Monday, May 5, 2014

MOMday: Swimsuit Shopping for a Mom's Body

Warning: This post contains photos.  Photos of me in a swimsuit.  Many of them.  (Eep.)  and I don't expect any of them will traumatize you or make you cry out for eye bleach...

Perhaps the part of my trip that I have been dreading the most is putting the body I have right now into a swimsuit.   I'd be lying if I didn't say that it has reduced me to tears MULTIPLE times over many months.  I never expected to have some model's body by the time this trip arrived...but I wanted to be a bit lighter and life just had other plans.

Even with reality having those other plans - I was really letting it attack my headspace.  Letting fatty voice in there to do what she could.  Finally, after a little bitchslapping from my friends (Thanks Tina and Sue) - I decided to shut fatty voice down once and for all...or at least try.

My reality - I have the body of a mother.  I have a mum-tum that grew around the bodies of my teeny twins.    I have athletic thighs with a bit of cushion on them that have carried me across the finish lines of nearly 60 races.  I have boobs that are drained of life from 10 months of pumping to keep my babies fed.  I have strong arms that have carried my growing girls simultaneously in efforts to console them as only their momma can.  I am a mom and I need to embrace the fact that maybe, just maybe, what I am sporting in the body department might actually be normal.

GASP!  Yes - I said it.

But that doesn't make the prospect of swimsuit shopping any happier.   This was going to take a whole lot more bitchslapping to make it happen for me.  I spent hours staring at photos of swimsuits, trying to imagine my odd ill-proportioned body fitting perfectly into any of them.  It wasn't happening.  I spent a lunch break at a specialty swim store near my work (took photos of everything) and spent a good ten minutes crying in my car in the parkade after.

Then - the epiphany.  Buying a swimsuit is a lot like buying a wedding dress.  Sometimes you have to try on everything in the store just to discover the dress (or suit) of your dreams.  I decided to do just that.

After that first trip - I spent a few more lunch breaks at the mall trying on suits.  Let's just say it was more scientific this time.  I took change room photos of everything.

I noted the features that worked for me and figured out where my challenges lay.   Here's what I came up with.

  1. I need to have my tummy covered and too many two piece suits have ridiculously low cut bottoms that rest across my caesarian scar.  
  2. One pieces are more comfortable, though I would still need a higher waited two piece to wear under a rash guard.
  3. To get a one piece suit that fits my ass, means that the top of the suit is too big for my boobs.
  4. To find peace with my hips - I need a suit with some sort of skirt or ruffle there.
  5. Retro styled suits are so much more flattering than anything else
  6. Some suits have magic built right into them
Really - that isn't too bad of a list of observations.  I was being remarkable not hard on myself.

Armed with this list - I embarked on the great swimwear shopping trip of 2014.

I wore clothes that were easy to get in and out of.  I didn't give myself a time limit.  I made myself promise to ask for help if help existed.  I also promised myself to be fair and try to step back from my own insecurities so I could be honest when it came to fit and appearance.  

And off I went. As luck would have it, we had a dump of snow that night so I figured swimwear would be the last thing on anyones mind and I might be able to get some assistance.

I decided that the first place I should hit is a place that is kinder to curvier bodies.  Not that I could ever be mistaken as "curvy" but I digress.  I headed strait for Blame Betty.  If anyone could serve up retro with a side of body acceptance - this would be the place.   I'd been reading about Esther Williams suits and I was sure that the retro cut and built in support would be just what the doctor ordered.  Sure enough - the second I pulled it on - I had found the suit for me!  THAT is the way to kick off a swimsuit shopping day on a positive note!  If they had had my size in other colours - the trip could have ended right there.  Alas, they did not and I was determined to bring home at least 2 suits.

Next, I wandered down to Shapes n' Figures.  Their website said they had over 8000 suits in stock at any given time so if I couldn't find it there - it likely didn't exist.  Of course - those 8000 suits didn't mean 8000 styles and it certainly didn't mean every size in every style would be in stock.   The do, however, offer professional fittings and I should say that the ladies were trying really hard to sell me a suit.  I want to say they were trying to find me the right suit for me, but I didn't get that impression.  I felt like they just wanted to make the sale and were not even listening to what I was saying would be my preferred style.  I finally escaped their clutches by saying I needed to get some lunch and try again when my blood sugar was up again. LOL.   I'm sure they are great for people who just want the latest style of suit and to make sure it fits properly.  Not so much for the lady who wants something a bit more unique who may have some body challenges to deal with.

I took a little break to hit the thrift store on a hunt for shorts (yay - found 3 pairs...and one of them was still new with tags) and then I braved Chinook Centre.  I hadn't really wanted to enter a mall on this excursion because I've never felt like I can get proper help from mall staff.  I lollygagged a bit at Hudson's Bay and Old Navy and, when I could avoid it no longer, I headed to Swimco.

I'm not sure why I took so long to get there.  I walked in and soon had 5 suits in my hands that all fit the criteria I was looking for.  Then one of the sales associates came over to help me and she managed to pull 4 more for me.  She even found some on the sale rack!   I headed into the change room incredibly confident for the first time since leaving Blame Betty.   I probably spent a good half hour in that change room and soon had it shortlisted to 3 suits - a Jantzen, a Ralph Lauren and another brand I can't remember.  I never expected to have to fight with myself to choose a swimsuit.  In the end - all three were on sale so I decided to splurge and grab two of them.  Mission complete.

I still needed a rash guard or two, but I could order that online.  My dreaded swimsuit shopping excursion had started great and ended even better - even with that blip in the middle.   Now I had 3 suits I could walk confidently into my vacation wearing!

Lessons learned in shopping for a swimsuit for this mom's body:

  • Ignore that size - buy what fits.  Of those three suits - 2 of them are size 12s and one is a size 16.  Size tags are meaningless.   And I was happily surprised to find myself in a smaller size suit than I expected.
  • Sometimes you gotta date a lotta frogs before you find your prince.   Try on. Try on. Try on.
  • Take pictures of everything.  You can be really critical of yourself when you are staring at yourself in the mirror.  Being able to look back through the photos can help you decide whether to bother trying a suit on for a second time or not.
  • You know your body best.  Figure out what you want to conceal and find features that will do that for you.
  • Any suit with built in shapers is worth every penny.  Ruching is also a wonderful friend to the mum-tum.
  • You may surprise yourself an actually like the way you look in a suit if you go in with an open mind.
  • Find a suit that will move the way you need it to move.  Mom's don't spend their family vacations sitting on a chaise lounge.  Find something that will swim and sandcastle right along with you!
  • Don't settle for anything less than what makes you feel FABULOUS!  You deserve to spend whatever it takes to make you feel that way.
Now I just need to wait that 19 more sleeps for that vacation to get you suppose my family will notice if I spend all of my time at home wearing one of my new suits?


  1. No traumatization. No eye bleach.That para that starts "My reality" ought to be required reading for everybody, male or female, or the ones in between. It's time for people to grow up and realize that what we see in the magazines and in the movies and lots of other places is a fantasy. Reality is life. Life means laugh lines, and scars, and other fallout from the mileage. Embrace it. Consider it all a test for other people. If they focus on how your butt looks in a swimsuit, then they miss your fabulous smile, and they lose.

  2. I love the suits you chose Cori. You look amazing!! So glad you found suits that make you feel beautiful and fabulous.

  3. 1. I LOVE the suits.
    3. Hope they make you feel as FAB as you totally and OBVIOUSLY are!!
    4. and this is a BRAVE post to write!!!
    gawd is there ANYONE who likes shopping for a bather???? xx

    1. Meh - call it "building bravery". If I show it to my friends here enough, maybe I won't have any room to be self conscious when it comes time top share it with a thousand strangers at the resort... :P

  4. Hot mama!! You rock those suits! I love the retro style and you pull it off so well!! You have a strong body and the number on the tag means nothing! I love this post!

    I didn't know you had a csection.

    I usually have pretty good luck at Swimco. I actually think it's time to get myself a new bathing suit...

    1. I guess with the girls 5th birthday coming up in a couple of weeks - it might be time to write out their birth story :)

  5. Great post Cori! Have a great vacay and enjoy every moment looking confident. You nailed it and look great in those suits. I love the retro top and ruffle on the blue/white suit.

  6. This is a fabulous post! I like all of them, but the blue one with the pattern is my favourite.


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