12 May 2007

Scantily Clad Chicks (PIX!)

Even if my bathing suit is used more for lounging on the rooftop of the Standard than for actual swimming in the nearby Pacific, that still didn't stop me from deciding recently that my 4-year-old J. Crew number wasn't going to cut it anymore. This was less because the bikini was worn out--no, no, it's still fine--and more because, as an American, any garment more than 2 years old seems ancient and dated. Besides, being bombarded with shopbop.com emails and newspaper inserts insisting that getting prepped for summer necessitates a new piece of Spandex doesn't help any. I've resisted the urge for the past 4 years, since I have honestly very much liked my little Japanese-print suit, but now that I work in retail and am surrounded by Those Chicer Than I constantly, the urge to update was too strong to resist. However, since my credit card and I can't bring ourselves to fork over the $200-plus that the really nice bikinis cost these days (and yes, I've checked Target--nothing doing, unless you WANT to look like a high-school girl on spring break), I had to do some research.
Usually I think that the bathing suits available for ladies are generally heinous, tacky and unflattering (especially if your bust isn't--how to say this?--really suited to fill out giant bra cups). Manufacturers make the assumption that we females are all giant 6-year-olds who want pink heart beads swinging from our straps and nasty little ruffles adorning our bums. So I was anticipating a pretty fruitless search. I mean, look at this one from Victoria's Secret:

Seriously, who likes this stuff? A top that looks like a bra--and not a pretty bra, but the bra that you wear under a thick tee when you're going to the market and you don't want to get your nice bras dirty for no reason. And this is what now they want you to wear on the outside, at the beach? With a MINISKIRT? Victoria's Secret is actually showing a ton of these skirty things, which I think is a shockingly bad idea. Even this model looks dumb, and she's got a hot bod. Imagine wearing this if you were someone who actually were looking for coverage--small bra, big skirt, oh dear. If you don't want to show your butt, wear little cutoff shorts over your bikini bottom, OK?
But you know, I have to apologize to the swimsuit world out there, and say that I underestimated you. This kind of horror is not all that's out there. Not only did I quickly find a great bikini that I could afford and even wear, but I also found a bunch of others that made me wish I lived on the beach so I could justify needing them too.

Victoria's Secret, I have to hand it to them, is totally killing it this year in terms of basic nice suits for cheap. There are a lot of awful ones, but also nice basics like this yellow one (which, I think, is a far better way to wear a bandeau style than the normal way, with no straps or center straps that make your boobies sag. Yuck.). I saw Cameron Diaz's assistant at my store the other day, and she was grabbing up all the bandeau bathing suits she could find. Now that I think about it, Cameron always wears bandeaus. She can pull it off because she's shaped like a 2-by-4, but even if she's not in danger of popping out, I still think it's a really unflattering thing to do to your upper body.

One-piece: if you're not lucky enough to have found a vintage one-piecer like my black one (which I really want to figure out how to wear around in public), the next best thing is this Calvin Klein suit. Calvin Klein bathing suits always look the same, and they're always gorgeous. Look at this! The princess seaming is so perfect, the bust shirring is ideal; it's probably the most flattering skintight garment I've ever seen. Damn.

Triangle tops: eh, I dunno. Check V.Secret again if you're dead set on triangles, but they're just hard to get right. If you're too little, you look like you're wearing a training bra (see Target top at left). Too busty, and you look, well, like you belong on a movie set involving a fluffer (V.'s S., right).

The best of all possible worlds: halter tops. Flattering and won't let you down (literally). The suit I decided on is from Stella McCartney and looks sort of like this one, except olive green. I love it, not a little because I found it on sale. Stella McCartney is one of my current favorite designers--everything she does (except for maybe the weird trash-bag vegan belts) is brilliant. Check out her current line--I want everything except for those weird little babydoll tops. Seriously, it's all beautiful, and just as people try to get a little bit of Marc Jacobs's chic by wearing his perfume even if they can't buy the clothes, I feel a little closer to Stella's dream world with my little green bikini. Plus, Stella for Target prices (actually even better than Target) = unbeatable.
Now onto the next summer "necessity" (newly deemed necessary; formerly deemed the domain of kids and Abercrombie fans): SHORTS. The fact that I went so far as to try on a pair of James Perse $145 shorts should say something (about the rise of shorts' cool factor this season, and about my slavish capitulation to fashion)...the report will come soon.

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