Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Great Swimsuit Search, part deux

This is Part Deux, which implies there was a Part Un. Read that here. I spent a TON of time doing web searches and scouring retail sites, taking some suggestions from the comments made on the last post. While it was far from easy, I now have something to wear for my Shark Tour. Not what I wanted, but it will do for now.

Let me share the steps of my journey. I did finally find some decent lycra fabric in a pretty pattern and for sale in reasonable amounts rather than Chinese wholesalers who expect to be selling hundreds of yards at a time. Where did I finally find this? Ebay. It is in two-yard “lots” which you don’t even have to bid on. They’re “buy-it-now” and only $12.99 + $5.00 shipping. That’s less than $9 a yard and shipping would be less if I bought 4 yards at once. A very excellent price.

However, finding patterns was more difficult. Kwik-Sew has a pattern similar to what I want. (It’s avaliable here if you’re interested.) It’s two-piece rather than one and I’d have to modify it quite a bit because this pattern is for men, who obviously don’t have to worry about silly details like hips and busts.

The Green Pepper has a pattern which is one-piece, but I’d have to alter it for size and I’d probably cut off the sleeves and long legs at the same time. However, Green Pepper is in the dark ages. They have a website (where I got that pic) but they do not have any order buttons! If you want to buy from them, you’ve got to print out an order form, fill it out with a pen, and snail-mail or fax it. Bah! Who operates like that in this day and age?

The absolute best pattern is from Jalie. That patterned lycra suit on the girl with the Boogie Board is about what I had in mind for arm and leg length, AND it is one-piece! The only thing wrong with it is the size. I have to give them props for including 22 sizes in one package. I could use this pattern for my 1-year-old grandson. As an interesting aside, this pattern also includes a hooded suit (blue one on the skater) not unlike the Muslim swimwear with hijab. However, I am about 12 inches larger in the bust than the largest size they include. Major modification, but not impossible.

Since none of the patterns would fit without modification, I also considered drafting a custom pattern. There are some detailed instructions with step-by-step video aids on this site. This would ensure an absolute perfect fit. Coupled with that lovely fabric from Ebay, I could have my dream bathing suit. Or would I?

Buying the materials would be simple enough but facing all that modifying or drafting, plus cutting and sewing on very tricky lycra? Daunting. My back hurts just thinking about it. I know I would procrastinate, maybe indefinitely.

Instead, I have saved all the links and am using that future dream suit as incentive. I decided to get something easy (read, pre-made) for now with the promise that *if* I use it to snorkel and swim more and find I really have a *need* for a nicer suit, then I will be willing to put in the work to get it.

Factoid of the Universe: There are modest/sun-protective suits for sale out there. There are separates for big people out there. There are inexpensive suits out there. However, you cannot have all three at the same time. I paid more than I wanted to for what I got. Oh well, can’t have everything.

I found this tankini top at SwimsuitsForAll.com. It doesn’t cover shoulders and neck, but none of the rashguard-type swimshirts has a built-in bra and I CANNOT do without. This top had several things I wanted: it came in size 32W, with a bra reputed to support a DD cup, it was a pretty PRINT and, wonder of wonders, it was on CLEARANCE! I paid $14.95 plus about $6 tax and shipping. The normal retail of this top is $79!!!!! When it arrived, I was absolutely thrilled. Very high quality fabric and workmanship. It didn’t fit perfectly, but all the problems were on the “too big” side of the equation, which is an extremely rare problem for me. I had to shorten the straps to defy the gravity working against my Double-Ds and I had to take in the shelf-bra elastic a bit. Took less than an hour and it supports as well as any swimsuit I’ve had since high school.

However, nice as this tankini top is, I hate that it shows my shoulders. I don’t believe showing shoulders in general is immodest, but I feel more exposed than I am comfortable with. I can see myself wearing it without a rashguard only when I go swim at my dad’s house or if I happen to show up at the trailer park pool when no one else is around. And only those times if I have some SPF 80 to slather on my burn-prone skin so I don’t fry. No way at the beach or snorkeling.

This is the swimshirt I will wear over the tankini. I found this on eBay as well. The description said it was designed to be “loose fit” and wear like a t-shirt on a 3X man. I own 3X men’s t-shirts. This was NOT “loose fit.” However, it is not terribly tight and in defense of Tribal Surf (the manufacturer), I am wearing it over a rather thick tankini, not just skin, as a man would. It was $22 with free shipping. Bonus: the sleeves are 3/4, which is just right.

Whether I wear the tankini without the rashguard or the rashguard and tankini together, I still have to cover my butt. I opted for these swimshorts because of price. Capri length pants were ten dollars more and the website where I found them didn’t specifically say they were chlorine resistant; I think they were intended for bicycle use. These cover my thighs okay, just not my knees. I bought them from Solartex. On the positive side: Mine did NOT have a white logo like the picture, I didn’t have to buy the biggest size they offer (which is nice for a change), and they were running a Mother’s Day promo. Price with shipping and tax: $38.

Everything including shipping and taxes: $81, which is more than I wanted to spend. I’m not totally happy with how it all looks together either. The printed fabric I like (tankini) is hidden whenever I do the fit-for-public and fit-for-sun option and then I get wrinkles in the rashguard and it’s all-black boringness. I would definitely have saved money to have custom-drafted the pattern, bought pretty lycra, and made the dream one-piece suit straight off. At least I do not have any excuse now not to swim.

I feel after this monumental search I should share some of my best finds besides the ones I already linked above. Since I did not buy anything from any of the following, I cannot vouch for their service. I share simply to save any other swimsuit seeker some of the hours I wasted.

Rashguard Shirt Co Huge selection. Sizes from toddler to 3X. Nice clearance section.
Coolibar Very classy and stylish. Very good coverage and print lycra! Downside: expensive and not really anything past 2X
Always for Me More traditional one-piece maillot and skirt-type suits (for folks who don’t burn or have shoulder-image issues). Large selection. Big sizes. A bit pricey. They also had nice plus-size wear for cycling, yoga, and other non-swimming activities, plus they have sports and swim bras up to F-cups.
Hydro-Chic Sizes to 3X. Separates only. On the expensive side.
AeroTech Designs Emphasis on cycling, but a huge section for triathlon which would mean swimming. They have some very large sizes, including up to 8X! Not as pretty, but functional.
EcoStinger Nice full suits for kids, juniors, men and women. Not really much for the whale sizes.
Swim Outlet HUGE site with rock-bottom prices. They carry everything from Speedo to pool toys. They even carry some of the Al Sharifa suits. The styles I liked didn’t come in my size and the stuff that fit was either too ugly or too expensive, but there is so much here, it’s worth a look.
Big Gal’s One-pieces and even bikinis up to size 12X!!! I don’t think this stuff is fit for public use, and I have no need whatsoever for it, but fat women have honeymoons too.
Swim Modest Love the style. Love the fabrics. However, quite expensive compared to others. Only up to XL.
Simply Modest Swimwear Cute style. Nice fabric choices. Does custom orders, but be prepared to PAY and to WAIT.
The Cryp eBay Store This guy is selling rashguards by all the regular manufacturers (O'Neill, BodyGlove, Roxy, etc) but he also has his own brand and a commitment to fit the very large Hawaiian surfers. No place else did I see swimshirts in 12X for under $40. And in bright COLORS, not just black and navy. Kudos to this guy.


  1. Wow, what a journey you've had! Like you said, it's not exactly what you wanted, but it works. Sure, you paid a little more, but when all is said and done, you finally have a suit so you can 'swim' with the sharks, which is what this is all for, right? I really, really hope the experience is worth all the trouble, and I can't wait to hear about it. I wish you all the luck. And, I hope you come back to us in one piece. :)

  2. I hope to swim more than just that single two-hour snorkel trip. I want to go swimming at the beach and at my trailer park pool, both things I have avoided for quite some time because I did not have a bathing suit I could wear in public. I'd be much more mad and frustrated if I had to pay 81 bucks just for a one-shot deal. I could swim in regular clothes (shorts) if it was just once. This had better be good for at least a year's worth of swimming. Waiting now on the water to warm up a bit for the ocean swim. August would be warmest, but I don't want to wait that long. Maybe late May or early June...?

  3. June...it seems like a good month, I'm guessing. It's only in the mid-fifties where I'm at, but I'm sure the water will be warm enough in Cali...I think. And, definitely, be a beach babe. You'll have a blast. And it will help you get writing inspiration. XD