Colette

My body, my swimsuit

75

white-two-piece

image: vintage white two-piece, currently available from allencompany on Etsy.

I have never felt worthy of wearing a two-piece swimsuit.

From an early age, we are encouraged to disassociate ourselves from our bodies. We start to carve it up into different parts so that we can evaluate and compare: my butt, my stomach, my arms, my thighs. They aren’t you; instead, they’re projects to be worked on, or failures to be ashamed of.

Even as a kid, it was my stomach that received most of my ire. Since before puberty, I disliked the way it looked. I remember looking in the mirror as a child and hoping that I would grow taller soon so that it would stretch out and look slimmer. It makes me so sad to think about that.

Unfortunately, this issue did not resolve itself with puberty. When I was diagnosed with scoliosis, my orthopedic surgeon let me know that this condition accounted for some of my lack of waist definition. Though surgery (in which my spine was quite literally stretched out) did help, I can’t say that this made me feel better about myself or my midsection.

I won’t recount my long and troubled history with my body right now, but suffice to say I’ve had my ups and downs, both in size and body image. I’ve managed to overcome many of my worst compulsions and dysmorphic thoughts.

But I’ve never really made peace with my belly, as much as I hate to admit it. I still disassociate. I still wonder why, despite my overall great health and fitness, it doesn’t look like other women’s.

And that is the strange thing. I truly think women of all sizes are beautiful. I LOVE seeing a non-model in body-conscious clothing. I’ve always felt that one of the coolest things about women’s bodies is the variety of beautiful shapes they come in. I see incredible beauty in the thin and lithe, and just as much in the curvy and soft. It’s the differences that are beautiful.

But I could never apply that thinking to myself completely. My scoliosis gave me an excuse. My ribs jut out at sharp angles, my torso is short, I am deformed.

It was recently when I came across pictures of plus size blogger Gabi Fresh in her adorable bikini that I realized how insane this line of thinking is. My body is me. It will be with me forever. I can spend my life denying the reality of this, or I can accept it and love it and see the same beauty in it that I surely would if it were someone else’s.

I thought this was a lesson I had already learned. I’ve been saying those words to myself for over a decade. But after seeing those pictures and toying with the idea of making a bikini for myself, I realized how much useless shame I am still carting around.

So all this is to say: We’re going to Palm Springs this month and I am making myself a two-piece swimsuit.

Because I don’t want to be that woman. I don’t want the shame. I don’t want the secret wish for conformity. I don’t want to feel almost-but-not-quite-good-enough.

I want the cute swimsuit.

(Next week, I’ll share some of my swimsuit inspiration as I dive into this project. Also, isn’t that vintage suit above adorable?)

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 75

Mandy

Yes, I agree. It is such a deceptively simple design that is simply timeless. I look forward to seeing your own swimsuit. It is something I have never tried to make. Finding just the right shape of swimsuit is difficult, with all the ugly high leg shapes which just don’t do anything for me, so perhaps it is time for me to try making one. I’d really be interested in your views on suitable fabrics, patterns, etc.
Thanks also for your comments about body image. Approaching 60, I am not young in body, but am working on my fitness. I just cannot understand why, as women, we are made to feel so unhappy with our own bodies. Do men have the same problems?

Sasha fruitsflowersclouds.blogspot.it

Unfortunately our society places a strong emphasis on external appearance therefore it’s not a big surprise that we feel a constant need to achieve body perfection even thou the model of perfection we try to achieve is one artificially created. The pressure to reach a certain perfection model leads us to focus on and even amplify our so called flaws and anything deviating from the ideal often induces shame and a constant struggle for self acceptance. We know that this way of thinking is flawed but is so damn hard to change it as there are so many other factors involved. Kudos to you Sarai!

maddie madalynne.com

Good for you, Sarai! And I hope you make two!

Even though people call me skinny, I don’t see myself that way. Yes, every women, even I have our own struggles. I don’t like my arms, I think they’re a cross between chickens and Madonna. Skinny and very muscular. My relationship with my body is an up and down rollercoaster, but the high and lows are becoming less so. Slowly. very slowly.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Isn’t that funny? So many women desire thin, muscular arms, and other women who have them see it as a flaw! I feel like society will always tell us there is something wrong with us. Thin women are told they should be curvier, big women told they need to be thinner, and on and on. How else to sell us all the stuff we don’t need?

Annette Tirette annettetirette.blogspot.com

Thank you very much for this post.

It’s astonishing how the way we view ourselves is different from how the rest of the world sees us. I once heard that if we met our own clone we wouldn’t recognize them as such because our perception of what we look like is so flawed, and I can imagine that to be true. When I think back of how I felt about my looks at a younger age and then look at pictures of me at that time it’s a pretty eye-opening experience. I’ve always felt like I had short and stumpy legs, and that I couldn’t wear skinny jeans or ankle boots, but now I’m slowly getting over that!

Colleen

And you will be beautiful in your two piece bathing suit, Sarai. You are an incredibly stylish woman and one of my personal icons. Did you even know that?

Sarai colettepatterns.com

That is so sweet Colleen, thank you.

Brenna Harvey

That’s funny how you mention your ribs jut out at a weird angle. Mine too.

I just found out last year that I have (mild) scoliosis, thanks to an X-ray after two car wrecks. I’d always complained about back pain as a teenager, but my parents never took me seriously and so I just suffered through it. Come to find out, a lot of the weird things I don’t like about my body likely stem from that. I’m still miffed that I’m almost 30 and I’ve dealt with it for this long not knowing. It just became my reality that my back always hurt.

Ironically, getting pregnant and having a child really made me love my body. I know that’s not the route for everyone, but it was so cool to see my body doing what it was made for doing.

cyngehin@gmail.com

Loved my body after my first child was born. Had always been a broad stick shape and all the curves seemed to fall into the right places. I had hips and a waist for the first time in my life. Unfortunately after the second baby all the curves had 20 extra pounds! And now at 60 or so years those pounds have disappeared and I am back to being a broad stick! Now I fear becoming man-like in my body appearance. Maybe when I am 80 I just won’t care.

Kate McIvor theconfidentstitch.com

I’ve been thinking about my fear of bikinis lately, too. Even when I was track-star thin, I didn’t think I could wear a two-piece. I have a large bust and I don’t have 6-pack abs. I can’t wait to see what you make!!!

Andrea zoopolis.wordpress.com

My daughter has a couple of health issues that affect her appearance–scoliosis being just one of them. One of the reasons I really threw myself into making clothes a few years ago was so that she could have clothing that was comfortable and fit properly–something we were never going to find in the stores, and this will only get worse as she gets older–and so that she grows up in an atmosphere where it is normal to make clothes yourself so they fit the way they should. I’m hoping that when frustration hits as a teen or young adult when there’s nothing in the stores that’s age appropriate and not painful, she will be comfortable in just getting a pattern and sewing up something fabulous.

I worry about this all the time. She’s heading off to middle school next year. It was tough enough for me, as a “normal” kid; she’s got great self-esteem now, but I worry that the pre-teen years are going to hit her like a mac truck. If only we could accept that there is no such thing as a wrong body.

Stephanie erniekdesigns.blogspot.com

Your daughter is so lucky to have you for her mom. I know from experience how cruel the world can be to girls (anything that does not meet the ‘standard’ = deformed). My mom taught me how to sew; I had no idea she was teaching me how to control my own destiny.

Judging by the tears pouring down my face, I don’t think I am overstating this. I did not realize that it would be my only way to dress myself, that my sewing would be my shield against pain, my rallying cry. I wear every insult, well meant or not (thanks Dad. It IS a shame about my legs) as defense and offense. You think my clothes look funny? Does my ass look big in this? Yes, because it is. In stripes. Horizontal.

After hip surgery a couple years ago, I can walk without pain for the first time in my life. And I’m walking in jeans that I’m fine tuning the fit on. In a Frida Kahlo print. I can’t remake the world, but I can stop trying to make the world fit me.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Beautiful beautiful thoughts, both of you.

Andrea zoopolis.wordpress.com

Now I’m crying too.

Thank you for your reply. It means so much to me to hear how much your mom’s sewing lessons have meant to you.

Stephanie sewacrookedline.com

Oh how I love that – I can’t remake the world, but I can stop trying to make the world fit me.

One of my brothers telling me and my 16 year old niece that the world these days is a thin world and we need to lose weight – hurts like hell.

It is only because we let it and you know what… not going to anymore.

elizabeth rehmer sewrunningcrazy.blogspot.com

good for you!! I am leaving for hawaii in a few weeks and the bathing suit issue is distressing. do to a move and major remodel project that was on a time line i have been eeking in minimal workouts and we have been eating delivery, take out, etc. and now the thought of putting on a swimsuit is taking away from the excitement I should be feeling towards the trip. I can’t wait to see what you come up with for a suit!! :)

Amie letsbeamie.wordpress.com

Proud of you for taking a big step to own your body. I hope the do the same with mine.

Raphaelle deuxsouriceaux.wordpress.com

Thank you for this post. We’re bombarded by images of what we should look like from childhood. I have a short waist and I’ve always had a bit of a belly and it’s always bothered me. I sort of got over it in my early twenties and actually wore two piece suits. But then I had children. I still have baby weight hanging on but even without it, the skin is all stretched out with a bunch of stretch marks. I’m very uncomfortable with it but I’m starting to feel better. My belly bears the marks of growing two wonderful little girls. It’s soft and makes a comfortable pillow for them to rest on. When I’m with them at home, I actually kind of love it now. Hopefully, that will soon transfer to all the time.

thezenofmaking thezenofmaking.com

High five, ladyfriend! You rock that suit! (As a fellow short-waisted gal, I can’t wait to see what you come up with.)

Nina toftsnummulite.blogspot.co.uk

Isn’t it funny how you think you’ve done your work and there’s always another layer to be peeled away. For me, a really interesting part of the body-relationship journey has come from the Alexander Technique. It’s hard to describe, but the process of actually feeling all of your body from the inside, and starting to see how your thoughts about your body affect how you use yourself (and v.v.) – the thoughts are a physical reality – well, it’s very illuminating. If you can afford some lessons, I really recommend it. Can’t wait to see the bikini you’re making!

Amanda symondezyn.wordpress.com

I (as am sure most of us can) very much relate to body hangups. I am tall, with a prominent ribcage so my waist will never ever be tiny, no matter how much I work out and how clean I eat. It was tough growing up with a gaggle of stick-thin friends wearing a size 0 and feeling fat even though I was not. I am extremely health conscious, and it’s hard not seeing the transformations you hope for when you spend so much energy caring for your body. It has only been in the last few years of my mid-late 30’s, where I have actually been able to let go of my hangups and really love and appreciate the body I work so hard for, and all the wonderful things it does for me.

I still haven’t had the courage (or opportunity) to wear a swimsuit of any kind, let alone a two piece suit… I am really looking forward to watching your progress and perhaps making one of my own someday! :)

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I could have written your comment myself!

I think one of the things that has been so eye-opening for me is that my health and fitness has gone from good to great, and I am probably currently in the best shape of my life. I feel strong, I eat well, I’ve done marathon and I’m currently training for my fourth half. My body fat has gotten pretty low, at least for me (since I’ve always been curvy).

The fact that, in spite of all that, I still stand in front of the mirror and pick apart my body is disturbing.

gabriel ratchet

and i think you’re so beautiful, and i’m envious. why do we think about ourselves and each other this way? why do we let the marketing machine sap our creativity and joy in who we are, just as we are?

as to that vintage bathing suit…. when i was about 10, pre-lycra, my godmother (fairy, first class) gave me a present of five volumes of the better homes and gardens creative sewing library. (meredith press, new york and des moines, 1966, first printing) “sewing casual clothes” has instructions on how to make a “dressmaker” bathing suit on page 45. i learned a lot from these books, including how to make a a tailored, interlined, lined wool winter coat with bound button holes and welt pockets that i wore in college. never did make a bathing suit, though.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

The vintage non-lycra suits are adorable, flattering, and so supportive. However, I’m going to go modern all the way with mine. I gotta be comfy, and I love to swim.

Tasia sewaholic.net

I love this. Life is too short to be constantly waiting for the right time to enjoy our bodies. My hangup is my thighs, I think they’re big and they jiggle and they’re pasty, not at all like the ideal. I like to think I have figured out how to dress to hide and avoid drawing attention to the parts I consider less than perfect. But it’s not really helping the feeling that something is flawed, hiding the so called flaws. That feeling is still there, just managed. I hope you’re able to see the beauty in your own body, just the way it is, without isolating and critiquing its parts as separate from yourself. And of course I’d love to see the swimsuit you make!

Isaboe Renoir

I love your swimsuit inspiration; maybe Colette Patterns will put a similar pattern out in the future… I second wanting to hear about your fabric and notions choices and can’t wait to see the end result!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Mine probably won’t look like this, though I do love it!

Lita

It sounds like all of us can relate. It sounds like it’s time for a new pattern and a sew along!! I would love to make something like the white one in the photo, it seems like it’s a style that is flattering and comfortable for most body types when made to fit.

Here’s hoping your healthy new mindset leads to us getting a new pattern ;)

Isaboe Renoir

Yes, in white please – I never see enough white swimsuits (or white umbrellas for that matter; but I digress….)

Kristen F kv-arts.deviantart.com

I’ve had an awful time with my midsection. It pudges forward like a pouch and has a muffin top with most of my old jeans. I have accepted my widening butt for the most part. The only time I dislike it is in a swimsuit. SO many summers I wore shorts down to my knees and until last year I hadn’t worn a swimsuit in probably 3-4 years. I hope to find peace with my mid-section and you are truly an inspiration. :) I also hope to find/made a cute vintage one-piece with full butt and crotch coverage~ And if I can get some control of my forward pudge, that white two-piece is divine!! (With a halter-top change out~)

Nadia

You really are just an inspiration Sarai! I’m very lucky in that at university I’ve made friends with a lot of excellent body positvie fems of all shapes and sizes so I’ve been able to let go with a lot of body frustration early on in my life but I love that you so readily voice these issues of feminism/ disability/ work politics… I look forward to seeing your bikini :)

Alice Elliot

Good for you!! I’ve always made my own swimsuits, mostly because the, excuse me, the crotch area is never wide enough! I remember seeing photos of Russian women on the beach, in bikinis. I realized that we should all learn to appreciate our bodies in all their different sizes and shapes. I’m in my 60’s now and only wear a 1-piece suit. Maybe because I had a great looking torso in my 30’s and 40’s but it’s lost its firmness now and I can’t keep the bottoms from falling down! If we only appreciate the beauty of youth what will we wear as we age?

sarah sky skyandlady.com

PLEASE, post lots of information about making your swimsuit!!! I have tried many times and while I wear what I make, It never looks quite right. ANY pointers about swimsuit making would be so appreciated!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I’ve made them before, but never a bikini. It sort of combines some aspects of bra making with sewing knits. It’s going to be fun! I’ll definitely post progress.

Heather Lou closetcasefiles.blogspot.ca

Body shame always seems to creep up when you need to be half naked in front of a crowd, unfortunately. I similarly have serious hang ups about my little belly, despite my boyfriend’s adoration of every part of me. You’d think it would help, but I still suck it in every time he puts his hand around my waits. It’s ridiculous!

A great suit can do a lot to dispel the issues though. It seems most women had great success with my Bombshell but I think you’re looking for something more simple. Oh Lulu has a body suit pattern taht could be modified to resemble your inspiration: https://www.etsy.com/listing/175095052/ohhh-lulu-the-ginger-body-suit-and?ref=shop_home_active_7

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I’ve made suits like your Bombshell before (that is, before your pattern came out or I would have used it!) and it is such a great style on so many women. I’m going to finish putting together my inspiration board before I decide on an exact style. There are so many ways to go.

Kristen

“I truly think women of all sizes are beautiful. I LOVE seeing a non-model in body-conscious clothing. I’ve always felt that one of the coolest things about women’s bodies is the variety of beautiful shapes they come in. I see incredible beauty in the thin and lithe, and just as much in the curvy and soft. It’s the differences that are beautiful.

But I could never apply that thinking to myself completely.”

Nailed it.

I get so excited when I see a variety of body types are represented in the media. For example, Lena Dunham has a similar body type, facial structure, and even the same haircut as me. I think she is absolutely gorgeous and I am so happy to see a woman who looks like me on the cover of Vogue. However, I always find reasons why I think she’s prettier, skinnier, or pulls that a pixie off better than me. It’s silly, because intellectually I know that’s not true. We’re two different people and each have our own unique attributes that are beautiful. Emotionally, I just can’t seem to believe it for very long before I return to a cycle of comparing myself to other women.

Anyway, I’m still excited to rock my two piece swim suits in Palm Springs!

Connie conniya.wordpress.com

You’re absolutely right, Sarai! There’s a lot of difference between saying the things and truly believing them. Even though I lost 10 lbs last year (after going vegan) and being a fairly slender person, I am still hard on myself. I am still learning to love my body.

In less than a month I will be starting my semester studying abroad in South Korea, a country known for having strict social standards for women. Most Koreans will not hesitate to inform you that you’re fat or unhealthy. I hope to keep a positive attitude about my body despite any social pressures (and enjoy some delicious, healthy Korean food too!)

As always, I love reading the blog! I have really been enjoying the Wardrobe Architect series!

sojoysews

I spent much of my teens and early twenties thinking I was fat because I had a rounded tummy and breasts. I was not particularly fit, but I look at pictures of myself then and wonder what I was thinking.

I am less body-conscious now in my fifties and overweight than I was then. I don’t think a bikini is right for me now, but I’m not afraid to be seen at a beach or pool in a swimsuit that fits.

Jennifer

Thanks for the Tuesday cry, Sarai. You are spot on with this. Beautifully written. You could have been writing about me.

My biggest issue is my butt. Its not flat, but it’s small and only slightly rounded and does not look voluptuous like I wish it did. And it’s low. And I have cellulite at the bottom of it. And I’m super pale so those cellu-licious dimples cast a nice gray pallor over my backside, which always means beach shorts for me. I am genuinely afraid for anyone to see my butt.

I know I shouldn’t care. The chances of anyone else noticing or caring are slim. The beach is not the Internet, right? No one is going to leave a comment about my butt. But I still feel rough about it.

We need to have Colette social/crafty groups in each city. Seems like so many of us have not just hobbies in common.

Emily

I bought my first bikini at 16. It was a hot pink bandeau and I was so proud of it. And then my rail thin grandmother said, “Oh that is going to be so cute on you when you lose 15 pounds.” And I never wore the bikini without a t-shirt on top. When I look back on those pictures of me at 16, I want to cry. I was smart, curvy, pretty and I had so much going for me and all I could focus on was how fat I was.
It took me until my 40th birthday to stop caring what other people thought – or what I thought, for that matter. I am proud to say that all my swimsuits are now two piece suits and I wear them without a thought to my fleshy stomach, large breasts or sizeable thighs. They are easier to get in and out of, more comfortable to wear and better for large breasts.
Go for it, Sarai! You can do it and feel confident about it, too. I think it’s awesome that you are going to wear a two piece, too.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

It is amazing to me how many adults believe that fat shaming children (CHILDREN!) is an acceptable tactic. Or even an effective one.

SizeMode sizemode.com

Rock the bikini woman!

Sytha

I admire your journey towards the self-esteem of your body. I know I should do the same but I can’t help hating my body. I don’t recognise it, I regret the body of my early 20s (I’m 29). It changed a lot, and I’m struggling to acquire a good and healthy way of eating. I have emotional overweight. It seems to me that society is responsible for our race to body perfection and its weapons are not only magazines , but also the idea that slim=health. Culpability is added to want of perfection: the perfect cocktail to feel unhappy and thus gain more weight! Self-acceptance is the key…what a long journey ahead, but I’ll fight! Sewing is part of the process: feel good with one’s body.Thanks for your articles, it helps! (sorry if I’ve written mistakes, English is not my native language)

Isabel acraftyscientist.wordpress.com

It is incredible how we struggle with our body image… I have been “plump” all my life, apart from a period around my early twenties where I lost a lot of weight (purposefully) and it was the only time I wore a bikini.

Now, due to a health issue, I will have to restrict my diet a lot, which will mean I will loose weight again. Rather be healthy and plump and wear a bikini without being embarrassed of my curves! :)

I really appreciate you sharing these thoughts with us – as with many other issues, sharing in a community setting held to reassure all of us that we are not the only ones.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with, I bet it will be super stylish! :)

julia cindora.blogspot.com

I can totally agree. I have a strong scoliosis, too and hated my body for so long but sewing was always something I love. It’s such a pain to sew something that you look terrible in it but can’t stop it because you love it so much. That’s how I feel and because of it I started my blog this year to brake with this feeling and show the world the real me and what I love the most. Sewing. Sewing for me and my special body.

Elle threadtension.wordpress.com

Yes, yes, yes. To all of this. Ever since high school, I feel like I have been at war with my breasts. I went from being shrimpy and skinny to very curvy, very quickly. My breasts went up a size a year through all of high school, an A-cup to a D-cup from ninth grade to senior year. All my friends were on the track team with me and were rail thin and flat-chested. I would have given ANYTHING to be flat-chested. I felt like they dominated my frame and made me look fat all over, even though I was running a ton and in the best shape I have ever been in.

I am now well into my twenties and making peace with the fact that I just have big boobs. I can’t exercise or starve them away, as I once thought, but I can learn how to make clothes that fit me properly, instead of trying to squeeze myself into a pre-determined mold for what I should look like (literally). I think many people come to garment sewing as a result of the kind of thing we have been talking about here, a way to accept your body and clothe it how you like without having to feel bad in a mall dressing room. For me, it’s been really powerful, and it’s exciting to see so many people who feel the same way. You rock on with your white bikini, Sarai! There’s no reason in the world why you shouldn’t.

Jen mommymadebyjen.blogspot.com

It’s interesting how time and distance can give someone perspective on their body. I grew up longing to be a ballerina and worked hard at it, taking classes 6 days a week, practicing at home, etc. But nothing I did ever made me look like the girls in the advanced class. In my eyes my thighs were always too big, my butt stuck out too far, and despite my flexibility and my drive to succeed, I couldn’t get the instructor to tell me I was doing a good job. It didn’t help that the best girl in the dance school had the ‘perfect’ ballerina body. I started to feel better about my body when I stopped taking ballet but I still felt like I was too fat and had big legs. I was a size 9-10 throughout high school and I felt big compared to others. The same is true of college, even though I didn’t really gain any weight and stayed the same size, more or less. But I never felt like bikini material.

Fast forward to now and after 4 kids I am far bigger than I was back then. If I look at pictures of myself from high school and college I can see how distorted my self-image was, because in those photos I look skinny, despite the lack of space between my thighs and the muscular calves and the prominent behind. And I wish I still had that body – not because I want to be skinny but because I feel like I was healthy then and didn’t know it.

As an aside, I think the reason that Gabi Fresh looks so good in her suit is that it’s actually designed for someone with a fuller shape, as opposed to a swimsuit that is designed for a smaller size and simply graded up. That’s really important when it comes to the bust, imho. A bikini top should be sized for bra cups in order to fit best, in order to highlight the slimmer area under the bust; otherwise larger chested women can look fat and that’s depressing.

Abby

Thank you for sharing so honestly. I cannot wait to see your bathing suit! While I also keep thinking (hoping?) that I may have moved beyond it, I have body hang-ups (their names are jelly thighs, love handles, stumpy legs). My self-image took an extra hit last year, when I developed a skin disease associated with Celiac. I spent all of last summer in flowey tents of dresses, trying to stay cool, while hiding my wretched skin. No bathing suits for me. I have since healed quite well, and I might be able to even consider wearing a bathing suit this coming summer, even though there may still be some visible scarring. We’ll see. If I do, I am also hopeful that I can be nicer to myself in it.

cyngehin@gmail.com

Can’t wait to see your suit style. As a fellow ‘pain in the neck’ sufferer, I just can’t stand to wear a halter-style swim top. Heavy breasts, bad neck results in more pain. But that style looks great, only it physically hurts to wear. So many suits that are designed to ‘slim’ you are also painful to wear. All that super scrunching elastic just hurts.

Siobhan

Thanks for the beautiful post. Even once you know empirically that you should accept your body, and that negative self-talk is ridiculous, it can be hard to believe it. Recently I was so ill I lost almost half my body weight. I was so so sick, I would have done anything to put on weight again. Now that I’m within a healthy weight range, you would think that I would be able to accept my body more. But I still have more fat and ugly days than I do good body ones.

Christine christinehaynes.com

About 9 years ago my ex and I planned a trip to Hawaii. I was excited, yet freaked out about the idea of getting into a bathing suit. It was something I avoided, despite growing up at the beach and living in LA at the beach. I set out to find a suit that fit my personality, and landed on one from the Esther Williams collection. I felt okay in it and figured it was passable. In Hawaii, I put on my suit, draped a coverup on myself, and headed off to the beach. There I floated in the water, lounged on the shore, and noticed two early-20’s skinny girls watching me. I thought, “oh crap, they are looking at what a frickin’ whale I look in a bathing suit!” They walked over to me, and shocked me by saying, “we love your suit! it’s soooo cute!” It was then and there that I realized that it’s all about your perspective on the situation. Since then I have been in that suit many times, and will be again as I head to Palm Springs next month too :) Love you Sarai xoxo

Hélène

Love your comment. This kind of situation reveals so much about perceptions…

Anne Lyth

I used to feel very guilty about my body. I was one of the skinny stick-like kids when I was growing up. And when I became a teen I wanted to be more like my friends -with more curves and not so tall! After celebrating my 30th birthday and giving birth to two kids I am actually proud of my own body -for the first time in a very very long time. You have just made me realize how precious that is. Thank you so much. And I hope you can get there too.

I’m looking forward to seeing what style bikini you end up with.

Novita verypurpleperson.com

I have scoliosis as well and am (still!) battling with body image everyday. I don’t like my midsection, it is not flat and most of all, it is asymmetrical. When I look at myself in the mirror, the asymmetry is screaming at me but strangely nobody ever commented about it (except my parents when I was a teenager…). I know that I focus too much on that one flaw that it seems bigger than it really is. The weird thing is that I realized all of this yet I still can see and feel the flaw.

“Because I don’t want to be that woman. I don’t want the shame. I don’t want the secret wish for conformity. I don’t want to feel almost-but-not-quite-good-enough.”

You are a beautiful woman, Sarai, and you deserve all the cute swimsuit in the world! Your post just made me realize that I deserve one as well. Thank you, thank you so much!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Hugs to you, Novita! The asymmetry thing is really hard to overcome, because it’s not something people talk about embracing, like having curves or being tall or short.

One of my shoulder blades sticks out on one side, so that shoulder looks slightly hunched. I’ve had a few times where people commented on it, including a drunk guy at a party who told me I’d be prettier if I stood up straight. Even though he was obviously an entitled jerk, it was so hurtful to be brought down to the reality of my body, and be reminded that these things are visible to others. I still cringe.

I recently learned that one of my style icons, Isabella Rossellini, has scoliosis. So did Elizabeth Taylor!

meredith brightasbuttons.blogspot.com

You’re blowing my mind! First you, and then Novita-whose-blog-I-adore come out with scoliosis stories (though really, it shouldn’t shock me that people with trickier bodies are interested in sewing) and now Isabella Rossellini and Liz Taylor, too?!

I have to say, neither you nor Novita look asymmetrical at all in your photos… and it’s kind of affirming, because even though all I can see when I look at myself is the twisted ribcage and prominent shoulder, maybe it’s not as obvious to other people as it is to me? On the other hand, I’ve had a few comments… so it’s definitely visible, but I think most people aren’t paying that much attention. But you’re right in that it isn’t something I feel like embracing about myself, even if I’ve learned to live with it (mostly).

Good luck with the swimsuit mission! You’ll look fabulous! I finally started wearing things with lower back necklines last summer, after years of trying to keep my shoulder blades and scar completely camouflaged. Life’s too short.

Izy

Thank you for such a down to earth post. I live in a resort town & this is the year I want to venture to the beach! I have not because of shyness & body image. My motivator is my little dog who loves water. So I will do it. I can’t wait to see what you sew! It’s gonna be awesome.

Anna Nicolle

I absolutely love this post! It’s so sad (and true) that we disassociate from our bodies. It’s crazy isn’t it. We are our bodies. I needed that reminder. Thank you.

Chris sewtypical.blogspot.com

I gotta say, Sarai – I’ve seen pictures of you on this blog and never noticed anything asymmetrical about you. That said, asymmetry is creative & artistic and found everywhere in nature.

You’re a gorgeous woman! Enjoy your trip to Palm Springs & flaunt your bikini!

Stephanie sewacrookedline.com

I read an article in a local newspaper last year, where the writer was at the beach for the day.

She had to line up at two different stages to get icecreams etc and the first time she was behind a group of men.. Every women that walked passed, they made a positive comment everytime.

Next time she was behind a group of women.. the complete opposite. They picked out every “fault” they could find, nothing nice said at all.

We woman have to learn to be more like men and see the good in others and especially ourselves. I know I am my own worst critic, but I am working real hard on being my best critic.

We are beautiful.

Giggles in the Sun gigglesinthesun.blogspot.com.au

I little while ago I read a blog post by a swimwear designer and she said that women don’t need to ‘get’ a bikini body, they’ve already got the body. What women need are bikinis that fit those bodies, not bikinis that were designed for runway models in size 0 or less.

I haven’t worn a bikini in a very long time and it is only partially due to the fact that I see faults in my body. Realistically though I live in Australia and it’s just not healthy long-term to be that uncovered.

Jet Set Sewing jetsetsewing.com

So much of body consciousness comes from culture. Here in the northeast of the US, as a middle-aged with a tummy and a few back rolls, I would feel too uncomfortable wearing a bikini. But in French culture, the middle-aged and older women still wear bikinis, post-menopausal tummies and back rolls be damned. Guess I’ll have to go for one of those retro-ruched one-pieces (or go to the beach in France).

Vanessa i-and-o.blogspot.com.au

You are completely right… The women on the beach in France have confidence – they don’t care if they have belly rolls, they look great!

Jen mommymadebyjen.blogspot.com

I have to agree with the statement that there are places/cultures where women are less self-conscious about their bodies in general and swimsuit bodies in specific. My aunt lives in Amsterdam and when she vacationed in Greece, she was there in a bikini, or even topless. While she has an amazing figure for her age (68) and is probably a size 4 or 6, she still has the body of an older woman, with a little tummy roll. She proudly wears her bikini in her garden at home, as well. Her daughter (my cousin) is quite curvy, and was even as a teen. I think many American girls would have thought she was too big to wear a bikini and yet she did so proudly – and almost literally stopped traffic when she visited me in the States one summer.

I noticed that many women in Germany are the same, having been to many swimming pools during the years I lived there.

Funny how guys don’t seem to have this problem – in any culture that I know of. I’ve seen many men at the beach or in the pool who, if they had been women, would never have dared to remove their cover-up or t-shirt. This was also especially true in Germany, where I saw many men in tiny Speedo-type swim suits, with massive beer guts. It didn’t seem to bother them the least.

Vanessa i-and-o.blogspot.com.au

Thanks for a great post, especially the link to Gabi Fresh, who is confident and gorgeous!
I think many people, both women and men waste too much time worrying that they are not skinny enough, not tall enough, not muscular enough, not whatever-society-is-telling-them-they-should-be enough, when really we should be thankful for our health and what our bodies enable us to do.
Sadly, sometimes it takes an illness or injury for us to realise just how great our bodies are… or were… in the first place.

Natacha

I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story and what has been such an ordeal for you. Hope you know that you are now someone some of us look up to :-)
I have spent a number of years feeling fat (when I’m not) and ugly (well I’m not Miss Universe and wouldn’t want to be but still there is one man and THE one who finds me attractive even if he is 8 years younger than me ;-)). For many reasons, most of them being because of my o so great father who I do not remember saying so many nice things to me (quite the opposite…). Today I feel fine, I exercise, I am starting to sew for myself and trying to find who I want to be for the next part of my life (being 42). It took a while, a shrink, a wonderful and a beautiful little girl. I can’t say I will fill good about my body for the rest of my life because I know that I am on a thin line but hey, carpe diem !

Natacha

And I wish you the best, really and hope you will show us your beautiful bathing suit!

Catherine

I started reading I Thought it was Just Me (but it isn’t) by Brene Brown, to address shame issues, I highly recommend it. Shame is destructive and all of us deserve to treat ourselves and others better.

I can’t wait to see what you sew up!

Iwona fabricandcolor.com

Hi :) I’m Iwona and I am a blogger and illustrator :) I just found your blog, which is interesting and cute:) I really like it :) I would like to show you my blog and my illustrations and If you get a second, I’ d love to hear your thoughts on topic my illustrations and blog:) I greet:)

victoria hero dillman

Thank you for that post! I’ve had such an uncomfortable relationship with my body and body image..It is reassuring to hear stories of acceptance and reassurance.
I look forward to seeing your suit!
Thanks again!

Teegs inkandspindle.com

Sarai!
I have idiopathic scoli, too – which I had a multilevel spinal fusion for at age 14. My body looks pretty straight to to the casual observer, however all I see are my wonky angles, uneven chest, twisted shoulders.. my biggest hang up was my scar – from left hip wrapping around my ribs to my left shoulder blade. I was convinced I was ugly & broken until only a handful of years ago. I understand you entirely. Sewing my own amazing outfits gave me the realisation that I am a freakin’ babe & yes I CAN wear a bikini, because my scar is part of my story. Plus, I ALWAYS win all the scar competitions & I do love telling people that I am a supercool cyborg lady :)
We should all start a club!
Much love to you, my lovely friend xx

Christina

I just had to explain to my eight-year-old son that clothes are meant to fit our bodies, rather than our bodies to fit clothes. He was in tears that a pair of pants didn’t fit and I realized that he was worried he was getting too big.

I’m so sad to have put this on my son. Thank you for another reminder to accept our bodies as they are in this world.

Caryl Anne vidasoleil.com

Thanks for posting this! It’s so difficult to find the perfect suit that complements your own body so well. I am glad to see that the retro look is coming back in style also!

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