The real deal behind swimsuit shopping.
Summer is here and that means it’s time to seek refuge from the higher temps with cute summer outfits like flip flops, swimsuits, and cut off shorts. It also means women have to uncover a lot of hidden hurts they stuff away in the leggings, sweaters, and layers of winter clothing, and deal with the annual “get my summer body ready” craze. While I will absolutely be talking about some amazing affordable swimsuits and cute summer outfit ideas for all body types, I’m also going to be unpacking all the thoughts women process when faced with the pressure of showing skin that isn’t always labeled as perfect.
Let me start off by saying that I know the struggle is real when it comes to finding an affordable swimsuit. For what ever the reason might be, those tiny articles of clothing can cost more than your entire winter wardrobe. I went through a phase where the most high end swim wear I was attracted to was costing me well over $100. It made me feel good when I put it on. It was Gap, or from Nordstrom, and even higher end than that, and of course they were incredible but lets face it, there is no such thing as having one swim suit. There is a swim suit for laying out with friends, one for taking your kids to the pool, and the one you reserve for pool side parties. Add all that up with the sun hat, pool cover up, and sandals and you’re looking at $500 for one summer outfit. When you really stop and look at it, maybe you have the money to be dropping a few hundos on a swim suit, but if you’re only gravitating to those brands because it compensates for the lack of luxury you feel within then you should read on. There are so many options for swimwear these days that don’t cost a fortune and will still make you feel like a million bucks. Maybe you just haven’t explored yourself, and cost effective alternatives yet to make that happen…yet.
Just look at these comparisons.
The total cost for the high end look is $445
The total cost for the budget savvy woman is $55
So many women feel like they have to buy the most expensive clothes in order to get that feel-good feeling they are dying to feel when seasons change, specially summer. There are so many feelings related to your body that can easily trigger a response to start emotional stuffing. This either leads to staying indoors or sitting on the edge of the pool with only your ankles in, or buying the most expensive swim wear to make you feel good about yourself during the summer months hoping someone will look at the brand of you clothes instead of your insecurities. If you can address the feelings you have related to your body there is a greater likelihood you will be able to cut back on the unnecessary spending and body shaming you do to try and compensate for what you’re seeing in the mirror. Even better, you might actually get to jump in feet first and enjoy the sweet relief of a pool party for once. My point is not to say that you shouldn’t spend money on expensive swimsuits, but rather that expensive articles of clothing cannot alleviate the complicated feelings you have about your body.
Goodbye insecurities, Hello summer wardrobe.
I spent the majority of my life worrying about what my body looks like, what it does and doesn’t attract, how it does and doesn’t feel, and no matter what I came up with, I was still walking around with the same body. I never grew the womanly figure I desired, added on the extra 4 inches to have long legs, or had the ripped abs I gave a million crunches for. From the outside it seems to most women that it would be very pleasant to walk through life in my body. There have been countless insensitive comments from other women over the years talking about their perception of me. I’ve heard it all: “everything looks good on you because you are so small”, “you have no idea how hard it is to shop and find clothes that fit you because you are so tiny”, “must be nice not having to work hard for your figure”. But, what those women don’t know is just like all of you, I too have my own body image thoughts that I have to work through every day of my life. I am a very small woman and always have been. I struggle to keep weight on. When I’m pregnant my body fills in and I finally feel like a woman for once, not a pre teen adolescent, and I can shop for clothes in adults sizes instead of the junior section where lace, sequins, and unicorns run rampant. However, once I completed the process of bearing and nursing children I realize that yes my body did an amazing thing for me, but now I’m back to not only skinny, but saggy to boot.
You see, for all of us women there is an entire committee of people in our mind we constantly have to keep at bay in order to navigate life with joy. For some women, they grow into their female bodies very young and abruptly are left with markings that will scar not only their skin but their ideas of themselves for a life time. Other women go through times in their life neglecting and abusing their bodies as a coping skill for traumas that haven’t healed. Some make excessive choices in diet and exercise, either too much or not enough, and leave their bodies and hearts with damage that take years to heal. There is not a single woman that isn’t affected by the ideas they hold of their body; our culture has bred us to believe that we must either cover up or spend excessive amounts of money to look ideal. This is why I’m sharing my ideas and resources with you, because women of all shapes and sizes deserve to live in a body that pleases them. No matter how small or large, fit or fat you may be, the journey towards loving the skin you live in is yours to navigate.
5 tips to use when picking out your summer clothes.
- Make a mood board of inspiring looks.
I like to use Canva for creating my mood boards. It’s free, allows for a lot of creativity and is super intuitive. Search in Pinterest for “full figure swimwear”, “summer outfit ideas for moms”, “affordable summer clothes”, "boho summer fashion" or any other words that match the woman you are inspired to be. Screen shot the 9 images you love, upload them into Canva, and put them in a 3x3 grid. You don't want more than 9 images or it can become overcrowded. Keep the outfits relatively similar to help with styling later on.
- Pick a focal point that evokes confidence.
I know what you are thinking. “There are flaws on every part of my body that I am not happy with”. I hear you girl! But, with as much as our bodies do for us we can pick just one part of the power house we live in that we can celebrate right? I mean even if it comes down to your FEET, (pun intended) then let's get those toes polished and really focus on some
super cute summer sandals. Maybe next year it’ll be your arms, or abs, or strong legs!
- Organize your summer clothes.
Once my mood board is all set I will get out all my summer clothes and see what I have from last year that works with what inspires me for this year. For the most part, my staple skinny jeans, jean shorts, tank tops and blouses, and dresses hold over from year to year. But, there are always trends that I like to include to give me an updated and confident feel when the seasons change. This is when you see what is lacking from your current wardrobe by comparison with what created on your mood board. Make a specific list and go get your shop on. My favorite places to shop are my local resale stores like Good Will, Ross, TJMax, also gotta love Target, Walmart, Amazon, and Old Navy.
- Buy a once piece full coverage suit in a solid color.
I call this one my “mom suit”. For those of you that aren’t moms but still don’t want to show as much skin, this suit will be your go to. Solid colors are slimming and extremely forgiving. I use my one piece when I want to be more modest, or when I plan on hanging out in swimwear for long periods of time. It is what I feel most confident it. They are naturally slimming, and provide that little extra coverage in the areas we want.
- Buy a two piece suit in a fun print.
I alway have more than one swim suit to pick from. When I am not spending a fortune on one swimmer it opens up the option to have a couple to choose from. I like to lay out by the pool and get a tan (in moderation) and I also like to go on pool and lake dates with my husband and have something a bit more flirty than the ole “mom suit” on hand. This two piece doesn’t have to show more skin, but it absolutely can! I have had two piece suits that are full coverage but maybe when I move a little I show a little more skin than my one piece. You can also try a one piece that is more vibrant and fun than your go to suit of a two piece just isn’t your thing.
If you are in a place where you can’t even fathom shopping for a swim suit or you dread looking for summer clothes and you find yourself in a constant battle with the woman you see in the mirror, that is okay too. It is absolutely okay to recognize that you have made decisions in your life that you aren’t proud of and because of that you neglected your body resulting in a shape you want to hide. It is also ok to feel proud of every decision you have ever made knowing it was the very best you could do at the time and your body carried you through it all. Own who you are right now, own where you are in this very minute, in this very skin. I know how these internal pressures feel, and there are ways to move forward. The work I have to do on myself to be confident in the body I have now is much different that the work I did when I was younger, before I became a mom, before my schedule of busy busy busy made working out seriously hard, and long before I had to care about what I ate at every meal. But I will say that it is absolutely possible to take steps into loving the body you live in, even in the summer months.
A few ways you can live with intention to work on a positive body image.
- self love with nourishing food
If you have never explored the concept of food being linked to your emotional, mental, and physical health and aren't sure how to begin loving yourself I suggest you start out by keeping a food journal for 2 weeks. Write down what you eat and what time you ate it, what you drank and how much. At the end of each day write a few sentences about how you feel. Are you tired, what were your energy levels for the day etc. Then start looking into different lifestyle food programs such as "plant based diet", or "paleo" and read about the health benefits attributed to each. I'll go more in to this in a later blog post, but for now just start making choices on what you eat and drink that you know are nourishing the body that caries you through life.
- practice gratitude
Gratitude for the body we have and what it does for us is key. If you are really struggling with finding something to be grateful for just start with being thankful for a the ability to read and learn from this blog. Get out a pack of yellow sticky notes, or use your bathroom mirror, and write "I am grateful for ______". Fill in the blank with whatever you are most happy with this week. Next week switch it up, and you will see a huge difference in your mindset once you start focussing on the positive instead of the negative.
- strength building
That's right. WORK OUT. move. YOUR. body. When I started real strength building work out routines there were no weights involved and I was in my daughters bedroom in front of her full length mirror. I did squats, jumping jacks, ran up and down our stairs in our home, planks, push-ups (with my knees down) and nearly puked from sweating my butt off. The more you move your body in ways you normally don't, the stronger you are going to be. There are countless apps and program, even instagram accounts that will give you some ideas on how to start strength training in your home. My favorite app is called Active by PopSugar for iPhone. It is free, has different ability levels to choose from, and countless exercise videos for you to get started on now! If you're anything like me though, the best source of motivation is when you are out of your home and surrounded by other people working hard on their goals too. So, I joined LifeTime Fitness and make it a point to be in their fitness strength based classes at least 3 times a week.
- meditation and breath work
Set up time for a quick 3 -5 minutes of no distractions every day to just sit with either silence or instrumental music and breathe. Allowing yourself to just be for even a few minutes everyday will bring awareness to a place inside you that isn't focussed on external pressures. You can find some awesome guide breathe work over on Dr. Nicole LePera's instagram.
- surround yourself with good company
Follow social media accounts that support positive body image. Unfollow and remove friends/accounts that are focussed on physical outcomes only. Make relationships in and out of your home with people that encourage you and never shame you for any part of who or where you are.
- be patient
It takes a long time for our bodies to develop into the place where we didn't want them to be, and it's going to take a while for them to be in a place where we do want them to be. Give yourself grace and know that a confident woman is built brick by brick, day by day. She is in there are she's worth waiting for.
The confident woman we all want
One of the most inspiring parts of being a woman in this era is the amount of work that is being done to change the way a woman’s body is advertised, talked about, looked at, and appreciated. Have you walked around Target lately?! They are killing it with advertising normal everyday women. This is what I am talking about! There are women in your corner supporting you just the way you are. I mean if Rachel Hollis can go viral for showing her stretch marks, then why can’t you? The norms that we have when it comes to objectifying a woman are not perfect or even near resolved, but just like I say we should be forgiving of our own body imperfections and find gratitude for the good that there is, I believe the same goes for where we are as a culture. When I look at my daughters looking at me as I stand in front of the mirror and articulate negativity about my body I have to stop myself and realize that this is the culture they are learning, and I have to stop myself in order to change the culture she lives in. In no way would I ever want any young girl or woman to repeat the patterns I know we all struggle with. If you have daughters, or even sons, or no kids at all, you still have an audience that sees the choices you make. Those choices are based on your thoughts, and your thoughts shape your reality. Our reality is our culture. The culture that we feel pressured by and so greatly wish was different is sitting in our own hands to change.
You get to decide every time you look in the mirror, every time a woman with a body shape you long to have shows up in your Instagram feed, every time you are invited to a swim party, every time someone makes a demeaning remark about women’s imperfections, what your thought pattern will be. You get to decide that you are worth nourishing food choices. You get to decide that you feel good in a Target swimsuit. You get to decide that your stretch marks, extra body weight, bony chest, and saggy bum get to enjoy every minute of the same activities all the younger, fitter, thinner, tanner, prettier women get to do too. It is up to all of us to believe in the positive body image we deserve and never be shifted from an activity, a vacation, a party with friends, a little black dress, or any moment of joy in life, summer or other wise, because of what others think about imperfections on the female body. Take a few extra dollars and wrangle up a cute new pair of shorts, a tank and cute sandals, or a swimsuit, sun hat and a cover up, and make this summer a fun one. You deserve to do more than just get your feet wet in life girl, you deserve to cannon ball.
All images by Heather Gauthier Photography