CW: discussion of body size and body parts of women, in service of arguing against thin-ideal stereotypes in swimwear.
If you’re a woman over 50 years old, some swimsuit marketers have lots of worries about what you wear on the beach or at the pool. Their worries often center on body parts, like upper arms and abdomen– what if they are larger or looser or exposed? What will happen? They don’t know, but they really want to avoid that possibility. So they do two things:
- they put together marketing campaigns aimed at reassuring you (and the general public) that they are on the scene, ready to perform miracles of engineering to keep you pulled up, sucked in, and in all ways suit-able for being seen.
- They design swimwear that either holds body parts rigidly in place through space-age elastic technology, or devotes yards and yards of bleach-resistant fabric for covering you up, like a dining-room table with a bunch of scratches and blemishes.
Here’s what I mean:
A few things to note (which applies to many brands)
- It is called the Miracle Suit, performing the miracle of smooshing women’s body parts inside a swimsuit;
- It says you’ll look 10 lbs/5 kilos lighter in 10 seconds, like this is something we all want (and need?);
- It uses the term “figure flattering”, supporting the view that bodies that don’t conform to thin-ideal or fitspo standards need to be covered or neutralized through copious amounts of Spandex;
- It reassures you that, regardless of your size or flaws (of which the former may also count as the latter), they’ve got you covered– maybe with billowing tunics…
In this article for the website sixtyandme, the writer tackles the problem (?!) of what to wear on the beach or at the pool when you’re over 60. The author says both that body sensitivity is “in our own heads” (which it may be, but is also out in the world), and that there is still “a practical problem as well – finding flattering bathing suits for older women is much harder than it should be”. What do I think about this?
Okay, enough ranting. What to say about this?
Everyone deserves to enjoy the beach, the lake, the pool, the water. Because of body shaming and thin ideals and fitspo ideals, etc. some of us sometimes feel ashamed to show our bodies in public and want more covering for swimming or walking around. Given this reality, it seems like having a market to offer higher-covering swim and beach wear isn’t a bad thing.
But it comes at a price, namely with the messaging that older women’s bodies are inherently flawed or not suitable for public viewing. How about this: we just STOP marketing higher-covering swimwear by leveraging body-shaming tropes and jokes? Thanks.
As a fat 58-year-old woman, what I want is swimwear that’s styled like thinner and younger women’s bathing suits, just in my size. I don’t want muumuus and blousy tunic-like coverup swim and active wear. This is because I like to swim, and all that fabric is going to interfere with the swimming. I want body hugging wear with the right fit to cover breasts and butt.
Other women may want different things— more fabric, tunics, etc. That’s great. You do you, and let the variety of options go forth and multiply.
But, I worry that many of us have been both shamed and niche marketed into a narrow range of swimsuit styles resembling either straight jackets or draperies. Just thinking out loud here. I’d welcome your thoughts, as always.