Ah, summer. The season of cuffed jorts, bonfires, and rollerblading. Honestly, does life get any better than floating in a pool with a margarita?
It’s about this time of year that people go on the hunt for new swimsuits, and this year I’ve started dealing with one of my biggest struggles when it comes to body image: wearing a bikini. Growing up a chubby girl, I’ve been wearing tankinis since I was 12, and while people wear tankinis for many different reasons, I knew that I wore mine because I was embarrassed about my stomach. Finally, last month, I decided to no longer waste any more of my precious fucks on peoples’ opinions of me and my body, and I set out to Target to buy my first bikini in 10 years.
Now, seeing as how I’m super picky when it comes to my clothing (and that the variety of cute tankinis in stores is always very limited), I typically just avoid the swimwear section, and I’d been wearing the same suit for at least 3 summers. Safe to say, I’ve been out of the bathing suit buying game for a while. But I was happy to find that while the horribly unsupportive triangle bikinis are still living it up, bra-like tops with underwire have come back into fashion.
Hallelujah! Busty girls of the world rejoice! Our savior has come to tame our wild ta-tas!
Imagine my surprise when I grabbed the powder blue top I’d been eyeing only to find 2 inches of thick padding on the inside. It was more of a throw pillow than swimsuit. “Well that’s an awful lot of padding,” I thought to myself. “I guess some girls just want a little bit of lift.” Imagine my bigger surprise when I slowly realized that every single underwire bikini had this padding. Every. Single. One.
Facing the looming threat of being stuck with my old suit for yet another summer, I took a couple of the bikinis with the least amount of padding I could find and headed to the fitting room. I mean, really. How bad could it be? It was laughable. Like, I actually laughed (and snorted) out loud. My chest sat about three inches higher than it normally did and my cleavage almost reached my collar bone, creating a smushed crevice that would give a claustrophobe chills. I leaned forward to test the containment capabilities, and, as I suspected, the reflection I saw would have made Janet Jackson blush. I tried one more of the four remaining tops I had chosen before concluding that there was no way any of these options would give me ample coverage while trying to sunbath, let alone doing a cannonball. I changed, snorted again, and left good ole Tarjay.
After spending another hour at the mall, searching high and low from Forever 21 to Victoria Secret and finding nothing but stuffing, I headed home, boobs below my chin, empty handed.
I don’t understand this. I have a large chest. I need support for that chest. Therefore I need underwire. I have a large chest. I don’t need any help making that chest look large. Therefore I don’t need extra padding. Why, then, are the only options that have the support I need stuffed to the brim with padding that pushes my boobs up to my eyeballs?
Maybe my problem is that these suits are marketed towards pre-teen and teenaged girls, and I, as a fully developed 22-year old spinster, don’t fit that demographic. But even if that were true, that begs the question: why are these stores selling bathing suits designed to increase your bust size by two cups to teenaged and pre-teen girls?
Gotta love watching the old “being beautiful means having big boobs” ideology being forced down the throat of the next generation of girls.
Ok. Here’s the deal: If a woman wants to wear five layers of padding in her suit to make her boobs look bigger, she should go for it. If a woman wants to completely cover up with a t-shirt, she should go for it. A woman can wear whatever it is that she wants to wear.
However, when the only options out there are the ones to make a woman look “sexy”, it starts becoming less of a choice and more of a default.
I don’t personally go for the sexy look, at least when it comes to bathing suits. I already have a decent sized chest so whenever I wear any suit that tries to “enhance” cup size, I feel overly exposed, like I’m on display. It’s just not something that I’m comfortable with in a beach/pool environment. I also don’t find it conducive for swimming, which is, I do recall, one of the main purposes of a bathing suit. (Wait, women actually like to go swimming instead of just sunbathing???) So when I can’t find a swimsuit that doesn’t squish my boobs together, I either have to settle for a suit that I don’t particularly like, or I don’t get one at all. It’s very frustrating. And that’s just the busty girls’ problems. If I had a “small” chest, I think I’d been even more pissed. Most of the smalls have so much padding that there isn’t even a pocket for your boobs to go!
This is bullshit.
I’m so sick of being smacked in the face with society’s standard of beauty. We get it: “Women should be attractive. Boobs = attractive. Don’t have boobs? Fix it! Already have boobs? Make them even bigger!” It’s objectifying and dehumanizing, and I could spend a good hour chatting about how harmful these messages are to adolescent girls and women in general. But right now, I’m just gonna be selfish and focus on my shopping problems.
After years of seeing this standard plastered on every billboard, magazine, television channel, and feature film, I’ve pretty much got my exasperated sigh and eye-roll combo down pat. While I would be lying if I said that I am unaffected by these messages, I can identify them and make a conscious effort to, once again, save my fucks and throw up a finger. But when the only bathing suits in stores are designed to alter my chest, when modest versions are not nearly as readily accessible, when the way I want to dress my body isn’t even a tangible possibility, that’s when my fucks start flying.
Note to American retail stores catering to 14-26 year olds: Not every woman wants to look like she has big boobs. Not every woman wants to put her boobs on display. Not every woman prioritizes sexiness in a suit.
Sell those double-stuffed bathing suits. Give me, and other women, the option to flaunt our amazing sexuality. Just give us the option not to, as well. It won’t hurt, I promise. In fact, it’ll probably be easier, given that you can skip the extra materials and the time it takes to add them.
Think about it and get back to me.