore red lipstick and an extra swoosh of blush to give myself some extra color, knowing I'd be under those awful florescent color-sucking lights.
- I wore the shoes I'd likely wear with my bathing suit (chaco sandals), so I'd have on the full beach outfit.
- I decorated adorned and embellished what I LOVE about my body because let's face it, you can't hide much in a bathing suit! Translation - I wore earrings, a couple of necklaces and a scarf because when I looked in the mirror, I wanted to recognize my beauty, and not be swept away by my imperfections.
- I made sure I ate just enough food to be satiated (and not hangry) but not over-stuffed.
3. Pre-selecting my FREEDOM EXPEDITION DESTINATION increased my chances of finding THE PERFECT SUIT!
Before I left on my FREEDOM EXPEDITION, I shopped online, and figured out which stores I wanted to visit. I know my body, so I had a good idea as to what styles would and wouldn't work on my figure, so I looked for stores that sold suits that I thought would fit to flatter. I also knew I wanted something that made me feel strong, capable, confident, slender and playful, so that also influenced WHERE I looked.
(For example, most of the suits at J.Crew were too itty bitty, sleek and sexy for me, but the suits at Athleta had more coverage and a sporty look. In the end, I narrowed down my search to Athleta and Patagonia.)
4. Lipstick will only get you so far... A GOOD ATTITUDE IS KEY!
When I walked into the Athleta store, the ENTIRE STAFF was wearing spandex. Every single gal was in her early 20's and had buns of steel. I got a little bit freaked out when I walked in the door, but quickly gave myself a little pep talk and started filling me arms with suits.
When I hit the fitting room, I told the staff girls that I was on a FREEDOM EXPEDITION, and that I needed their help. No fake "that looks good on you" comments allowed. Humor absolutely necessary.
Some of the suits I tried looked terrible, and made both me and the staff girls a little cross-eyed. Some I couldn't figure out how to get into (and needed to ask for help).Sometimes an Extra-Small was too big and a Medium was too small.
I tried on so many suits I starting to get a kink in my neck!
But I did it. I found the PERFECT SUIT!
No, it doesn't make my body look like it did when I was 22. No, I don't look all sleek and sexy... but that wasn't my goal. I wasn't looking for a magic eraser pencil. (And though the temptation is here to use my little editing tool to smooth out my thighs, I didn't.)
Here's why I selected THIS SUIT:
- The black bottoms were just long enough to cover my hips (my pain point), and we all know that black slenderizes so it was my top choice for color!
- The "busy" top draws the eyes UP because it is more visually interesting than the bottom. And gals, I want the eyes UP!!!
- The horizontal stripes on the top trick the eye into thinking my upper body is wider than it is, which is GREAT because it balances out my hips.
- All the detail on the back of the suit ONCE AGAIN naturally brings the eyes UP, and away from my butt and thighs.
All in all, the suit cost me just over $100. That's a lot of money for me - the girl who thrifts EVERYTHING - but again, the price tag didn't matter because the suit was simply my vehicle to FREEDOM + FUN WITH MY KIDS.
In the last few days, I've talked to quite a few women about my expedition, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM said to me, I CAN'T REMEMBER THE LAST TIME I WENT BATHING SUIT SHOPPING!!
Listen gals, it' doesn't need to be scary. I actually had FUN!! I even treated myself to Ben & Jerry's after my expedition! You just need the right tools in your tool box.
If you don't feel like you've got the tools in your toolbox to KNOW what silhouettes work on your body type, then girl, you've got to join Stasia's Style School!! By the end of the course you'll have the skills, courage and confidence to embark on your own FREEDOM EXPEDITION, and come home victorious! The energy that is brewing for Style School ALREADY is zinging... you DON'T WANT TO MISS OUT! The price is $149, but goes up on Wednesday.
Remember, if you're looking for FREEDOM + FUN WITH YOUR KIDS this Mother's Day - Style School is THE PERFECT GIFT for you!!
With Kindness & Courage, xo Stasia