Bikini as Object Lesson

I’ve said many times that I’m a fairly modest gal. Not afraid to show off the bits I’m proud of, by any stretch … but also not interested in revealing tons of skin or wearing super tight duds. And, as such, I always figured that one-piece swimsuits were my only option. They generally offered the most coverage, and always felt like the best bet for someone who wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible whilst paddling ’round the pool.

But one-piece suits do nothing for me. OK, strike that, they do all sorts of things for me, but all of them are BAD. They flatten my already-teensy boobs, they mask my smallish waist, they cut into my hip-flab in a most unsightly manner, and when I disguise that by wearing board shorts, I just look like a tree trunk. A flat-chested, waistless tree trunk paddling unhappily ’round the pool.

So, for years, I assumed that looking and feeling crappy in a swimsuit was simply my lot. I mean, what non-model feels good in a swimsuit, right? Non-model-Sal feeling this way was, undoubtedly, normal. And I never swam much anyway, so it didn’t bother me. Not much.

Several months ago, Husband Mike got fed up with waiting for me to finish my admittedly lengthy gym workouts, and decided to start swimming in the gym pool to kill time. And he kinda loved it, and started prodding me to join him. But I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to put on my tree trunk costume and climb into the water to paddle unhappily around.

But then it dawned on me: I actually do enjoy swimming, I just don’t enjoy how my body has always looked in swimsuits. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past few years it’s that changing what you wear can drastically change how you feel about your body. So I went questing for a new suit.

I have sweet upper abs. I do. I also have a spare tire, so a traditional bikini wasn’t something I wanted to wear. But I knew that a structured bikini TOP would probably work better for my bod than the ol’ boob-flattener. And I figured that if I could find some shorts that sat a bit higher on my waist than my old voluminous board shorts, I’d be in business. I was lucky enough to find a padded bikini and these tap-pant-like shorts at Opitz on my first suit-questing outing.

And Sports Illustrated isn’t breaking down my door to get photos of my pasty-white ass, and there are plenty of gals wandering around the pool in actual bikinis who look far more toned and slender than I. But I feel comfortable and confident and GOOD when I wear this suit to swim. I don’t worry about my body, or fret about being stared at, or think about anything other than getting from one end of the pool to the other without sucking in a gallon of chlorinated water.

For me, this is the ultimate testament to clothing’s power to alter self-perceptions, and even influence actions. I mean seriously, friends, I never in a bajillion years thought I’d wear a bikini. Never ever. For crying out loud, I’ve got butt-cellulite and a poochy tummy and lots of unruly body hair in unfortunate places. But my modified bikini makes me look better than I ever have in a swimsuit, and that makes me FEEL better than I ever have about my body when I’m swimming. I found a suit that covers all of the areas of my body that I am least comfortable with, and shows off all of the areas that I am most proud of. And now, I am empowered to wear it, feel awesome, and partake of an activity that I have avoided my entire life.

You can change your body if you want to. You can change its shape and size, reconfigure where it is large and small, get rid of textures and add new ones. But you can also change how your body looks simply by learning to dress to accentuate your favorite features. I mean, I still have that spare tire and that cellulite … but all you see when I wear this suit is the waist, the upper abs, the legs. My body is the same, but I still changed how it appears just by changing my clothes.

This is not to say that there is a swimsuit out there that will make every last one of you feel like a goddess of the waters. Swimsuits are hard, and I am fully aware that I really, really lucked out with mine. But perhaps my experience with this particularly tricky garment can serve as a more general object lesson: Clothes are powerful tools, and how you dress can have a huge impact on how you feel about your body. Learning to dress to your figure is an investment in confidence and happiness.

I never swam much because I hated how I looked in a suit. Now, I don’t swim much because swimming is HARD, but I could do if I wanted to because I feel fabulous in my new suit.

Now I just need to find an outfit that will make me want to clean the bathtub …

Next Post
Previous Post

64 Responses to “Bikini as Object Lesson”

  1. Laura.

    ha! i love it. very good lesson, and you look so great in your sal-kini! you're totally rocking the minnesota pale.


    …Sal-Kini coming to the nearest stores around you ladiesss!!!

  3. Christina Lee

    you bikini goddess you! ya know, I never liked swimming either- but when you ahve kids you are FORCED to enter the water with them b/c you have to watch them like a hawk- so I had to throw away my modesty AND find a suit I like!

  4. BAM

    YEAH! I love it. This summer has been full of pool parties and I've been trying to find that perfect suit. It's out there and I'm getting closer. In the meantime, I've figured out that everyone else is so self-conscience that no one is actually looking at my little pooch. Have fun swimming!

  5. kpriss

    Lovely as always! I load your page and there you go, smiling, wearing a bathing suit, beautiful! :*

    now now! You know what's the secret to pimp my flatchested bathing suit self? (after breastfeeding three kids, it's not the glory chestday anymore so I had to find something to make that beach body work) That wonderful Husband of mine I'll adore into the afterlife and beyond found me this triangle bikini (two pieces, pink with a tiny bouquet embroided on the bikini and the top too). Reaaaalllllly small! What I mean is that if you cover yourself in the smallest way (but too tight or it turns out really ugly and disgraceful), things appear larger. fuller. incredible! remember – triangle-shaped bathing suit tiny bra. Careful, not for swimming purposes 😉

    oh, on a side note – the triangular shape also works for the flatbuttoxed (like myself)…

  6. The Barely Tattoo'd Artist

    Thanks for the uplift in the swimsuit area…for the first time in years, I bought a swimsuit…

    I love swimming, but since I preferred two pieces to one…let's just say I wasn't too comfortable in my post-puberty body (I used to be rail thin, afterwards, I've got curves, stretchmarks, etc…)…but after reading this makes me want to go the public pool…

    My husband will be happy…he's a swimmer like me…

  7. Clare

    Golly DAMN, woman, you do have incredible upper abs!! Congrats on finding a suit to suit you (hehe…); I'm still on my quest to find a clare-kini (if you see one, let me know!)

  8. Claire

    You look slamming!! And finding the right suit is necessary. I like onepieces, I feel sleek like a dolphin, but I figured now was the time to wear a bikini. And you're right, they're much more flattering on the body.

    Everyone else (female) is so paranoid about how they look that they don't notice other women. And men don't notice ANYWAY.

    Pale is interesting dammit!! This summer, I decided I wasn't even going to pretend and wasn't even going to use the "moisturiser that builds up a tan".

  9. Kristen

    I think too many women think they can't wear a bikini and end up looking dumpy in a suit that covers them up too much. i rocked a bikini when i was 9 months pregnant and i'm already wearing one this summer after having my daughter last september. yay bikinis!!

    (by the way, you look super cute!)

  10. Miss Peregrin

    You look great! Congratulations on finding a swimsuit that makes you feel awesome about yourself.

  11. budgetchic

    Girl, you are better then me, when I go to the beach I wear a T-Shirt and shorts! I don't own one piece of swimwear! LOL

  12. Sheila

    You look amazing, but even better is that you feel amazing! As another recent convert to a bathing suit, good for you for perservering and finding a suit that fits and makes you feel great.

    Awesome abs, m'dear!

  13. WendyB

    Nice abs, beyotch!!! You look great. I agree, it's much easier to find a bikini that fits than a one-piece.

  14. Mona

    Glad you love your bikini and yourself in it, and rightly so! Do you have any issues with the padding soaking up water? I own a padded bikini and I still have to come up with an inconspicuous move to squeeze the water out.

    P.S. I recently found a nice one-piece after realizing that my torso is simply too long for the normal sizes. No more boob squishing after I got a tall size (on sale even), the right size matters a lot.

  15. Sal

    Mona: Oh my GOSH yes. It took me ages to realize I absolutely had to put that top in the suit-spinner dealy or I was gonna exit the gym with two large water stains on the front of my hoodie!

  16. smaro

    Great! Love the colour of the shorts on you too! One piece suits are really the most unflattering things ever, even olympic swimmers look like flat tubes in them, albeit super tall, slim tubes with sculpted shoulders.

    One thing I think may work for creating curves-those cut-out suits. Any thoughts on that? I have learnt to like bikinis though my anxiety is pasty skin and bikini ties that come undone when you seductively rise from the waters!!

    When I swim lengths though, I still prefer my trusty one piece Speedo. I managed to find one with contrasting side panels starting from the shoulder and tapering in giving me the illusion of a waist and making my boob area look at bit more substantial at least front on. The colour also suits me and covers butt cellulite!

  17. H. Brown

    love that cute top! looks totally adorable AND functional.

  18. Kelly

    Yay! So awesome that you found a suit you like. And that bikini top is Hot!

  19. Barb

    Not sure any of these are as fab as the Sal-kini, but as a longtime fan of water aerobics, I want to throw in a shout out for my favorite swimwear. H2Owear has great suits that hold all the parts in and offer coverage. I've got the basic scoopback right now, but loved my unitank — yeah, a swimsuit with bike-short legs.
    (My only complaint about the company is the suits don't wear out, therefore not giving me an excuse to buy a new one).

  20. Nina (Femme Rationale)

    kudos to you for being comfortable enough to post these pics. you look great and you have every right to be happy with your body! i am not a fan of 1 piece suits, either. i have the same issues with them as you.

  21. Spandexpony

    Ooo… you definitely do have great upper abs! Never thought of creating my own bikini! Although, in junior high I wore a bikini top and boardshorts but then got mercilessly made fun of, now that I think of it. Blech! I've always wanted one of those slick looking one-pieces, but alas I am possessed of a long torso— I can never wear one-pieces or rompers, etc, so I gots to wear a bikini… which I really haven't in a couple of years. Maybe I need to take advantage of some summer sales coming up here….

  22. Diana

    You know you just wanted to show off your awesome Sal-kini 😉

    I'd never thought of the fact that there could be a swim suit out there that flatters my body. This post actually makes me want to swimsuit shop, which is something I normally dread.

  23. Leigh

    You look great!! 🙂 I have yet to go swimming this year and now I think I will take a day off this week and do just that.

    Have a wonderful Monday !

  24. Hanako66

    you look amazing….check out your abs!!! good for you, that is such a cute suit!

  25. lisa

    Nice work! And you really have terrific upper abs, Sal.

    I never thought I was a bikini person until I went to Mexico, where it was so bloody hot on the beach I wanted to wear as little clothing as possible lol.

  26. La Belette Rouge

    I haven't been to the pool once this summer as I hate how I look in my swimsuit and I refuse to shop for a new one. I keep telling myself that no one cares how I look in my suit and yet I am still a landlubber because of my suit phobia.

  27. rb

    Do you swim in the shorts or are they your coverup? Interesting idea. I wear a tankini (it's a requirement- you have to buy one as soon as you have your first kid) but where I need more coverage, behind me, is just as bare as if I were wearing a bikini. I have a friend who just refuses to think about what's behind her, but I have not been fortunate enough to have her powers of belief suspension.

  28. Sal

    rb: I do wear the shorts when I swim. I know it makes me WAY less aerodynamic, but I'm already a hilariously slow swimmer so I'm not fussed!

  29. Casey

    *whistles* You really rock that bikini, Sal! Bravo for you!!! Swimsuits have long been my arch enemy–especially one piece types (I have the same problem as you with things getting squished in the least flattering way! ;). I recently found, however, that I can wear a well-fitting bikini too. It's more of the traditional type, so sometimes I feel that my upper legs are a bit too exposed (but then again I live in FL, and really, the little bit I expose is quite modest compared to some on the beach… haha!). I still am dying to get a retro, 40s/50s style swimsuit with the waist high bottoms. But for right now, it's been a great feeling to finally not fear going to the beach or pool! 😉

  30. Kari

    Looks great!

    I love to swim, but I have no bathing suits that I like. I can't find any affordable suits that actually fit and support enough on top so I have been making do with crummy fit.

    I've resigned myself to the fact that unless I find a marvelous end of season deal, I may need to wait until next summer when I can afford to spend $100 or more on a suit. 🙁

  31. Courtney

    Good for you! You look fantastic!

    I don't have links at my fingertips, but there are several bathing suit companies that offer "make your own" bikini styles. You choose from several different types of tops and bottoms to make the most flattering combination for you. There is almost always a skirted bottom option, which would function much like the shorts you have in the picture.

  32. Rosie Unknown

    Go Sal for finding your suit! I'm still searching, but I think it involves a vintage inspired one piece: Structures, padded, and with a tight little skirt thing.

  33. pretty face

    Wow Sal, not only are you confident enough to SWIM in your bikini, you're confident enough to post the pics on the internet! Go you!

    Seriously, I love that idea, although the top couple of photos did freak me out a little with the lack of belly button 😉 x

  34. Imogen Lamport

    Great abs!

    I have to say, that in the Australian sunshine (which is some of the most fierce in the world), and having kids who I insist wear a rashie (swimming t-shirt) and board shorts (like what you've got on), I dont' feel I can wear any sort of swimmers that don't cover me up neck to knees either!

    I can't even wear an old fashioned one piece anymore because of the whole melanoma issue!

  35. valerie

    you are a bold woman–bikini on the internet! love it!

  36. dapper kid

    So glad you managed to crack swimwear, I swear it must be the hardest to do. Everybody feels self conscious when going swimming, but I completely agree with you – if you are wearing something you feel good in, it makes all the difference! I still hate going swimming, but body issues being worked on as we speak though 🙂 Hope you had a lovely weekend.

  37. Nadine

    Go Sal! (It wasn't till I started reading the comments that I even realised you were pale – you look good like that!)

    The irritating thing about figure-type advice for swimsuit selection is – what if the LEGS are the problem? I wore bike-pants style togs for years, then I lost weight so I wear boyleg pants and a racerback nylon sports bra, and a rash vest because my chest ALWAYS burns.

  38. daddylikeyblog

    You are amazing! And you're so right about more fabric not equalling more flattering. Way to go and rock the bikini, girl!

  39. ebinbaby

    I'm a faithful bikini and board shorts gal too!! It's the only way I can make a bathing suit fit. We're similar in shape except I have the opposite problem in the chest area. It is nearly impossible for me to find a one piece that fits my curvage yet isn't saggy in the mid section.
    I buy my bikini's at the same specialty shop where I buy my bras which means the tops offer a lot of much needed support and the bottoms are sold separately to allow for perfect fit. This is important even if I wear shorts over them to prevent the dreaded dents or muffin top from the wrong sized bottoms 🙁

  40. Cecilia

    Good job finding something that both looks great on you and makes you feel great about yourself 🙂 This summer I'm 8 months pregnant, and while I have never been happy with my body in a swimsuit, and even thought this pregnancy has stretched *everything*, I have decided that I'm just too hot to care and if anyone minds the way I look, they can just leave or put up with it. I will still be enjoying the pool/beach 🙂

  41. Pretty Little Pictures

    Whoa lady, look at you go!! You look absolutely gorgeous and should wear bikinis everyday – personally, its a little chilly here to pull out mine, but i am feeling some inspiration!!

  42. Pranita

    Sal-kini!! 😀

    The first swimsuit I bought was more like a surfer's suit, black t-shirt-like top and cycling-shorts like bottom. But the top does not feel good, nor look good. Good luck had me meet a two-piece funky blue and white patterned halter neck top (padded, woohoo!)with a solid blue bottom. The top's great, but the bottom has this mini ruffle thingee going on at the waist band, which I'm not sure about.

    Umm, haven't had a chance to wear it outside yet! Still haven't learned how to swim properly 😀

    After all that gabbing, what i want to ask you is: do you think halter necks also work? I think board shorts look great, i've always loved the surfer chick look!

  43. Magatha-May

    Thank you Sal for posting this.

    For years and years I wouldn't go to the pool or the beach because I hated wearing a swimsuit. I hated one pieces, I tried the Sal-kini but my soft hips left me feeling very muffin topped, and would never be seen in public in a regular bikini.

    But last year I said 'Stuff it'. If I feel this self conscious about it then maybe most other women on the beach feel the exact same way and are too busy lying in a strategic position to hide their tums to care about what I'm wearing. So I went for it! And I loved the feel of sun on my skin, I felt great and sexy and like a woman should.

    You inspired me to put up a small post on

    hugs and thanks, M

  44. Make Do Style

    Great upper abs!
    Bikinis are so hard to find but worth it when you get your look!

  45. Hammie

    You do look fabou-lous and I am very envious of your Ginger Rogers Tap pants pants.

    I can also reccommend the halter top as an enboobener for swimming. The way you tie it is very shoulder enhancing and can create a little cleavage. That said my swim suit requirements are based on not falling off when dragged at by children. So I tend towards a speedo for indoor swimming and then the boardies with rashie top for holiday swims in Spain. I have the Décolletage of a girl who grew up in Australia in the 80s (go figure) and I don't want to end up lookin like the auld wan in "something about Mary" So I cover it up.


    ps. What is it about old guys at the pool and little speedos? is there some kind of decreasing ratio formula b/w the amount of years you have been on the planet, and the amount of lycra you are prepared to cover yourself with?

  46. christine

    thats exactly what I wear (when I wear a bathing suit!)! a bikini top and swim shorts…..i wouldn't wear anything else my tum is too poochy after six kids , but my upper abs are pretty good and I have boobage still. LOL
    you look great!!!!!


    I also love to swim! I used to do it for years!!! You are in a great shape, for sure!!!!
    I am happy for you :))
    You are shining!

  48. Eyeliah SS

    Great story!! I love the structured bikini tops like that (two straps not a halter!) and bikini bottoms with thick sides, that aren't so they sit on my hips not pull them in. or with the tie sides so you can adjust the sides. Boy shorts and shorts tend to look bulky on me.

  49. Audi

    I'm amazed that with all your savvy about dressing your bod, you've not hit on the 2-piece long ago, because it's certainly flattering on you!

  50. deanna

    LOVE this post! I wear my bikinis with peasant skirts or pareos. Makes me feel very glam and covers everything I don't want displayed. (And yes, you have rockin' abs, girl!)

  51. Margaret

    Sal, you rock! And you know how I think about it: when I get "old" whenever that may be (and I am staring 51 in the face) I am pretty sure I will regret time spent out of the sun/beach/ocean/pool due to swimsuit issues. And regret is a bitter pill. Better to don the bikini (which every woman in Europe dons except very old grandmothers) and get on with LIFE!

  52. tula

    You are a hottie, Miss Sally!!!

    I look horrible in one-piece suits because i'm so short. They are all too long in the waist. It's bikini for this shorty!


    I now have a nice straight swim skirt – not ruffley, so I don’t feel like a circus elephant, but “athletic”. I got mine at Winners, but you can also get them from Lands’ End online. And, Lands’ End has gotten so with it in the past couple of years, they actually sell swim shorts. Three different lengths!

    And I too often swim in quick-dry shorts with a tankini top – it’s so nice to be able to bend over unselfconsciously.

    My mom has always been overweight and is so self conscious about her body, she would never go swimming with us. I vowed that no matter how large I got, I would never let it stop me from having a swim (I’m a devoted water lily). And it hasn’t!

    Thanks for the reinforcement!

  54. Jessica Schiermeister

    I’ve always been really tiny, but also always had stomach flab. I don’t mind it so much, but it makes wearing bikinis uncomfortable for me. So, my freshman year in undergrad, I invested in a vintage inspired one-piece. And it is possibly the best thing I own.

  55. Slauditory

    I’m all about the shorts, too! Like another reader above, I also find that string bikinis plus small shorts equals much better looking body, rolls or no rolls. It’s less elastic cutting into body parts, making that fat illusion happen.

  56. Heather

    For me it is a bikini top and (because my hips allow it) boys board shorts. I don’t mind most parts of my body but I don’t want to turn down a day at the beach because my grooming needs a touch up.

    I’ve been swimming like this for decade and doubt I will ever change it!