Cristina Rouvalis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Maybe buying a bathing suit isn't such an ordeal for boomer bombshells
such as Christie Brinkley, Goldie Hawn and Sharon Stone.
Then there are the rest of us, women who know something about the forces
of gravity, women who can't get rid of the cottage-cheese wobble of
cellulite and who can't stare into the blindingly bright store mirror
without anguishing about all our flaws, real and imagined.
Yeah, bathing suit shopping does a number on women's self-esteem.
"It's definitely a chore," says Kelley Rouse, 39, of Homestead.
There is no place to hide from our figure hang-ups.
Or is there?
Bathing suit makers are promising to make bathing-suit shopping less
stressful with new advanced tummy-sucking, Lycra-hugging, cellulite-hiding
technology and designs.
"It doesn't feel like a girdle," says Jackie Schutty, company
spokeswoman. "It's very free." The catalog and Web site also
lets women shop by "anxiety zone'' -- whether it be slimming your
stomach or enhancing your bust.
Competitor LL Bean touts its Shape Solver, "a superstrong blend
of Lycra/nylon elastane" with three times the stretch of control
of standard swimwear fabric.
And this isn't, the company says, just a garden-variety tummy panel.
"Many suits will speak to control and figure flattering,"
says Gretchen Petrone, product line manager at LL Bean. "What is
different from our Shape Solver is that the fabrication has all-over
body control. Some suits just have a tummy-control panel. But it has
one-shape solver lining. It just sucks you in because of the density
of the fabric."
No, it doesn't hurt, says Ms. Petrone. "It can take a little effort
to get in it." But then, she says, it is perfectly comfortable.
Even Victoria's Secret, string bikini headquarters, sells the Miracle
Suit, for those who do not have the bods of its thin curvaceous models.
"It offers control-top support," says Sara Tervo, a company
spokeswoman. "It is like control-top pantyhose. It makes women
feel comfortable and supported and contoured."
Not everyone thinks these newfangled fabrics will make the difference
between hiding under your towel and lounging comfortably at pool's edge.
"They do work to an extent in smoothing things out, but you have
what you have," says Laura McDowell, fashion spokeswoman for T.J.
Another option is to get a skirted suit, a thigh-hiding trend this
But don't think of this as the big floral, knee-hugging skirted suits
of years past.
"It doesn't look like what your grandmother wore 20 years ago,"
says Ms. McDowell. "We think of the aqua blue or the big black
floral. But this is sophisticated style, chocolate brown or black with
minimum detailing and piping."
Also hot are "skorts," short skirts you wear swimming, sometimes
over a bikini. So you can get the tan of a bikini top with a little
extra coverage over your legs.
"You used to put the skirt on as a cover-up," says Heather
Hannan, spokeswoman for Macy's. "Now it's part of the swimsuit.
It's an updated version. The skirts are shorter. Back in the day, skirts
almost went down to the knees. These are really cute and give coverage
over the thighs, which is the biggest problem area for so many women."
Other swimsuits look like little casual outfits, such as Lands' End
Women's Beach Living Solid SwimMini. Mix-and-match outfits are big.
"The idea is that the customer can wear it to the beach and go
to pick up the kids and go to the store," says Ms. Schutty.
Black and brown suits can slenderize. Lands' End has unveiled a "Little
Black Dress" collection of black suits.
With all these options, it's easy to pick the right figure-flattering
Nah, says Ms. Rouse, who says it is always a challenge because if the
top fits, it is too small for the hips. She usually tries to buy a tankini
or boxer-cut shorts suits.
But she does not think the figure flaws listed on clothing maker Web
sites cover the myriad body types. Too many swim suits are made for
Her friend, Climmie Lewis, 27, of the North Side, agrees. She looks
at swimsuit models and thinks, "Who looks like this? Who is built
In fact, the mere thought of shopping for a bathing suit is so unpleasant
to Donna Ritchie of Ross that she uses the one she got 10 years ago
and to only swim in her sister's pool -- and only when her family is
there. She thinks beautiful young models unfairly make too many women
feel terrible about their bodies.
The woman in her 50s avoids bathing suit racks at all costs.
"I go jewelry shopping," she says with a laugh.