My arch nemesis the bathing suit


Guys...guys... I have to talk about my troubled relationship bathing suits today and it might result in some binge chocolate eating.  But we're gonna get through this because it's helpful confess when projects don't go smoothly.  Or maybe I just need some absolution over the dumb shit I did while trying to appropriately cover my body for our trip to the coast.

OK, so let's unpack some childhood trauma to give you some context first.  I did not have a lithe, toned teenager phase. The body I have now is the body I had then minus some additional abdominal padding and a bunch of blown out veins in my legs. (Thanks pregnancy!) Had I been born in the Renaissance my pear shape with saggy bewbs would have made me tres sexy. Just add a gauzy robe plus hair flowers and the studs come a running. Not sure about that wind guy though, he looks a little sketchy.
Of course our current beauty standards are pretty much the exact opposite of this and teenage me was painfully aware of how short I fell from them. We women tend to beat ourselves up anyway, but I also had the additional "help" of series of asshats who regularly told me that I was fat and ugly. So to say I had low self esteem as a teenager might be putting it mildly.  

What does a teenager with body issues really not want to do?  Strip down to a clingy piece of swimwear and stand around with a bunch of strangers in a public place. Guess what my father's favorite activity is? Ten points if you guessed going to the beach. So I spent a fair amount of my teenage age summer's awkwardly sitting on the beach hoping the Dude Bros would just ignore me instead of giving me derisive looks. Or even worse in "That's one's a dog bro!" (This did happen more than once.) In short, the beach was akin to a low level circle of hell for me. The moment I moved out of my parents house and realized I never had to go to the beach again it was like winning the mother clucking jackpot!
But wait, what's this Heather? You appear to have gone back to the beach despite that fact that you hear the "Psycho" RRRRKKK, RRRRKKK, RRRRKKK noise while looking at this picture. Well people, I did it for the kid and for the grandparents.  My father now lives down at Ocean City MD, when he isn't living somewhere in the Philippines.  Every summer he starts calling/emailing, "When are you coming to the beach? When are you coming to the beach?" for....the....entire.....summer. We did go once before when Des was almost 1 years old. I remember two things about that trip, A: I bought a black one piece with ruching knowing no one was going to pay attention to me with an adorable baby in my arms. (100% true, adorable babies always pull focus.) B: Desmond ate sand and by a stroke of luck I got this picture. It still makes me laugh really hard. 
The next couple summers I declined visiting because.....well I hate the beach. This year Desmond started asking me when were we going to the beach about the same time my father did. You dirty rats, I smell a conspiracy!!! Being double teamed by the two of them I sucked it up and agreed to come for a visit this year. Now what the heck was I going to wear? The previously mentioned black bathing suit had been donated with my other plus sized clothing last year. I could either endure the hellscape that is trying on bathing suits in grimly lit dressing rooms or try something new and sew my own. Since we're talking about bathing suits you probably figured out that I decided to make my own. This is when I started making mistakes.

Mistake number #1 - Procrastinated away time needed for the project.
Despite being in a much better place about my body, I'm still not that keen on swimsuits.  With other garments I can camouflage areas that are not my favorite and end up feeling good about what I'm wearing. With swimwear that's just not going to happen. I knew that looking at myself in a swimsuit would be depressing and put it off as long as possible. Then I was on a sewing deadline and had to skip some important steps.

Mistake number #2 - Not muslining.
Due to the previous mistake I was in a time crunch and did not muslin anything but the bra portion of the Nautilus swimsuit.  I should know better! It was silly to think that swimsuits wouldn't need any fitting adjustments when everything else I make does.  Also my brain really could have used a trial run on how a suit goes together since it was my first try at this sort of sewing. It would have saved a lot of grumpy seam ripping later.

Mistake number #3 - Not knowing what I really wanted in a swimsuit. 
OK I "thought" I knew what I wanted, a one piece with minimal bust support. This was based on that black bathingsuit from the previous beach trip. However when wearing the suits on the beach I found that my girls were in desperate need of more support. So much so that I felt uncomfortable.  If you are the sort of person who doesn't understand why people hate underwire, then Do Not assume a swim cup is enough support. My heavy as shit breast tissue was like, "Haa haa floating foam, how amusing, let's flop around now. Who can reach her belly button first?!"  I also also wrong about wanting a one piece. I have a tiny bladder so having to completely undress myself for every bathroom break was super annoying.  I also felt a little dumpy/matronly in a one piece because it just exacerbated my pear shape. If I'd muslined and tried on the patterns ahead of time, then the problems mentioned above would have been apparent then.  Both of these patterns have two piece options and links in their sew-a-longs about how to add more supportive cups. It would have been possible to adjust both of them to some sort of bra top with a high waisted bikini bottom had I not made all the mistakes above.

OK, now we're done with my extremely long intro about personal human frailty and we can get into the patterns themselves.  I even put up unflattering photos! I'm a little small in them, but considering it was my husband's first spin with the Canon camera he did a good job. At least that's what I'm telling myself to avoid taking more pictures of these on my back porch.

Bombshell from Closet Case Files
I chose to sew view A with the small alteration of crossing the straps at the back instead of doing a halter. My heavy breast tissue and halters don't mix unless I'm really in the mood for some neck pain. Let's face it, no one's ever in the mood for that.  My fabric choice was a red nylon spandex tricot from The Fabric Fairy. I took a gamble buying this bright red color without swatching it and lost.  It was not the bright red tone I like, more of an orange red and therefore slightly irks me everytime I look at it.  Yet another reason to leave plenty of time for projects don't you think? (A comedy of errors I tell you!) This superficial problem aside, was good quality and was pretty easy to work with.  I used the more matte side as my right side for the suit. 
Despite following along with the sew-a-long blog posts I managed to do just about everything wrong on this suit the first time.  Probably because I'm a complete asshole about reading directions and sometimes my brain is like, "Nope, not learning new stuff. I'm sleeping now. Zzzzzzz."  It would be fair to say that I did not gracefully climb the learning curve of sewing swimsuits. Instead my deadline drug me kicking and screaming up the hill. You can teach me new tricks, but it's going to involve a lot of seam ripping and feeling like idiot. Most of the mistakes were fixable with the ripper, but I did end up putting my lining in backward and only realizing it until most of the elastic was in.  I wasn't crazy enough to rip that out on a deadline.
My suit is a combo 10/12 size which was almost perfect out of the envelope.  The suit could use the torso shortened about 3/8", but the ruching does help to hide this.  At the center front the ruching line had to be extended further down into the suit body several inches so that it matched up to where my bewbs actually were.  I made the bust tab longer to accommodate the new position and the increased volume of gathers. This was done on the fly so I'd guesstimate that it was about 1/2" longer.
I really liked the ruching and the leg/butt coverage on this suit. In fact the whole bottom half gets a perfect score in my book.  The upper half didn't work for me because I hadn't put in the kind of bust support I need. As I when on and on about earlier, swim cups did little and the addition of elastic under them did not help, My breast tissue just make the elastic buckle away from my body so that it offered zero support. It's possible that stretching the elastic would have helped, but I thinking nothing short of underwires is really going to do the job.

Nautilus from Seamstress Erin
I went with view A on this one as well, with straps that connect to the back band. The starfish print fabric is also from The Fabric Fairy and I'm going to have to gush about it for a minute.  This is one of those fabrics where you touch it and think "Ooooo yeah, that's some nice quality here." It's just a tad thicker than the solid red fabric used for the bombshell.  The face is matte and the colors are clear and bright. It's still in stock and I might have to snag a bit more.
Since I'd muslined the top part and gotten a little experience sewing the bombshell, the Nautilus went together a lot quicker. My suit is a 10 with a C/D cup.  Based on the measurement chart I muslined the DD cups but they were too big on the bottom.  The C/D's fit perfect even though I were a DD bra, so that's one area where it was good that I'd bothered to muslin. With the bra like straps and a underbust seam Nautilus has a bit more bewb support built in.  I still need more since my girls are pushing down into the seam and puckering up into the little keyhole window under the twist.  The Nautilus top seems like a design that would lend itself to being converted to more of a standard bra. I "think" it would be easy overlay the twist over a bra base.....if I knew how to sew a bra base. Guess that's a goal that should be added to the sewing list.
I should have muslined the bottom half as well because there were a few minor fitting problems that would have been easy to fix. The torso length needs to be shortened on this pattern. You can see it wrinkling up where the body joins to the bra portion. I also wasn't happy with the amount of butt coverage. In these pictures the it looks fine, but while wearing the suit the bottoms felt a tad too small.  It didn't help that the elastic on the back of the leg was a little loose, adding to the feeling that my butt was not covered. The elastic on the top edge of the back also needs to be shortened up to really lay flat on my body.  Erin gives you suggested elastic lengths per size in those areas, but I should have known that some fine tuning to the fit might be needed.  Good news is that sort of thing can be fixed if I feel like getting out the seam ripper and re-attaching the elastic with a shorter length.
On this suit I like the top a lot more than the bottom.  It's not bad from the back but from the front I don't like the look of the one piece on my body.  Again, musling would have solved this whole problem and I could have easily modified one of the bikini bottoms to cover my belly.  

Shewwww! That was a big info dump so how about a summary?
- I hate swimsuits. Duh. However sewing one seemed like a better idea then unsuccessfully searching for a decent RTW one.

- For the most part sewing one was better, even if it was a very aggravating process of learning new skills. I can confirm that it gets easier after the first suit.

- I made some stupid mistakes from the get go that caused me not to be 100% happy with my finished suits.

- My personal opinion is that both of these swimsuit patterns are nicely drafted and have helpful sew-a-long blog posts.  If we could pull out a time turner I'd still use these patterns, just chose different views than the one's shown here.

- Some of this shit is all in my head because my husband was thrilled with both suits and had nothing but good things to say about them.

- And finally if you can get yourself a 4 year old to take to the beach I'd recommend it. First you're too busy making sure they don't drown to worry about your appearance. Secondly their pure happiness at being at the beach rubs is contagious and soon you find yourself laughing and holding hands while slapping waves. Take that wave, SMASH!!!!


  1. So sorry that you finished not 100% happy with both of your swimsuits. I'm sure many of us can relate to past (and/or present) insecurities rearing their ugly heads when in a swimsuit. All I can say is that I'm in your husbands camp with nothing but great thoughts on how awesome you look!!!

    If you do end up sewing another swimsuit for when you are inevitably dragged to the beach again, I have a couple of different tutorials for turning the Nautilus Swimsuit and/or any bikini swimsuit bottom into a higher waist in the swimsuit sewalong I've been running (at as well as a tutorial for adding an underwired bra cup in the top of a swimsuit that you might find helpful!

  2. I have to say that actually I think you look gorgeous. I'm generally not a fan of the Bombshell. I just don't get the ruching. But it looks lovely on you. The colour also looks great from the photo distance, but I empathise with your disappointment. I also had a lovely surprise from the Fabric Fairy a while back. I ordered some of their swimsuit fabric, blind online shopping - and not expecting much. But when it arrived, I was like oooh that's some nice lycra. Might have been a bit of patting and caressing involved too.

  3. I have so many thoughts:
    1. The boys in your town growing up sounds like ASSHOLES! Who the hell says that stuff? Is it wrong of me to hope they are sad losers now? (As they probably were then?) You are winning at life!
    2. You are really not making me want to sew a bathing suit.
    3. YOU LOOK SO GOOD IN THESE BATHING SUITS! I am so impressed you tried two patterns, even in your panic. I couldn't choose a favourite - I like them both!
    4. OMG ITS THE PICTURE OF DES!!!!!!!! Way to work it into the post. That picture is solid gold!
    5. Welcome home - I missed you! :)

  4. Awesome job! You look great! And it looks like you guys had a lot of fun at the beach :)

  5. CLUCK! I just realized that I am taking my 7 1/2 month old to the beach for the first time on Saturday and have not even tried on any of my swim suits! (And I'm 3 cup sizes larger.) I really hope you are right about how small babies distract!!

    You, on the other hand, look cute and fun in your suits, and they are very much your style!

  6. Love this post Heather! I agree with your husband...these suits look great. I love the red. I always think you look best in red. And the retro style of the Bombshell suits you so well!
    You're the best mom to put aside your own insecurities for the happiness of your family....seriously Des's face in that pic!! Crack me up!
    Oh. And I second what Gillian said about the guys in your town. I'm a believer in "they will get theirs" Don't give them anymore power over your self worth.

  7. I love both your suits. You have also given me flashbacks to highschool swimming lessons (at a coed school) - the hell - I was thin but bewbless and got called an ironing board. I am still smaller on top than on bottom so I buy separates (infrequently, my current suit is 5 years old). I go to aquajogging and I wear boyleg short swimmers and a rashie shirt thing. I still too often sit on the beach in my clothes and let my kids run around with her Dad. But I have bought an OOP bikini singlet top pattern and some swim lycra and elastic and I'm planning a suit for sthn hemisphere summer! Great post and pics beautiful lady!

  8. Oh, that angst was palpable! But wow, 2 great swimsuits! I know, learning curves can be very steep - loved that you were "dragged kicking and screaming up that hill!" But you did face the obstacle and did it - terrific!

    And fun enjoying the water and the kid! It's hard to make old memories disappear, even with great new memories, but...your hubby and child will not remember anything about what you looked like but only the good times you had together here! And that is priceless!

  9. You did a fine job... as in excellent. I know what you mean about red fabric too. When you order thinking you're getting a delicious shade of red and then major letdown when it comes in looking orangey red. Blech! I have a half finished bombshell. It will probably always be half finished. I think the bombshell looks good but ofc I can't see everything bouncing around! Support is important for those of us with bewbs! Don't be so hard on yourself. Listen to the hubby! I am sure he would not lead you astray! :D (Oh that Des picture is perfect! I can see you pulling it out at his wedding!;) )

  10. I agree with the others that you look fabulous! But I also share your bathing suit dilemmas. Jalie makes a nice pattern for swim shorts that might give you more coverage. I have made their skort pattern for swimming and I love it!

  11. They both look good. I can commiserate with not enjoying swim suits or the beach. I avoid both as much as possible. It's funny about beauty standards isn't it. People are fickle, one year it's large boobs, the next year small ones. We can't win. One of the reasons I like sewing, I can make clothes for myself, and not be beholden to whatever shape is currently in

  12. Perfect timing Heather! We are heading to the beach on Sunday and I have to make a swimsuit before we leave.....

  13. Wow! I think they look amazing on you and you look gorgeous. I can see the body shape/fit issues you mention if I look for them but they don't look bad to me and also they are absolutely not the first things that jump out at me. But I also know that how we think about our bodies is hard to shift. Teenage boys are the. Worst.

    I need to get on the swimsuit sewing bandwagon. We moved near the beach last year and I am down there as often as I can be when it's warm (Currently winter here and it's terrible) but all my suits are getting a bit baggy saggy and never fit that great to begin with. And I DO like to feel secure at the beach... I'm put off by finding materials and also the boob support thing. I hate underwires and never wear them but that means I need some HEAVY duty elastic under my boobs. The thing I will say about that, supportwise, is that the band needs to be quite wide, like 1.5" minimum, and quite tight. Tighter than would be comfortable in an underwired bra. I'm not sure how to navigate that in a swimsuit but those are the things I know are structurally important for supporting boobs. And then I also need decent, actual elastic shoulder straps. They need to be pretty tight, too, and a firm band of that tightness is uncomfortable, and will also pull the back up.

  14. You look beautiful! Don't worry about what other people think, as long as you're making a memory with your family! I am plus size & I don't like the way I look in a bathing suit either, but I figure if I'm modestly covered, having a good time with my family........all is well!
    You are brave to make your own swimsuit. I give you kudos for the attempt!

  15. I have to say, thank you for sharing all this! It sucks to be a teenager who doesn't embody the lean, thin thighed "ideal." I was always super self-conscious of my large hip to small bust ratio. But, dang I can't even with those nasty comments from boys! What?! Loosers. Both suits look great, especially the bombshell. And yes, watching young kids at the beach is just the best thing ever!

  16. Holy bejeezus, every woman who reads this is going to relate to it, regardless of what she looks like. We're so hard on ourselves. I think your suits look fan-tab-u-lous. And, so true, taking a kid to the beach helps with it being the best thing ever. So, tomorrow, I'm going to to take my pale not-so-perfect self to the pool with my kids because I always try to get out of it-- and I'll have a drink in your honror poolside. .

  17. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I have only just recently discovered your blog and have had a great time reading over all your entries. I'm feeling very inspired now, although don't think I'm quite up to making swimsuits yet. Well done, I think you looked stunning in both.

  18. I saw the title and thought, here goes another post about hating your body. But you make it clear it's THEIR problem and not YOURS! Thank you again for a great post. Here's hoping you find a suit that works well for you, and these lovelies seem like a great start! (Or that you can stay home and flounce around in your lovely dresses ;) )

  19. I think you look amazing in both your suits and thanks for sharing the sewing process on the suits. You are a great mom to head to the beach for your son

  20. I remember the same feelings growing up! I've got to the stage that I don't care what others think of the way I look, but good fitting swimsuits are vital. I was ecstatic when I discovered that I could buy swimwear - both one and two piece with differing cup sizes and under wire! Sadly they aren't cheap, but buying quality supplies to sew swimwear is almost impossible in New Zealand, and I've had some less than successful experiences buying online ( not to mention the horrendous cost of postage).
    Your suits look great, and well worth persevering with to get the support you need.

  21. Stephanie RamaekersJuly 24, 2015 at 3:22 AM

    1) That pic of Des cracks me up everytime! 2) Hubby is right, you look awesome in those bathing suits 3) I can sadly totally relate to how you are feeling, I only feel comfortable in a bathing suit when I'm pregnant (All excess me is due to pregnancy then, or so I tell myself) 4) I hate the beach as well and since my eczema takes a turn for the worst whenever it comes in contact with sea water and sand, I've got a valid excuse. Too bad hubby wants to take the kids to the seaside when they are older.

  22. Stephanie RamaekersJuly 24, 2015 at 3:23 AM

    We need to save the picture of Des for when we need a pick me up. :)

  23. Great job! and very courageous!
    Does anybody not hate swimsuits?

  24. Fantastic post Heather!! I'm just going to chime in with everyone else and say (1) you look amazing in both suits, and (2) those teenage boys from your childhood can suck it!! I'm appalled that anyone would actually say those things to another human being, seriously. Anyway, good for you for rising above and conquering all sorts of new sewing skills here, and making two great suits in the process! There are always mistakes and fitting changes to make on the first go-round with a pattern, so don't beat yourself up over minor imperfections. You look fantastic, and yay for handmade swimwear!!

  25. The teenage boys sound like jerks. And those swimsuits look great on you! I'm sorry that you're not completely happy with them, but I can understand the feeling--I have to admit that a big part of me is glad that keeping the baby away from sunscreen for the first 6 months gives me an excuse to not put a swimsuit on this summer! I can also understand the irritation at the one pieces, especially for bathroom usage. I like the look of the bombshell swimsuit, and am definitely tempted to give it a try sometime, but only if I can convert it to a tankini.

    Also, that picture of Des is great! And I hope you did enjoy the trip-- though I usually end up at the Delaware beaches, I've been to that beach a couple of times, and I would definitely go back.

  26. Bummer that you had trouble with these, because they look great! (My fave is the blue one!) And people suck. They suck no matter your weight, because they'll always find something to bitch about. Despite that, it sounds like you had a great time, and maybe next time you won't dread going so much. :-)

  27. Oh! And this might be TMI, but just grab front and back and pull the swimsuit to the side when you need to pee.

  28. I agree with your husband: you look fantastic. Despite the minor adjustments you mentioned, both swimsuits look gorgeous. You must be proud of yourself!

  29. I hade pretty good success sticking real bra support inside the Bombshell Swimsuit if you were going to try again:

  30. Well, I think you look great in both. I made the bombshell earlier this summer and it is the first swimsuit I actually feel comfortable wearing around other people. I think it's the combo of the ruching and the full butt coverage. And I agree that it's WAY preferable to sew your own than to go try and find one in the stores! And it's nice to tweak the fit. I hope you feel up to trying it again and adding in the underwires (I have no idea how to do this as I have the opposite problem and had to 'pad' my bust) :)

  31. Okay, first of all, that photo of baby Desmond eating sand!?!? HILARIOUS! I love how it almost looks like a selfie too. "fml, just ate sand."

    But also, I really appreciate how open and honest you were about all this, and I'm glad that you were able to make it to the beach and have a good time even if you didn't feel 100% comfortable. I do think you look really cute in both of these, but I get that sometimes what's going on in our own heads is all that matters. Last week, I had a day where I looked in the mirror and was like, "Damn, I'm looking good lately!" and then the next day I looked in the mirror and was like, "UGH WHY AM I SUCH A MONSTERRRR!?!" I don't have any real advice to give about body acceptance, I think it just takes time and it's important to remember all the badass stuff our bods can do like sew clothes and karate kick waves and walk around and eat cake, and to try to love our bodies for that. But I also get that sometimes we just want our bodies to look different from how they do, and to that, I'd just say, let the feeling pass. Not all of our thoughts are true or important, so better to just let them float on by and focus on the good.

    Anyway, I wonder if you'd like a high-waisted bikini? As a curvy girl, I don't like one-pieces because I feel like they accentuate my stomach. I LOVE high-waisted bikini bottoms though because they cover up a pooch and define the waist, and you can get some super cute bra-like bikini tops nowadays that support just like real bras. I really like the ones made by Panache and Elomi. They're pricey, but they last for years!

  32. I love 'em! High-waisted bikini bottoms and an underwire bikini top are the secrets!

  33. Helen // Grosgrain GreenJuly 24, 2015 at 5:23 PM

    Gah! Just wrote a big comment and it disappeared. So, short version! You look amazing. Everyone hates wearing swimwear to the beach. You did a great job under the circumstances. Hopefully you now have a good grounding for making new suits for next time! Possibly a tanking would work for you, and since you like the top from one suit and the bottoms from the other, you have a good starting point already!!! X

  34. Hi Heather, FWIW, I think you look amazing in both suits, don't be too hard on yourself please! Having just posted pics of my self made swimsuit on my own blog, I know it takes courage to share those pics but you have got it in spades, lady. You look great and I hope this is the start of a new found love for the beach (even if only to show off more and more fancy new swimwear).

  35. Oh my goodness - Des is so incredibly cute! And I'm glad his happiness is contagious!
    You look gorgeous on the beach - and bust support issues aside, I really like both swimsuits on you. Personally, I think all teenage boys are asshats and it has way more to do with them than you but it's hard to know that as an impressionable, self-conscious teen. I had some similar experiences in my youth too, and I still avoid a bathing suit at all costs, hence I do not see myself sewing one anytime soon. Thanks so much for sharing - I'm off to commiserate with some brownies.

  36. Shame you're not happy with both your swimming costumes; they make you look absolutely gorgeous. Eff off to the nasty little sods from the past. Hurrah for Renaissance figures; mine is similar to yours, and I get chatted up by nutters at the bus stop, so clearly I still HAVE IT. Big love to you and your lovely boy xx


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