As I have got older I have tended to avoid wearing a swimsuit in public. Although I love swimming I hate having to dry my hair with a dryer as I end up looking like Crystaltips. I am also, like many people more than a little apprehensive about exposing so much bare flesh. Clothes are like my armour, I can use them to express who I am, cover my insecurities and highlight my assets. Without them I have a tendency to feel rather exposed and self-conscious Consequently the two swimsuits I own are the vintage kind with the little skirts (aka Mom swimsuits!).
However, when Heatherlou’s Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit pattern was released last year I was smitten by the design. I loved Esther Williams films when I was little and the bombshell has that vintage feel. In my favourite Esther film ‘Dangerous when wet’ she wears a white swimsuit which is a dead ringer for the Bombshell and she swims with Tom and Jerry in it! As more and more versions popped up on the blogesphere it became apparent that it was the holy grail of swimwear, super flattering with a good dose of old school glamour.
The bombshell only became a necessity to sew with an impending holiday to Anglesey. Now North Wales is not really renowned for being tropical or glamourous but it does have beautiful beaches and even if I was only going to be paddling in rock pools I wanted to do it as glamorously as possible!
My first hurdle was finding the fabric, swimsuit lycra is hard to come by in the UK but this Ebay seller had a fairly good selection of block colours. I was undecided between Navy, Wine or Bottle Green, after a few days pondering I finally plumped for the green. I also got a metre of slightly finer skintone lycra for the lining. I was really surprised at how much fabric was needed, two and a half metres including the lining. I also needed five metres of swimwear elastic and opted for the 8mm white rubber type as it looked (and was) easier to work with than the clear plastic I had used before.
I used a ballpoint needle on my regular machine and also opted for the walking foot, I tried it without but it kept skipping stitches. I followed Heather Lou’s sew-a-long which was brilliant. I cut a size 12 and graded up to an 16 over the bust. the pattern is brilliantly drafted and comes together so quickly. I used my overlocker for the side and centre back seams, there was a lot of fabric to cope with, four layers, two of which were densely gathered, there is a whole lot of ruching going on in this suit!
I knew I would need a bit of extra support in the bust area. I looked at swimwear cups in my local haberdashery but even the large size didn’t look remotely adequate. I ended up harvesting the cups from an old t-shirt bra and sandwiching them between the main fabric and the lining. I also stitched two rows of the swimsuit elastic underneath the bust to act as a kind of shelf.
I did plan to sew it over a couple of days but once I started I didn’t want to stop, I couldn’t believe how much fun it was to sew! I think it took about five hours in total, including coffee breaks. I initially basted the straps at the position given on the pattern but when I tried it on there was an awful lot of spillage! After a bit of repositioning I found the right spots which provided the optimum amount of support needed to keep the girls under control!
So how did it fair on the beach? I was concerned about so much fabric holding a lot of water but it didn’t take long to dry out after a quick dip in the sea. I must admit to getting a bit nesh in my old age though, as I did spend most of the time sat in the beach tent happily knitting while Big Mr and Little Mr braved the waves and went body boarding! (Beach knitting is now my favourite holiday activity!) Although I did throw a couple of Esther Williams poses I didn’t get chance to do any graceful swimming as the sea was a bit too rough, I will just have to suffice with doing a few handstands in the local pool!
The Bombshell fit is perfect and gives the right amount of coverage without looking at all mumsey, I did feel ultra glamourous and most importantly confident, I could potter about the beach without being self-conscious! My whole body image has changed so much since I started sewing again, if you had told me a couple of years ago I would be posting pictures of myself on the internet in a swimsuit I would have laughed (manically!) but now I have accepted my body for what it is. It has served me well for 43 years now, it’s strong and healthy and does what I want it to do without too many complaints. I’m getting old enough to realise that life is too short to get hung up on perceived imperfections and we should really be amazed at what our bodies can do.
Has sewing for yourself changed how you feel about your body image?