Body positivity activist and writer Samantha Steel on how not to fear lycra this summer
swimsuits are for everyone
‘Everybody has a beach body’ is the kind of twee schmaltz that’s great to see on Pinterest, but doesn’t help me at all when December rolls around and I’m left grabbing my stomach in the mirror, trying to choose a swimming costume. I wonder, ‘Which one of these alarmingly revealing bits of Lycra most makes me look like plus-sized model Audrey Ritchie and hides all the wobbly bits I normally cover up with fashion?’ The answer, naturally, is: ‘NONE OF THEM!’ Which is why your approach to swimming costumes has to be totally different from everything else in your closet. Naturally, swimming costumes amp up all body issues, fears, and concerns. The thought of displaying your figure – let alone actually having fun and going for a swim – is often why women turn to unflattering shorts, kaftans, and other creative ways to cover up. It might seem counterintuitive, but wearing swimsuits that are more form-fitting in bold print and have subtle mesh details is more flatting than covering yourself up with baggy shorts and oversized shapes. Let’s face it, though, there are strategic ways to choose costumes that help you look your best when baring it all and emphasising your favourite features, the real challenge with swimwear is having a handful of confidence; laying aside years of self-hatred and body shaming and allowing yourself to feel good in your skin. Karen Furstenberg, plus-sized specialist and former owner of Kaz Lingerie, a local plussize swimming costume and lingerie brand, says that her biggest challenge is encouraging confidence. Easier said than done, right? It’s time we changed the way we talk to ourselves. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend. Treat yourself with that same encouraging kindness and positivity. Clinical psychologist Alexa Young says, ‘We need to evaluate our thoughts with the following: is the way I’m talking to myself now making me feel better or moving me towards a goal, or not?’ She adds that it’s vital to ‘recognise that berating ourselves isn’t going to change a thing. In fact, it will probably make things worse by triggering a whole bunch of tough emotions such as shame and anxiety’. Bring on summer, pool days and confidence because as eye-roll worthy as this sounds, everybody does have a beach body. Enjoy yours. CHOOSING A SWIMSUIT
Karen shares her tips:
• Choose a brand that designs for full figures as they tend to have stronger, more supportive fabric and a wider range of cup sizes. A swimsuit is supposed to be as functional as it is sexy.
• Your breasts have to fit! This is the biggest mistake most women make, most commonly getting a cup size that is way too small. A boutique is your best bet for a professional fitting.
• Ruching and gathers are kind to the appearance of tummies and can be flattering on your curves in all the ways you love.
• Be bold with patterns and colours! Sure, they draw attention, but the magic is in their ability to hide any unwanted lumps or bumps.
• Sheer fabrics are very flattering, because the eye is drawn to parts you choose to show.
• Monokinis and contour panels create a flattering illusion of body shape. • High-waisted bottoms tuck in the tummy and draw the eye to your narrow waist. BRANDS
• Miraclesuit: This top-of-the-range brand is pricey, but well worth it. With good quality fabric, a large range of designs, and a focus on design for larger breasts, you can keep and wear these costumes for several years.
• Moontide: Great for larger cup sizes. • SeaFolly: A wide range of prints and patterns in fabrics to smooth you out, SeaFolly is a great option to try to stay on top of trends.
• Sun Things: This South African brand has merged Jacqueline and Sun Love to form Sun Things, in a truly accessible price range.
TOP, R179, H&M SWIMSUIT, R559, ZARA
BOTTOM, R179, H&M