A shopping trip makes me notice a major hole in swimwear for girls between ages 13-25. (by the way, all photos are mine)
When summer comes around, the one thing that’s on the minds of many women and girls is a whole lot of BS.
Not the kind of BS that you’re thinking of, but finding the perfect Bathing Suit.
For some girls, bathing suit shopping is a breeze. These girls don’t need to worry about how their suits fit because just about everything will look fine on them. They can totally buy 5-dollar H&M bikinis whenever they want.
However, for most girls – myself included – bathing suit shopping can be closer to a treasure hunt. By “most girls,” I mean those who aren’t model material. I’m not trying to be rude, but it’s true. Hardly anyone can look like Gisele in a bikini.
It’s hard to find a bathing suit that suits me well (pun kind of intended) for multiple reasons. First, there’s my body. I’m not heavy, per se, but I am certainly not thin. My abs are not impressive and my thighs are “meh” at best. I don’t mean to brag, but I have a bigger bust than the average 15-year-old (not saying my bra size, because that’s gross) so I require more support. I’m also a little short.
Then, there’s my parents. My mom has always told me to “preserve my modesty,” and does not let me wear revealing clothes. With my body, it’s not like I can. However, when you’re shopping for something that’s meant to be revealing, like a swimsuit, it can be difficult to find something she likes.
Lastly, most people can relate to this one: the prices. My family is definitely middle class. Spending over a hundred bucks on a piece of waterproof fabric isn’t overly ideal for us – or hardly anyone – for that matter.
I haven’t been able to go swimming much this summer because I didn’t have a bathing suit. So I bit the bullet one hot Monday morning and ventured to the mall with my younger sister. We didn’t plan on buying anything: we were just looking.
We were looking for a one-piece suit, preferably with a high neck, that had great support, enough covering in the back, in a versatile color and style that I would wear and feel stylish in. We were aiming to spend less than $50, but my mom could probably be persuaded to go a spend a little more.
Yes, I had a very specific order, and one-pieces aren’t exactly in style at the moment. So I decided to make this shopping excursion sort of a hunt for the perfect swimsuit.
I wanted to go to plenty of stores, try on plenty of suits, and record the prices for later, so I could show them to my mom.
The first place we went to was Victoria’s Secret. I expected a lot from there when it comes to support, since that’s what it specializes in.
Walking into the store, I was greeted by a cheery sales associate who asked me what I needed. I asked where the one-pieces were, and she led me to the swimming section.
“We have many,” the salesperson said.
The salesperson wasn’t entirely incorrect. There were many one-piece bathing suits. But fabric on the one-pieces? Hardly any. The suits were very skimpy. It was Victoria’s Secret, the land of corsets with angel wings on the back of them.
I ended up getting 4 suits to try on. By the way, I did not take any pictures of me in them, because ew. My body=my business.
Oh, Victoria’s Secret. If only your lighting was as good as your customer service.
The first suit I tried on did not deserve to exist. It was hardly a one piece-just a backless bikini in a tribal print with a strip of fabric connecting each piece (I later learned this was called a “monokini”). When I put it on, I looked like a colorful bundle of logs.
The support was horrible, the back was THIS CLOSE to showing my buttcrack, and let’s just say it wasn’t flattering. The monstrosity was $78.50. Ummmm, no. You know it’s a bad sign when your innocent younger sister says you look like a slut.
The next was a black halter suit with a roundish crochet print. I actually had high-ish hopes for this one. It didn’t seem too bad,and it was only $58.50.
I finally tried it on. I was totally wrong. The support wasn’t half bad, but the back made the first suit seem like a muumuu. It was even lower than the monokini. I’d have to adjust my suit a LOT in the pool. It was a bad idea.
My next suit was white with a high halter neck and a strip of a lighter white, striped fabric going down the middle. The back was low, but hopefully, it would stretch. It was a little expensive for what it was – $78.50 – but my mom would probably fork over the extra 25 bucks if it was a good suit.
The back did not stretch, and the fabric, it turns out, was sheer. It was almost like I was missing a little bit of the center part of the suit, so the support was basically non-existent. This suit was also designed to be worn by a body-positive 20 something heiress to a Las Vegas pool club, NOT an adorkable 15-year-old. That was just an assault waiting to happen.
My fourth and final suit was actually not bad at all. It was a beautiful purple color, had one shoulder, a perfectly covered back, and a great material.
When it was on my body, I loved it. But when I was testing support, my opinion changed a little. I had support on the side with the strap, and obviously none on the side without it. If there’s anything worse than spillage in both boobs, it’s spillage in only one boob. Definitely not worth the $78.
My next store was Urban Outfitters. I didn’t really expect much from there, since I always need GPS to find my way out of the sale section.
It turns out they only had swimwear at their Santa Monica location. So, is a bathing suit now something so special I need to drive an hour away for one?
I then went to American Eagle Outfitters. I’d never been in there before since it’s basically the opposite of my style. But it was right there, so why not?
I asked an associate where their swimsuits were, and he directed me to the back. I asked about one-pieces, and he didn’t know if they had any. That wasn’t necessarily a good sign.
Turns out, their swimwear section was nothing more than a large rack of colorful bikinis. For whatever reason, I forgot to take a picture, so sorry about the vague description.
I moved on to H&M. Their vast swimsuit section was at the bottom level. Since there were so many suits, I had very high hopes.
As I was sorting through hangers upon hangers holding colorful bikinis, I noticed how inexpensive everything was. A two piece was less than $15. If the one-pieces fit right and were as cheap as that, I can get 3 or 4.
After 5 minutes of a fruitless search for one-pieces, my hopes were sagging like an old bathing suit. Finally, at the end of the rack, I discovered another monokini in black. I knew it would NOT work, but I worked so hard to find it, ignoring it would be a crime.
Although it was not expensive at $25, it was more than most of the two pieces. I went to try it on, and it was the most complicated thing ever. It was too hard to describe completely, but let’s say I got stuck so many times that I had to almost call 911.
When I finally figured the thing out, I was completely breathless. The swimsuit was so tight, except where I needed it to be, and so revealing, it was more like a rope with a little spot for a crotch. How could anyone think this is sexy, let alone pull it off?! It practically made me angry.
The next place I went to was Macy’s. I knew their suits would be on the pricier side, but the price could be totally fine thanks to my mom’s extreme couponing.
The section was right by the beauty area, and there was such a large selection of everything. One pieces, bikinis, tankinis, monokinis, weird skirt bathing suits, you name it. It was like a breath of clean, not-so-chlorinated water.
However, not all the one-pieces were speaking to me. All of them had so much ruching on the front of them. This was to hide stomach fat, as the tags boasted. “Look 10 pounds slimmer in 10 seconds!” “Masks ALL fat!” So, were they just assuming that all women who had to wear a one piece was at least 10 pounds overweight? That was more than a little questionable.
I had to see if the magical slimming bathing suits actually worked. I grabbed three of the most tolerable ones and found a fitting room.
The first suit was black with tiny white polka dots. It was draped in such a way that it was meant to slim. When I had it on, I had mixed feelings. I did look a little lighter in my stomach area, and it had a perfectly acceptable back and decent support.
The one thing it lacked was taste. It clearly was designed for a 50-year-old. Also, the price was a little much – $150 – but it was most likely on sale and we could use coupons. But I just wasn’t into the suit at all.
My next suit was a pinkish red, had a flat neck and so much ruching down the center, it almost looked like a striped pattern. It was $78, but it was by Calvin Klein, so the pricing was actually pretty fair.
This suit gave me the exact same results as the other one. It was perfectly flattering, nice and supportive, not too revealing, and did give me the artificial idea that I had a slim figure, but it was just so…old-ladyish. It wasn’t doing it for me.
My final suit was black with a sweetheart neckline, and had less ruching than the previous suit. When I tried it on, it was exactly how I expected it to be – perfect except for the style and price. The suit was very matronly, and was NOT worth the $119 price tag.
My next stop was Hollister. I didn’t necessarily imagine them having what I was looking for because of their unrealistic demographics. How could a regular girl be 16, 6’3, AND 95 pounds without dangerous and painful eating behaviors?
Like I expected, there was only one rack of bikini separates in the back of the dimly lit shop. The prices weren’t half bad, but I knew it was out of the question.
My next store was PINK, also known as Victoria’s Secret’s bubbly yet subtly sexy 13-year-old sister. Maybe they would have more teen-appropriate, less budget-denting one-pieces.
I was very wrong. Their so-called “swim collection” was a bunch of colorful and costly bikinis. So much for that, PINK.
My next stop was Pacsun. I’d never been in a Pacsun before, but I knew they carried Brandy Melville and collections by Kendall and Kylie Jenner. I clearly wasn’t expecting much.
“We have one in the back,” the salesman replied when I asked where the one-pieces were. “I think.”
My expectations weren’t getting any higher as I went to the back. There was actually a one-piece hanging in plain sight, but it was…um, something. Something clearly designed for a Crossfit trainer/rave dancer/celebrity wannabe. It was black and said “Merica” across it. I could tell the back wasn’t far from the buttcrack. Ummm…
I didn’t try on the suit, or even get the price, because it was bound to make me look incredibly thirsty for attention, and be extremely unflattering.
I then trekked to Abercrombie and Fitch. I knew I would be out of there before I could get in, since I was not in their overly specific, overly unrealistic demographic.
I was right. There was a very small, bikini-laden section in the back, much like their younger, cooler sister Hollister.
My search was becoming more and more unsuccesful, and I had been at it for a few hours now. Then, I stumbled upon every girl’s mecca: Forever 21. The store at my mall was particularly large, so I had highish expectations.
The swimsuit section was displayed loud and proud at the front of the store near a large window.
The section here was reminiscent of H&M: large, colorful, and cheap-but only when it came to bikinis. I eventually found a monokini that I knew would not work, but I felt obligated to try it on, since I hunted for that thing.
I was literally having the exact same experience as H&M, lone monokini included. I went into the fitting room, already knowing what would happen.
The suit’s design was a little weird. It was a screen print of a picture from a beach that looked like Santa Monica with buildings in the background, sand, a blue ocean, and an even bluer sky.
There were also a lot of people on the suit. Like, you could see their faces. Were they a bunch of Forever 21 models, or was this just some random photograph? Did these people know they would be on the boobs on a prepubescent teen? Hmmm…
I finally tried on the thought-provoking suit. It was my third monokini of the day. I had already established that I wasn’t fond of that style, because it would make anyone look like some glamorous bound and gagged corpse in a punk music video. I was a total Monokin-andrist, which is a thing. Don’t argue with me.
But this one wasn’t nearly as bad as its predecessors. It was definitely more of a one-piece. The back was just hardly existent and the support was not all that great. Plus, the halter tie was bound to come undone.
On the contrary, the weird picture graphic thing was kind of growing on me, and the perfect price of $23 actually made me a little happy. But the suit was a little more revealing than it should be. It would clearly not resonate with my mom.
After Forever 21, I went to Gap, another store I’ve had hardly any experience with. But the store will probably be extinct in 5 years, so it was a good idea to go there while it lasted.
It turns out they didn’t have swimsuits at their location. Seriously, Gap?
I headed to my second department store, Nordstrom. At a store that has separate designer boutiques in it, I didn’t really think the prices would be suitable, but it was worth a try.
When I got to the ladies swimwear section, I was greeted with a very large selection of bathing suits of all different kinds, just like at Macy’s.
I found five super stylish one-pieces in the ladies section. I then went to BP, the somewhat pricey junior’s section, to see if they had anything.
A bubbly employee greeted me. I asked her where the one piece swimwear was, and she led me to a circular rack of, you guessed it, bikinis. “We do have one,” the salesgirl said.
Seven minutes later, she resurfaced with one of the ugliest bathing suits I’d ever seen. It was light pink with neon green accents. I had to take it, since she clearly put in a lot of work finding it.
I went into a fitting room. The first suit I tried on was a black one that was simple in the front, and had a back that was almost entirely a striped caged pattern.
The suit fit fine in the front with good-enough support, but the caged pattern sagged on my back a lot. I could see a lot of awkward striped sunburns in my future. It wasn’t worth the 68 dollars.
My next suit was another “slimming” one like they had at Macy’s. It was black, had a large amount of ruching, and had a gold zipper going down the front.
I was pleasantly surprised when I put it on. Not only was it stylish, but it fit so well. Perfect support, perfect back, perfect everything. The zipper didn’t go that far, but it wasn’t supposed to. I felt – and looked – like a fit bodybuilder.
But then, I had to consider the price. It was $158. Couponing at Macy’s was one thing, but it was another at Nordstrom. I knew the suit was out of the question, even though it was by far the best thing I’d tried on that day.
My next suit was a higher necked blue and black mesh wetsuit style with a zipper. It was extremely cute. I had seen one just like this by Zimmerman, but it was $460. This one was still expensive at $92, but if it was as good as the other one, maybe I could get my mom to buy it.
When I had the suit on, it was good, but certainly not OMG THIS IS SO PERFECT I WILL SPEND ALMOST $100 on it. For a high neck, the support was “meh,” and although I looked cute, there was no need to dent my mom’s budget for this.
My next suit was black and had a pattern that looked like geometric flowers cut out in it. The suit was most definitely meh. The support was alright, the back was fine, and the suit fit me well, but I could do better. At $138, it was a no-go.
I then tried on a white suit that had a tribal cut-out pattern. I found it to be more of a monokini since it had almost no back. The support wasn’t that great, either, and white was always a questionable color. I was not going to spend $118 on it.
I finally tried on the hideous teen suit. At $28.80 on sale, it was by far the most affordable, and the most complicated. The back was a complicated series of straps. I think it was supposed to be strapless with a cage pattern in the back, but I’m still not sure.
Although I was hesitant to leave the cute black suit, none of them worked for me.
The next store I stumbled upon was a place called Swimspot. Clearly I had high expectations for this place, because of its namesake. I just had no idea about the prices, since I’d never been there before.
Inside, I saw plenty of cute bathing suits of all different kinds. I picked out three different one pieces.
The first one was another wetsuit style in navy blue, white, and red. It was most definitely my favorite suit of the day. It was stylish, extremely flattering, very supportive, super soft and comfy, and… 108 bucks.
UGH WHY DID THE PRICE HAVE TO BE SO HIGH?! I’M NOT KIM KARDASHIAN!!!! I CAN’T JUST FORK OVER SO MUCH MONEY FOR A PIECE OF WATERPROOF FABRIC!!!!!!!
OK, sorry about that.
Downtrodden, I tried on the next suit, which was in an outlandish metallic rose gold. Perfect for my Sexy Michael Kors Watch Halloween costume. I actually found myself liking the style of the suit. It was not too revealing and had great support. It was just the color and the steep price of $124.
My final swimsuit was black with a flowy top part and rhinestones at the waist. At $198, it was probably the most expensive thing I’ve ever put on my body.
There was hardly anything on the back. It was way too revealing. I felt like J-Lo, but not in a good way.
I was very sad to leave the cute wetsuit style one piece, since it was so perfect. But I knew the price was out of the question.
I felt pretty rich trying these on
I headed over to my final stop, American Apparel. I had never been a fan of that store, since it was clearly meant for hipster twigs. Their clothes were often pretty revealing. But they always have large selections.
The selection of one-pieces was actually pretty vast. There were some suits that were a clear no (monokini with an American flag pattern), but I found a few that weren’t bad.
The first swimsuit was black and almost seemed like it had a bra built into it. I knew the support wouldn’t be bad.
I was totally wrong. It was clearly meant for a girl with very small boobs, AKA not me. I couldn’t even get it onto my chest. At $68, it was a no.
The next suit was black and had a sheer strip of fabric down the middle. The support was I fine, but you could see my boobs. Also, there wasn’t much back. The price was perfectly acceptable at $50, but it was still a bad suit.
My final swimsuit of the day was very simple. It was black with a halter neck. It also had a very low back. It was so low, that it showed my buttcrack. Although the price was good at $45, the suit was not.
It was 5:30. I knew I needed to stop looking. I had gone to 14 different stores, tried on 21 different suits, and not one was just right. They were either too revealing, too unflattering, too expensive, or too matronly.
Also, I had no idea how hard it would be to find a stylish one-piece at teen stores like Hollister and Pink. It’s very easy to craft a one piece out of your bikini fabrics.
So, from this experience, I have decided to write an open letter to all retail stores for women and girls, or at least the ones I went to.
Dear all clothing places where teenage females are likely to shop,
I have been noticing a discrepancy in your selections of swimwear for summer 2015. You have lacked one-piece swimsuits that are just right for the average American teenage girl.
By “average,” I mean a girl who is not necessarily supermodel material, wants something that flatters her, is on a budget, and doesn’t want to wear something so revealing that cat-calling is a problem, but doesn’t want to look like a granny.
You seem to cater to only skinny, sexy girls, who are allowed to wear revealing suits (which, no matter what you think about yourself, is hardly any of us) by only selling skimpy bikinis.
Look, I don’t have a perfectly flat stomach, small breasts, or an all around perfect body. A bikini is probably not a good idea for me.
Some girls are a little bigger, which is perfectly fine. If I had such a struggle looking for the perfect suit, I know others have had the same problem.
When we do find decent one-pieces, there are always some catches. The prices are always too high. I know it’s because of quality, but in reality, swimsuits are just an artful piece of waterproof fabric.
At some places, there are issues with the styles. A suit might be flattering, but it is NOT stylish for a teenager.
Also, I have something to say about those “miracle suits” that are designed to make your stomach fat look invisible by adding way too much ruching. I know whoever designed them meant well, but having these one-pieces that promise to do this basically assumes that every person who wears a one-piece needs to rely on carefully placed ruching in order to look skinny and are too lazy to work out.
Anyways, at the “cheap stores” like H&M and Forever 21, you guys had adorable, inexpensive bikinis, which are making you guys tons of money.
It’s not hard to do the same with one-pieces. I don’t want to hear that they aren’t style: you guys have the power to make them in style! You’re the biggest thing for teenage girls at the moment. Plus, a lot more people would like you if you embraced all types of bodies. Believe me, it’s cool to do that.
So, retail stores, start selling more one-pieces for spring and summer 2016. Doing this will get you much more of a following from girls who are truly average.
If you decide not to, which will most likely be the case, then fine. You’ll just keep wrecking teenage girls’ confidence and make them feel like they can’t be stylish, much like you did for me.
An average teen with an opinion who is speaking for 90 percent of the female population.