The beach and I have been close this summer but you want to know what has not proven a reliable friend? The vintage swimming costume I bought from my friend Danielle for $10 a couple of months ago. O sure, it has a low-cut back to die for (literally- it is heart-stoppingly fantastic) and it occupies the perfect middle ground between scanty and sensible. Here's the problem: the lycra ain't what it used to be. So what is svelte and cutesy-vintage pre-swim becomes semi-transparent and soggy-saggy post-swim. I come out of the surf less Ursula Andress and more Ursula the Sea Witch. Plus the glue on the straps (I guess they glued the hem under before topstitching?) sticks to my shoulder so I have to peel it off apres swim. It's not painful but just kind of... weird? It's like it is disintegrating on me which is slightly unnerving when it is the only layer of fabric between my self and the eyes of every other beachgoer on a sweltering summer's day.
So with a beach day looming I decided it was high time I looked my fears in the face and went swimwear shopping. This particular breed of shopping has to be my most loathed, trumping even shoe shopping in the levels of dread it conjures. But the thought of reviving the poor decrepitating '50s onesie was just too sad so I gathered my nerves into a ball and sallied forth.
Why is it such a thing? Because there are two kinds of swimwear: the sensible kind which has thick, visible "shaping" underwire/padding and "tasteful" ruching of fabric over the stomach often found in big florals (white hibiscus on black/small dark blue sprigs on a lighter blue) for mature women who want to sculpt their bodies to their best advantage; and the very insensible kind which are usually really interesting from a design standpoint (cutaway sides/stripes of fabrics across the back/laser cut holes) but which are the opposite of supportive. And one could liken their coverage capacity to that of three strategically placed postage stamps.
So I tried on cossies by Lover and Zimmermann; cossies by Seafolly and Watersun. I looked at surf brands (Ripcurl) and at brands designed by former Vogue staffers (Anna&Boy). The costumes I found left me feeling either like I was disguising my body or letting it all hang out (sometimes, rather unfortunately, very literally.) And then I was embarassed. It's just an awkward experience, isn't it? An almost-but-not-quite-fitting swimming costume is not like a pair of too-tight shoes that you really want and can convince yourself to buy because the leather will "eventually give." I look in the mirror in potential swimwear and see myself through the eyes of other beachgoers and almost break my neck in my horrified tearing to get it off.
So there I was, trudging despondently through the middle of the CBD, irritated because, seriously, this is Australia, how hard can it be to find a well-designed, supportive swimming costume? And feeling that spoilt-brat frustration that only wells when you want something that you can't find. It was then that inspiration struck- vintage swimwear has been kind to me in the past- why not give it another shot? So I turned my steps towards The Vintage Clothing Shop, beloved by stylists the publishing industry over for its impeccable collection of proper vintage (no '80s longsleeved polyester frocks here, thank you) and there- there- (if there was one word for 'contented sigh', that would be the word finishing this sentence.)
I found a clutch of Charles Jourdan swimmers from the 60s. Bikinis. Brief. Gorgeous. Never worn (kinda crucial with vintage swimwear, let's be real.) At that point I was willing to try anything, so into the changeroom I went and when I saw my reflection I could have cried in relief. I'm not talking myself up here, my physique is certainly not going to give CJ from Baywatch a run for her money or, let's face it, a 'run' in any sense of the word. But you try hopelessly looking for something for two hours and see how sturdy your emotions are when you find it. Well-cut- incredibly well-cut- Australian swimwear designers take note: it is possible to do both brief and supportive cuts. And mine, all mine.
Look at the colours! (You didn't actually think I was going to put a photograph of myself in a bikini on this blog did you? This ain't Sports Illustrated, girlfriend.)
And you know what else? I found shoes too! SHOES! My beaten Ferragamos and poor bewildered huarches are still in a group hug of relief. So I killed two shopping foes with one hit of the Eftpos card, friends (and mangled a cliche while I was at it.)
The new kids on the block.
Vale, huaraches. You have served me well beyond the call of the $6 I paid for you all those years ago in the Forster op-shop.
Smug just begins to describe how I feel about myself at this moment.