July 1, 2014

A wet issue

As I've mentioned before, I'm usually not much of a swimmer. I really need my glasses, chlorine gives me headaches and I get sun burned easily. Those things conspire to make me neither a keen visitor of the swimming pool nor the beach. 
And as a result of that, me making swimwear has been as much about pattern making and sewing exercise as about the result. 

My retro bathing suit is the prime example of that. It looks great but I only really wore it once, and then I found out the leg elastic was really a bit too tight. Not very surprising considering that I made that thing after only a couple of lingerie muslins...

I made these bikini's two years ago, with the intention to use them. I wore the one with the bandeau top under my wetsuit when we went rafting last year.

And then, a week before my holiday this year, I dug it out again. The weather was warm and I needed a break from work. And I had decided that a bit of swimming in the sea would be just the thing.
It was only then that I discovered the weakness of this bikini: That strapless body doesn't stay up when you're moving against the current. After every stroke, I had to pull up. 

For our holiday, I tried on the other bikini, hoping it would perform better... Well, not so much. Remember that breast growth thing? That was after I made these bikini's. I had noticed the bandeau didn't fit that great anymore. I should have remembered that other bikini was a bit tighter to start with... I couldn't maneuver that drawstring front in anything near to a decent position anymore.
Fortunately, I was in a wetsuit again for this holiday's water activities, so I could still wear the bandeau bikini. 

I'll have to address the situation though. I'd like to have a swimsuit I can actually use for swimming. I tried some on in a store to get a bit of an idea. RTW bikini bottoms still have that very low rise, tops and one pieces come in endless variety.
And then I realized: there are bathing suits for beach beauties and there are swimsuits for sports swimmers. And the latter and basically only sold in sports stores and the sports departments of department stores while the former are sold by lingerie stores and some fashion chains. 
Beach beauty suits often have foam cups and regularly lack proper shoulder straps, while the sports suits tend to be cut high on the chest and have compression shelf bra constructions (if they have any special bust treatment at all) 
Again, the world of RTW doesn't look very appealing to me. I has opened my eyes though.
I may not be a sportswoman, I'm even less of a beach beauty. If I want to be able to go for a swim, I'll have to think about functionality. Both bikini bottoms are still perfectly fine but I will have to make a top which is the right size, has a stable closure (not just ties) and real shoulder straps. I may just make a triangle bikini top which sticks to those rules and see from there (unfortunately, the 'bikini tops' page of Pattern School doesn't load, I hope it will again later).
Another item for my to-sew list...

What surprises me, is that, despite the amount of swimwear sewing I've seen on sewing blogs, I haven't read anything about functionality vs. looks issues. I wonder why. 
Is this something regular swimwear wearers are aware of, so they pick the right styles for their use without the need to think or talk about it? Or am I just a bit over-sensitive about the issues with my swimwear?
I'd like to know what you think about making and wearing different styles swimwear...


  1. I love the look of your swimwear. I'm all about functionality myself. I don't do much swimming at all these days but I have three little peeps that I chase around. I purchased a 'pretty' pair a few years ago (when I was still buying RTW). I ended up ditching it at the end of the season. It was just unpleasant worrying about straps falling off and flashing all the time. I went back to a pair of good old one piece Speedos in a bright happy colour and they are still going strong - which is probably the only reason I haven't sewn myself a pair of togs to date...I don't need any right now, because for me they are functional, not fashion (I should probably also say I may have skewed views because I spent every waking hour in racing togs until the age of 20 when I was swimming competitively). So if I were to sew a pair, it would most likely be a very plain (kwik sew style) pair rather than all the other lovely bombshell-type versions out there (which to me, appear as though they would drag a bit of water when swimming).

  2. great post and so true! For surfing, active swimming in the water (like snorkeling) I use a cross back bikini top (some come with back ties on the cross some do not). And, I normally wear bottoms in that situation low with tie in the front if I can. If I'm at the pool, swimming lanes I wear RTW speedo, TYR, etc. If I'm looking fashionable anything goes (so I can make these). I've found I haven't been able to make the sporty kind I like yet -- but I love your bathing suits but would recommend a cross back of some sort (bikini) top for sporting adventures!

  3. Try this for Bikini Tops menu page of Stretch Pattern School on web archive: http://web.archive.org/web/20111012055501/http://www.patternschool.com/?page_id=309

    Sometimes you have to go back to an earlier archive capture to get pages to load fully. It seems like not every capture catalogs every page in full.

    As for form vs function, you might want to read the intro on Leotard Block which talks about the difference between fashion swimwear vs active swimwear / dancewear: http://web.archive.org/web/20111012042256/http://www.patternschool.com/?page_id=306

    The Principle Stretch Direction page gives the different negative ease used for dancewear vs general surfwear vs high fashion swimwear: http://web.archive.org/web/20111222011715/http://www.patternschool.com/?page_id=9

  4. My brother and I swam a lot as kids. My mom made most our suits. Even when I transitioned to needing "pretty" over "functional" suits, Mom made them. Actually, the 4 suits I own now were all cut out by me and made by Mom. My first sewing lesson was, "if you want me to make it, you trace and cut", still a good deal :)
    Anyway, I think if you tend to be a functional swimmer, then you reach for something speedo based so it stays on! I've never even truly considered the concept of a "functional" bikini. Then again, I do flip turns and dives and I don't like the idea of my bottoms coming off.
    Maybe you can come up with something more Fun and Functional. I think actually that's what "cutaway" suits are supposed to be. Your basic speedo pattern with most of the belly gone...

  5. Ideally a pair of bathers has to be both functional as well as attractive! admittedly I don't do a heck of a lot of sports swimming but my bathers do hold up to doing laps and rough ocean swimming. My favourite style which I keep turning to over and over again is a tankini, with a long line halter neck top that looks almost like a little dress, worn over bikini bottoms. I guess I've never addressed the issue in my blog posts on my bathers because although they perfectly suit me and my needs and tastes, I haven't even thought about talking about "why" they do :)

  6. When I first discovered that Pattern School had disappeared, I copied a lot of the pages from webarchive just in case it completely went - I can email you copies if you want?

    As for form vs function when it comes to swimwear... If I'm doing "proper" swimming, or anything that is a bit active, I tend to wear a one-piece. For sunbathing and messing around in the water then I wear a bikini. All my swimwear is currently RTW, but I'm working on making some to actually fit me properly - I desperately need a comfortable bikini top that actually fits me properly and doesn't need to be rearranged constantly! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with for some inspiration :)

  7. Interesting post! I'm always surprised when looking at swim tops how few of them look like you could actually swim in them. I bet dawn at two on two off has reviewed some Jalie bikinis; i also wonder if Melissa (fehrtrade.com) 's XYT running top would work as a bikini top for swimming? It uses powermesh as an optional compression bra.