When I was a child in the 1950s, the bathing suit for the mature figure was boned, trussed and reinforced, not so much sewn as engineered. They were built to hold back and uplift, and they did a good job.
Today's stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a figure carved from a potato chip.
The mature woman has a choice. She can either go up front to the maternity department and try on a floral suit with a skirt, coming away looking like a hippopotamus that escaped from Disney's Fantasia, or she 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.
What choice did I have? I wandered around, made my sensible choice and entered the chamber of horrors known as the fitting room. The first thing I noticed was the extraordinary tensile strength of the stretch material. The Lycra used in bathing costumes was developed, I believe, by NASA to launch small rockets from a slingshot, which gives the added bonus that if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you would be protected from shark attacks. Any shark taking a swipe at your passing midriff would immediately suffer whiplash.
I fought my way into the bathing suit, but as I twanged the shoulder strap in place I gasped in horror. My chest* had disappeared! Eventually, I found one side cowering under my left armpit. It took a while to find the other. At last I located it flattened beside my seventh rib. The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups. The mature woman is meant to wear her chest spread across her front like a speed bump. I realigned my speed bump and lurched toward the mirror to take a full view assessment.
The bathing suit fitted all right, but unfortunately it only fitted those bits of me willing to stay inside it. The rest of me oozed out rebelliously from top, bottom and sides. I looked like a lump of Playdoh wearing undersized cling wrap.
As I tried to work out where all those extra bits had come from the prepubescent sales girl popped her head through the curtain, "Oh, there you are," she said, admiring the bathing suit.
I replied that I wasn't so sure and asked what else she had to show me. I tried on a cream crinkled one that made me look like a lump of masking tape, and a floral two-piece that gave the appearance of an oversized napkin in a serving ring. I struggled into a pair of leopard-skin bathers with ragged frills and came out looking like Tarzan's Jane, pregnant with triplets and having a rough day. I tried on a black number with a midriff and looked like a jellyfish in mourning. I tried on a bright pink pair with such a high cut leg I thought I would have to wax my eyebrows to wear them.
Finally, I found a suit that fit. It was a two-piece affair with a shorts-style bottom and a loose blouse-type top. It was cheap, comfortable, and bulge-friendly, so I bought it. My ridiculous search had a successful outcome, I figured. When I got it home, I found a label that read, "Material might become transparent in water".
So, if you happen to be on the beach or near any other body of water this year and I'm there, too, I'll be the one in cut-off jeans and a T-shirt!
|From the cover of one of my really fun books called Women of Substance, by Revilo|
*I substituted the word 'chest' for another word in the original article. That word started with a 'b', but I didn't want my post to get blocked by certain software programs. That, and I really hate that 'b' word.