Swimsuits & Boobs

I was originally going to call this post, “Fuck, It’s Swimsuit Season Again” to better express my sentiments, but I decided dropping the f-bomb as the very first word of the post was not the better part of valor this time around.

Here’s the thing when it comes to swimming (and therefore swimsuit) season: I like to swim. We are a little pressed for oceans and lakes here in the desert, but I have, on occasion, been known to purchase a season (or daily) pass to my local community pool. I’ve risen early — when, even in southern Arizona, the water still seems a little cold — for lap swim. Less often, I’ve braved the overcrowding of open swim in the summer. I prefer it when I can move more, but basically, swimming is fun for me.

In fact, I’d do it more often if the Arizona sun weren’t so brutal and if I could find a swimsuit that worked for me.

Within certain constraints, I don’t much care how my body looks in a swimsuit. I mean, yes, if I think a particular print is garish in general, I will likely think it’s garish on me. And if I’m repeatedly tucking a boob back in or picking a wedgie out, I consider this an aesthetic as well as a functional problem. But beyond that, I’m not too picky: I just want a suit that lets me swim.

Which is why posts about the Hottest bathing suit trends are the bane of my swimsuit-oriented existence — even more than sunburn, green-tinged chlorine hair, or small children splashing and peeing. The introduction of the article (such as it is) claims, “There’s something here for every woman!”

Which — lies.

Even ignoring the diverse reasons why millions of other women might want swimsuits that look nothing like that, there is no suit there for me. Of the twelve suits pictured, eleven are held up at the top with strings. Nine are held up with itty, bitty strings. You know what’s generally not suitable for supporting a larger bust? Itty, bitty strings. For the record, itty, bitty strings mean my breasts bounce with each stroke — which = soreness over anything longer than 50 meters — and threaten to escape out the sides and/or top, depending on the cut.

What about the wider strings? Better in theory, unless one makes the mistake of assuming an always linear relationship between ribcage measurement and cup size. A tie-back halter with either an inadequate support band or no support band (as in the one piece featured in the article, except this one is the plus-size) does not lend itself to well-endowed swimming.

There is, of course, one pictured suit with traditional over-the-shoulder straps. But two things here: One, again, the complete lack of support across the back/ribcage (where a bra band would be) would make swimming any significant distance painful for me. Two, that deep V-neck? Is just asking my boobs to fall out in a different direction.

To be fair, I’m sure these are fine swimsuits for millions of people. But the article didn’t portray them as “trends that a lot of people will like.” It said “for every woman,” which is demonstrably untrue. Additionally, it has the gall to list the first three suits as “sporty” options, which pretty much rubs my face in why these won’t work for me. And every swimsuit article will be like this, from now through September.

Except, you know, for the ones that tell me, “Get your body bikini ready!”

Thanks, but — It’s the suits, not my body, that are the problem.

Three young women in swimsuits, ca. 1920


I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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29 comments on “Swimsuits & Boobs
  1. Caitlin says:

    I am scoffing at the so-called “sport” swimsuits. Those would never stay put for a serious swim. And yeah, the idea that every woman can wear spaghetti strap tops is just nonsense. Boobs need support!

    • Tori says:

      The “sporty” label is what peeved me the most, too. If the article had been framed as, “Hey, these will be cute as you’re sitting on the beach, sipping your margarita!” that would have been one thing. But “sporty” — as in, can do sports in them — um, no.

      • Lindsay says:

        That’s the most important factor for me when choosing a swimsuit: will it stay on while I’m burning up the lap lane?

        I am pretty flat-chested, so I have better luck finding suits that satisfy this criterion. But string ties are an absolute no-no for me.

        • Tori says:

          I’m baffled by how many fashion-oriented articles seem to completely discount the criterion of whether the swimsuit is actually good for swimming. I know I picked on one article here, but that’s just because it happened across my homepage at a time when I had no patience for it. I’ve seen way too many over the years.

  2. The Goldfish says:

    I don’t know if you have anything like this in the States, but we have Bravissimo which sell good supportive swimsuits by bra size (up to a K cup). They also sell bikinis or tankinis where you by the bottoms separate from the top, according to your proportions. They’re expensive, but if you swim a lot… And even if you don’t, I have a nice simple one I’ve had for years and it’s not fallen apart yet. It’s the first swinsuit I’ve had where my bossoms have never once attempted an underwater escape.

    • Tori says:

      I’ve ordered from Bravissimo before, and we do have a US-based version of Figleaves. The problem for me is that, even with free return shipping, I either end up needing to purchase $400 worth of stuff to find the size that’s right for me (and I almost never have $400 upfront to spend on clothing of any type) before returning the rest or I throw away an extra $40-$80 on shipping costs from exchanges. Considering that the entire cost for my makeshift suit runs me about $50, and I get to try it on before I buy, it’s hard for me to justify the extra expense.

  3. Jessie E. says:

    Tori, am I remembering right that we are about the same size? I ordered a top from Athleta just last month after an EXCRUCIATING search. I mean, I just want to be able to lean over and scratch my toe without having a boob fall out. Apparently that’s too much to ask. But Athleta, despite having really limited sizes in their “bra sized” tops, had one that fit me, that actually holds my boobs in, and is actually pretty flattering. I’m not sure from your post if you are actually looking for suits or not, but just in case. 🙂

    Seriously, I do NOT understand why the fuck more retailers don’t understand that womens bodies come in lots of sizes. Or that women do like to move from time to time, without showing their nips. It’s really really frustrating.

    • Tori says:

      I think we’re near enough in top sizes that it’s worth it for me to check them out, yes. Thanks!

      • Jessie E. says:

        For your reference then, I am currently wearing Freya and Fantasie bras in 30E. I ordered two tops (needed a 2 piece, because I am wearing board shorts to hide my furry thighs. Oh swimsuit season and all it’s body related frustration): The siren bra cup bikini, and the twistini bikini top, both in the 32D/30DD size. With some trepidation, since we all know how much bullshit sister sizes are. However, they both fit quite well. The siren was a bit bigger in the cups than I wanted actually, but both of the bands were comfortable on the loosest setting. The twistini fits awesomely. And with neither did I feel like my boobs might fall out.

        • Tori says:

          Yeah, I checked them out. Unfortunately, I’m far enough down the alphabet that their “Up to DD” line is not close enough. I’m only sort of looking, though, so it’s okay. (Sort of looking in the sense that I’m always open to the idea of something working better than 2 Target sports bras worn together.) 😛

  4. I’ve ended up wearing tops meant for running lately (like this). The “quick dry” fabric is pretty similar to bathing suit material. I don’t seem to have lots of issues with boobs falling out, but I’d like to be able to walk briskly without discomfort, rather than being limited to a careful stroll to the water.

    Bottoms are kind of a problem for me, too. Bikini wax is not my friend, but I also don’t like showing my pubic hair. I think that many if not most women can wear a “full coverage” women’s suit without showing their pubic hair/having to remove it. I’m pretty much limited to skirted suits or board shorts, which can be hard to find. (And board shorts seem to irritate my skin if I walk around with them much when they’re wet.) Sometimes boyshort styles will work IF I want to commit to keep tugging the legs down and am willing to having occasional views of pubic hair happen; I don’t, so I haven’t worn those for a long time.

    • Tori says:

      Hrm. Interesting insight on the pubic hair thing. I wonder if it’s that many women don’t need to remove pubic hair to have it not show around brief-style bottoms or if designers operate on the assumption that most people who wear such suits will remove at least part of their pubic hair. (It would not, of course, be the first time that fashion has declared This Will Be So regardless of what most bodies actually do.) I say this because I consider myself to be only averagely hairy (or maybe a smidge less hairy than average), though the only body hair I routinely remove involves my eyebrows. I’d definitely have hair show around any brief-style bottom I wore. Possibly the same would even be true for boyshorts (I’ve not yet met the pair that can handle my bum, so I don’t know for sure).

      I tend to have different problems with the brief-or-bikini-style bottoms, anyway. I’m curvy enough that my waist and hips are about 2-3 standard clothing sizes apart. So any brief bottoms that fit over my hips are loose enough not to stay put on my waist, which = wedgies when I move. I end up sticking to board shorts of various lengths. Sometimes I end up smoothing them down over my thighs, but it’s either that or picking bikini out of my asscrack. 😛

    • Lindsay says:

      I’m like you on the hair issue: I’ve got pubic-hair spillover onto the tops of my thighs (maybe even sufficiently far enough down that even boyshorts won’t cover it), and I also have dark hair on my stomach, so that plus my need for suits that’ll stay put for long bouts of fast swimming means I’ve never worn a bikini and never will.

      I actually have a two-piece suit with a tank top and a bottom that’s pretty much a set of trunks for women: they’re baggy, and they go down maybe a third of the way down my thighs.

      My *ideal* suit resembles a wrestler’s singlet: one piece, thick, racer-style straps, tight all the way down, and legs that go to a little above the knee. NO ONE makes this, and if they did it probably wouldn’t come in a size I could wear, since I have hella broad shoulders, a flattish chest and narrowish hips, but I can dream.

      • Tori says:

        Would something like a swim unitard work? I’m 5’8″, and I’ve never found one long enough for me through the torso, so I know they’re not perfect. But it might be worth a shot?

        • Lindsay says:

          Yep, that’s pretty much it. Awesome.

          (I’m 5’8″ too though! I do carry a lot of my height in my legs, though, so maybe it’d be long enough …)

        • I ended up getting one of these for water aerobics. I’m about average height, but I have kind of a long torso and short legs, and it seems slightly short through the torso. Which exacerbates the lack of support of the shelf bra. But I bought it with the assumption that the shelf bra wouldn’t work, and wear a sports bra underneath. The top of the sports bra shows, but wev. The legs mostly don’t roll up.

          • Tori says:

            Yeah, the torso thing seems to be my problem with any type of one piece. (And to a lesser extent, tankini tops, which then hit at an odd place.) So I end up using the longer shorts and a top that only intends to be a cropped top anyway.

      • Yeah, I was going to suggest a unitard-thing, too. This one goes up to 22W. It doesn’t have racer straps, though. One concern I have is, will the legs try to roll up? I guess that some of the ones Tori linked to have construction that addresses that problem, or so they claim. I also suspect that the built-in bras may not be great for people who aren’t a B or C cup. I do sorta want to try one of those the next time I’m in the market for a new swimsuit, though.

        • The one I linked to seems to be built more for a curvy body shape, though, so it might not work with your shape. Actually, I just noticed that it said it fits up to a DD cup, so it might work for a C-DD range rather than B/C. I wonder if any of them would work for A. I suppose maybe A’s could get one without a built-in bra or remove the bra, and then wear their own sports bra under it.

      • ShadowL says:

        I have not bougt one personally but I have a MtoF friend who wasnt finding the groin coverage she needed in standard suits. I found her a suit she loves by googling “modesty suits”. The christian fundamentalists and muslims prefer a LOT more coverage in swimwear and some of their suits are close to normal but with a little more coverage such as longer legs and higher necklines and backs.

        Lucky for me I have found a couple of suits that are either the “tankini” type or that I have been able to wield a sewing needle to for a better fit at discount retailers. I am also in the DD and beyond category but have a long torso for 1 piece suits so even finding a 1 piece that does not pull down in the front is tough. I am hosed if any of my 6 assorted pieces or either of my 1 piece suits die.

        • Tori says:

          I’m not sure how accurate it is to:

          1. Make blanket statements about what types of suits people in various religious groups prefer, given that it’s not necessarily a monolithic culture.
          2. Paint that as a separate category from “normal” swimwear.
          • oofstar says:

            while i understand your concern here, ‘modesty suits’ are almost all made for adherents to fundamentalist abrahamic religions, which do specifically require covering up more. i don’t think it is insulting or anything. and modesty suits can be extremely different than standard american swimwear, as some are basically dresses made from bathing suit material. it’s actually pretty fantastic that they exist.

            i wish there was more in between standard and modesty options. i did just find this site http://www.coolibar.com/women-s-swimwear.html, which has a lot of unusually full body swimclothes. pretty cool.

          • Tori says:

            I actually don’t think you understand my concern here, so I’m going to repeat myself with one clarification: It is neither accurate — nor appropriate on this blog — to make blanket statements about the types of clothing people in various religious groups prefer, given that it’s not necessarily a monolithic culture.

            I grew up in one fundamentalist Christian community. While most of my friends and I weren’t allowed to wear swimwear that would have been on the “more revealing” end of the large-scale commercially available spectrum, no one so much as suggested that girls and women wear “modesty suits.”

            Additionally, as the previous comment stated “christian fundamentalists and muslims,” I hope it goes without saying that not all Muslims are fundamentalists.

            This comment is going to end this line of discussion on this post.

  5. […] body is not wrong; the clothing is. As Tori at Anytime Yoga regularly points out, please remember that if an item of clothing doesn’t fit you well, […]

  6. Tapetum says:

    Sporty suits? Those are supposed to be sporty suits? I sure as hell couldn’t do sports in them, and I don’t have near your problem with escaping boobage.

    And I hear your pain over the assumed relationship between ribcage and cup. I would be a 44A. I say would be, because nobody, not even the weird bra size manufacturers, makes a 44A. Yet at that ribcage size, even an A cup is big enough to need real support. Mostly I drop a size in band and go up a size in cup and it kinda works.

  7. Jaynie says:

    I feel your pain! I’m not much of a swimmer, but I do appreciate being able to bend over, walk, and jump, while neither bouncing around or falling out of my top. And those tiny strings? If I finally get them snug enough to hold the ladies in place, they dig in and give me red marks. Yikes.

    The swimsuit I recently got was from a boutique lingerie shop in Canada, but the brand is Curvy Kate. Top and bottoms were a bikini and they were about $120 for both. The top is 32FF and fits great! It’s almost as supportive as a bra, and I don’t fall out. Hopefully this helps someone!

  8. What seriously inspired u to create “Swimsuits
    & Boobs | Anytime Yoga”? I personallyabsolutely adored it!

    Thanks -Lucy

  9. Dawn says:

    My personal favorite is the comment on the Glamour suit that says “Guys love ’em!” Well, sign me up!

  10. BroadBlogs says:

    Funny how you often can’t swim in swimsuits. And I do like the first title you considered.

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