Every body is a bikini body: Beautiful is not something you get, it’s something you are

by Charlotte on June 6, 2014 · 36 comments


Our neighborhood has a pool. I’ve never lived in a place before that has one and I have to admit it’s pretty rad. Not for me necessarily – I still hate swimming – but my kids love it and it’s an easy, fun way to get them outside and moving. It’s also fun for me to get to know other people in the area, especially so I can have conversations like this one:

New friend: I’ve seen you at the pool a ton and yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a bikini!

Me: And you never will!

First, as part of my religion (I’m LDS a.k.a. “Mormon”) I choose to stick to one-piece suits. And second, I’m finally at the age where my increasing fear of melanoma and my decreasing ability to care what people think of me intersect! Wooohooo!

I should probably tell you what I was wearing when this conversation happened: An Athleta UPF 50 jacket-dress thingy with long sleeves and a high collar, ankle length running tights, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and so much sunscreen I should buy stock in Banana Boat. I did also happen to have a swimsuit on underneath although it’s anyone’s guess why I bothered at that point. (I think it’s because I’ve been peeing properly for so many decades now that it’s obviously time to up the difficulty. Also, it’s not as hot as you think. Promise!) In other words, I looked like a complete dork.

New friend: You totally could, you know! You’re cute enough to pull one off!

My new friend was being very sweet and complimentary, which I appreciated, but something about the comment hit me funny. Why do we have to be “cute enough” to wear a bikini? At the time I was too busy counting heads – onetwothreefour – every minute to make sure no one was drowning to think much more about it but then the other day I came across one of the perennial summer staples: the swimsuit calendar. But this one was different! Swimsuits For All put out the first “curvy girl” calendar, featuring plus-size models modeling the heck out of some adorable swimsuits.


Unfortunately, as soon as you could “sexy at every curve” (the calendar’s theme), people were jumping to decry the calendar and what it stands for. (“Don’t encourage them!” “This isn’t healthy!” and “Agh my eyes!” were the nicer comments.) I blame that other ubiquity of summer: all the articles telling you how to “get a bikini body.” Put down the ice cream cone, they say, and start doing jumping lunges – right now!! – or you’ll never be able to show your face at the pool without a caftan. Whole ad campaigns, plot lines on popular shows and more mommy group discussions than I care to count have hinged on this idea of how to be good enough to wear a bikini in public.

But here’s the thing I wanted to tell my new friend: every body is a bikini body. You don’t have to get it or work for it or earn it. All you really need to do is wear a bikini. Boom, done! (That is, if you want to wear a bikini. If you don’t want to wear one that’s totes cool – you can come sit on my lounge chair!)

Every body is beautiful in its own way but we are often told otherwise. It’s drilled into us from a young age that unless we look like a very specific, narrow standard of beauty then we don’t deserve to feel comfortable and cute on the beach. If you’re not perfect then you must punish yourself with ugly, ill-fitting, hot clothes so every time you try to move comfortably you’ll be reminded at how you’ve failed! Model Robyn Lawley and noted fashion blogger GabiFresh explain that they decided to push back at this ideal by creating swimwear that makes you feel sexy no matter what your size. (Oh and it’s not just bikinis! The swimwear line features a wide range of styles, prices and, yes, sizes.)


“I think all bodies should be celebrated,” GabiFresh told TODAY.com. “Beauty comes in all forms.”

The idea was born when rumors started circling the fashion community that this year’s Sports Illustrated cover would finally feature a plus-sized model. Instead the cover ended up featuring three conventionally thin models. “When the issue came out and that didn’t happen, we were disappointed and decided to do our own calendar shoot around the idea that curvy women — and all women — are sexy in swimwear and sexy to men,” said Moshe Laniado, president of Swimsuits for All.

I’m glad he included the “and all women” in there because there’s certainly nothing wrong with being thin. Or average. Or pregnant. Or elderly. Or any other size. And we all need to be reminded of that from time to time. Swimsuits are a particular gauntlet for women because even in the most modest ones we’re still basically just wearing underwear.

I personally own four suits, all of which I hate for different reasons. One is retro and perfectly adorable – except it squishes my leg fat out funny. The second is too tight on my hips and gives me muffin top. The third is stretched out because I wore it pregnant. And the last, the one I wear the most, is a plain, red tank suit that I bought 15 pounds ago and therefore gives me a permanent wedgie. (I wear shorts to hide it.) Yet, even with all my knowledge about body confidence and self-acceptance I still can’t bring myself to go face the mirrors and buy one that fits properly.

And this is why we need this calendar.

What’s your beach style like? Anyone have any good recs for buying a decent suit?? (That I’ll only wear at indoor pools because sun.)


{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Darwin June 6, 2014 at 1:27 am

Okay, first I would just like to mention that I am also LDS (aka Mormon) and you will never see me in a bikini either.

That said, lets jump to the retro perfectly adorable except it squishes (Charlotte’s) leg fat out funny swimsuit.

The lady at the pool…your “New Friend” stated unequivocally that you Charlotte were “cute enough to pull one off” (a bikini)…

to which your inner monologue replied: “My New Friend was being very sweet and complimentary, which I appreciated, but something about the comment hit me funny. Why do we have to be “cute enough” to wear a bikini?”

However, you Charlotte somehow feel that you are not “cute enough” to pull off the retro swimsuit because it “squishes your leg fat” and you somehow feel you are not “cute enough” to pull off “the second” because it is too tight on your hips and gives you muffin top.

This all begs the question: Who are you not “cute enough” for in either of these choices?

The answer: YOU.

Will the other women kick you out of the club? – Not likely.

And does it really matter what any of the guys think? – Nope.

Your statement that “Swimsuits are a particular gauntlet for women because even in the most modest ones we’re still basically just wearing underwear.” is why many ladies and men equate swimsuits with sex appeal and sex.

If other guys like your look, too bad, because they don’t get to explore that option.

If they don’t like your look…who cares?

You are off the market.

It all comes back to you not being pleased with you.

I understand that you always want to be your best self…spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically….and you like to excel.

But you are the only one claiming that you are not excelling in the swimsuit category.

You are the only one saying “squishy leg fat” matters or is unflattering.

You are the only one saying “muffin top” is unflattering.

You SAY “all bodies should be celebrated”….except yours.

You SAY “Beauty comes in all forms”…except yours.

You need to lead by example.

But right now, your example says that nobody gets off the “mean to me” merry-go round.

And Charlotte?

You are being VERY mean to my friend Charlotte.

Please stop.


Janelle June 6, 2014 at 8:43 am

**Tough love this most often the ‘real-est’ kind!**

Wise words, I do this to myself all the time. As a personal trainer, I have to preach body acceptance all day long – and I honestly believe every single word, until I have to dig in my own closet or dresser…. then I can find a million and one reasons to not accept something about my own body. I can’t stand to be a hypocrite! Working on this one daily!


Darwin June 6, 2014 at 9:35 am

Giving yourself some gentle, caring, and unconditional love seems an excellent place to start!


Amalia June 6, 2014 at 12:23 pm

First of all Darwin, I read all your comments here but rarely reply to you.
Second of all, this is a good tough love kind of comment.
I appreciate it and think I need to apply this to myself


Darwin June 6, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Along with the gentle, caring and unconditional love as well I hope!

(That goes for you too Charlotte, and all others as we all need it.)


Melissa June 6, 2014 at 2:41 am

So many thoughts!

I remember in HS wearing bikinis occasionally but never really feeling comfortable and I even bought this awesome neon striped one I didn’t ever wear. Then last fall we went to Iceland (home of outdoor pools EVERYWHERE) and I decided it didn’t matter really and wore that neon striped bikini (I’m not 33 and have nowhere near the body I did at 18) and it was an awesome experience. No one pointed and laughed, I felt comfortable, my husband loved it and I ended the trip feeling quite a bit more confident.

Right now I am 31 weeks pregnant and have a pregnancy tankini that I hate but continue to use because I’m cheap. I kind of wish I’d just decided to buy a cheap bikini instead. I mostly use it at the gym for my extremely slow laps (you might like it here in Sweden – all the pools are heated).

As for the sun, I went through a really long phase of covering up all of the time and being afraid of melanoma, then I ended up having nearly no vitamin D when we were living in Chicago. And since then I’ve loosened up some. I don’t sunbathe, but I don’t go out of my way to wear long clothes or slather on tons of sunscreen. It helps that I have olive skin and we live in Sweden, where really the sun only shines like 3 months.


Tuuli June 6, 2014 at 2:55 am

Yes, this… The one thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that quote about all women being sexy in swimwear and sexy to men. Why does it (why does everything) have to be about sex? Do I have to be “sexy” (or “cute”) in my swimsuit against my will (because honestly I’ve never done it on purpose)? Yes, I’m insecure in my (one-piece with a shorts bottom because that’s the only comfortable one for actual swimming) swimsuit because I have nowhere to hide, but it doesn’t have anything to do with sex or men. Just accepting myself as I am. Understanding that it really doesn’t matter even if someone thinks my body is unsightly – it’s their taste, their judgment, their duty to look away and my right not to hear about it or be affected by it. I’m working on it. Perhaps it’s easier because I don’t go to the beach (because sun). The pensioners and kids at the indoor pools I frequent genuinely do not care unless I turn up in fancy dress. :)


Cindy June 6, 2014 at 5:34 am

I am morbidly obese and I swim at least 5 days a week. I go to the beach as well. I wear a one piece and I rarely get abuse from people. I have occasionally worn bike shorts and a lined crop top to swim as it is much easier to get into and out of particularly if you are wet or sweaty. When I do that I get a fair amount of poo pooing usually from other women. I sometimes have the same problem with my gym wear. Basically I get told I am showing to much skin and it is not attractive or modest enough for somebody my size. I just get a little tired of people trying to shove their insecurities down my throat.


Sabrina June 6, 2014 at 1:29 pm

That is so wrong! This makes me so very sad, Cindy. We are all entitled to show skin, or not, no matter our size, and to do it without encountering negative comments from the people around us. You are so right that it’s all about them and their insecurities, not about you. Keep rocking that crop top and those bike shorts, and enjoy those laps!


Chelsea June 6, 2014 at 6:23 am

I don’t see how you could call the two women on the far ends of the shot where they are all wearing black swim suits “plus sized”.


Amalia June 6, 2014 at 12:22 pm

I am lucky to have the boyfriend that I do – he saw me looking at this post and was like “those are really gorgeous women!” When I mentioned they were plus-sized, he just looked incredulous and muttered “what the *#$*# is wrong with this world.”

That’s my long winded way of saying I agree with you.


Heather C June 6, 2014 at 7:12 am

I have a cute bikini from Athleta that I wear. Being 6 feet tall makes finding a one piece long enough for my torso hard plus I am a pear shape with no boobs so a bikini just looks better. I think a women should wear whatever she feels comfortable in rather than worrying what some strangers she will never see again think about her swimwear choices. When I was in college I spent a summer living in Austria. After classes me and my friend would head to an island on the Danube and lay out and swim. As an American it was crazy to see people of all ages, all shapes and sizes, stripping down to nothing to change into their bathing suit and no one seemed to care a bit about how their body looked. I remember seeing a woman one day, who was young and attractive, sitting cross legged kind of slouched over reading and thinking how crazy it was she would sit like that because it made her belly all bulgy. But she didn’t care. No one around cared. There was none of that careful posing you see at pools and beaches here in the US. I found it all very cool and liberating.


Sabrina June 6, 2014 at 1:32 pm

I am much shorter than you (only 5’4″), but I, too, am a pear shape with no boobs, and I also find two-piece swimsuits work much better. I can get a tiny top and some bigger bottoms and be good to go!


Becky June 6, 2014 at 7:12 am

Here here Darwin! Ditto what she said, just wear the cute retro one. The girls on the end of the photo are plus sized because they are so tall, not overweight but they likely weigh much more than the thin short girls and have a hard time fitting small sized clothing.


Darwin June 6, 2014 at 9:32 am

As a guy contributing my two cents to this issue, I truly appreciate your “Here here” Becky!


Alexa June 6, 2014 at 7:13 am

Huffington Post had a fun comment on this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/19/bikini-body-beach-ready-chart_n_5352370.html
Which I agree with…that said I have a tankini I love and still want to loose another ten pounds before I try wearing bikini in public. I have one I wear around the house and in the yard with the kids, but I’m not willing to whip it out in public until I can lose a few more pounds, tighten up the extra skin and wrinkly belly button (from the babies). It’s funny how at 34 I have the same goals I did at 16…wear a bikini confidently.


Amy D. June 6, 2014 at 7:24 am

Your body is not there for anyone else to look at and judge. You should wear what you’re comfortable in, period (provided you’re not hurting anyone). If you choose to wear something revealing or flashy, sure others might comment – and you should expect that. Because people are jerks sometimes no matter what you do. But if you’re comfortable, why care?

Me, I’m an SPF girl, as my skin tone is basically “clear”. So I am usually covered. Actually I think I’ll look into that jacket-dress thingy you mentioned!


Azusmom June 6, 2014 at 8:37 am

I will NEVER wear a bikini again. In fact, my next swimwear purchase, truly, will be a wetsuit. The water out here is flippin’ COLD!
I bought a bikini in 2005, when I was 36. It was the first bikini I’d worn in 30 years and, like a idiot, I decided to wear it to Lake Tahoe. To wear it IN Lake Tahoe.
Really, really, REALLY bad idea!

# weeks ago we took our kids to Ride A Wave, an annual event at which professional surfers take kids with special needs out on the water to surf, boogie board, and kayak. It was in Santa Cruz, and they wore wetsuits. It was our 5th year, and Hubby and I decided that day that we’re going to bite the bullet and buy our own wetsuits. The kids LOVE being in the ocean, and it’s so good for their systems. This way we can all go in together, whether it’s the Pacific or the Bay.
We also take them to Tanaya Lake in Yosemite, which isn’t exactly balmy.

In the meantime, I have my Costco Ladies Speedo, which, holds everything in nicely.


Azusmom June 6, 2014 at 8:46 am

Ergh! Hit “Submit” before I was done.
Anyhoo, I’m always amazed at the mentality we have : “Ew, you’re fat! Why don’t you exercise more!” Then, “Ew! You’re fat! Why are you exercising while being fat at me? I don’t want to see that!”

My attitude is, wear whatever the heck you want, and if other people don’t like it, they don’t have to look.
(Seriously, how spoiled are we that we don’t want to even SEE people we don’t personally find attractive?!?!?! For WHATEVER reason?)


Abby June 6, 2014 at 8:40 am

I have 2 bathing suits. One is a one-piece that I use when I’m swimming for exercise. The other is a two-piece that meets in the middle and securely covers everything. Both have the shorts bottoms and thick, tank top straps. I don’t really like either and, in fact, this post reminded me that I need to go home and try them on since we’re going to Australia for 3 weeks in less than a month. I am already dreading wearing either. Both were bought at the end of dressing room nervous breakdowns when I was ready to buy anything to escape.

In the past 5 years I’ve probably worn a bathing suit maybe half a dozen times (the last time being at least 2 years ago). Part of that is I hate the beach (the sun isn’t as fun when you’re constantly applying sunscreen because the parts that you started with are already burning and sand is gross) and the other is that I hate being undressed in public. For that reason I think bikinis are tasteless. I know it’s not a popular opinion but there it is. I just feel that if women wouldn’t wear a bra and panties in public then I don’t understand why calling it “swimwear” makes it okay. I don’t like women who wear them any less but I do think it’s uncomfortable and awkward. I really think there’s something to be said for leaving some things to the imagination. For example, I’m in a friend’s wedding this summer and when she decided she wanted us all to wear robes for “getting ready” photos I had to call her and explain that the only one who sees me in that state of undress is my husband. So I guess I dislike the entire idea of bikinis, period.

There is definitely some ongoing body anxieties too though when it comes to swimwear in general, unrelated to the modesty issue. I’ve been thinking more about how terrible I’m going to look in a wetsuit than how incredible diving the Great Barrier Reef is going to be. Something to still work on I guess. In the meantime I’ll settle for being glad it’s Australia winter so I have more of a reason to cover up most the time.


Geosomin June 6, 2014 at 10:06 am

I live in a bikini and tank top and jeans or capris in the summer. Shorts and bathing suit bottoms make me uncomfortable-my suit bottom (black to go with a zillion different tops) has a built in skirt and I love it. Takes away that uncomfortableness I have with baring my butt.
I am trying to figure out how to modify things for this summer after my surgery…i think its the summer of halter tops!


Anica June 6, 2014 at 10:20 am

I’m with Chelsea…it makes me sad that the two end models are even classified at plus. They don’t look big at all to me.


Darwin June 6, 2014 at 11:23 am

I may be wrong…

…but I am thinking the bottom photo?

With the two non-plus size models on the ends?

I think…they were not being portrayed as plus size models.

I think they were simply being portrayed as part of the “all” in “swimsuits for all”.



Amalia June 6, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Nope. They are considered plus size… hard to believe isn’t it?


Darwin June 6, 2014 at 1:07 pm

I stand corrected!



Macy Rivers June 6, 2014 at 11:48 am

As a beauty enthusiast, I do believe that no one won’t flaunt their beauty and body if ever they have. Not all the times, you can do it with your guts. What you have to do is to make great out of yourself. Make an extra effort to achieve that body that will keep you out from wearing bikinis. Make a choice, take step and be proud of your beauty.


JLVerde June 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Tankinis for the WIN.

Since I discovered the joy that are separate piece swimsuits (not a bikini, mind you) I LOVE wearing swimsuits. I own more swimsuits than I own dresses or skirts (and probably wear the swimsuits more than the dresses and skirts, if you’re talking pure total wearings).

As for bikinis, I don’t think I’d ever be comfortable bearing that much of my flesh (no matter my size). I’m just a bit prudish in general and that’s “too nudey” for me in a public setting.


Sabrina June 6, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Those are some hot chicks, I must say.

My favorite “swimsuit” option, if I’m actually going to be active in the water, is a well-fitting, secure (no flashing!) bikini top and black running shorts. The running shorts are lightweight, comfy, and dry quickly, and they cover my whole (generous) rear end. I am super uncomfortable baring a lot of my butt, and so many swim bottoms expose more than I want to. For some reason, I feel just fine with my belly exposed (and insecurities totally play into this, as I’m pear-shaped, so rather slim on top, but bigger on the bottom). One piece swimsuits don’t work for me, because then I have to choose if I want to size up and have my bum covered but risk my breasts falling out the too-big top, or size down to keep my breasts covered, but have half my bum bared for the world to see.

That said, I have been eyeing a retro, boy-leg, halter top one piece. I want it to work for me so badly, but haven’t ordered it to spare myself the heartbreak when it doesn’t.


Sarah June 6, 2014 at 9:01 pm

It’s funny because I always get more body conscious when I am wearing lots of clothes. I actually think that I look fine in a bathing suit, but man, put some pants and a shirt on me and I can fret into 15 different outfits. I am pretty curvy and very very short so a lot of clothes give me rolls that I don’t have without the clothes on. I love the water and love the beach with all my heart and soul. I could care less what other people think about me in a bathing suit because I am doing something that makes me happier than any negative thought could make me sad.


Jen June 7, 2014 at 11:17 am

I bought a two piece (but not bikini) from Athleta last August then got pregnant (literally) 5 days later, so I’ve worn the suit a total of maybe 5 times, all during my Christmas vaca in Hawaii. Luckily the tank top part still fit over my pregnant self, but since I’ve had the baby I haven’t had the opportunity to go swimming.

One of my biggest takeaways from your post is that your neighbor/friend is like so many of us in thinking, even if we don’t even notice we’re doing it, that one has to look a certain way to “pull off” wearing a bikini. I doubt she thought she was saying it in that way, but clearly she has ideas about what is and isn’t acceptable to be seen in. Sigh. I love the internet and the many positive messages out there, but I do not like the overwhelming amount of information on it that hints that we should be a certain way otherwise we’re not good enough.

I have more thoughts, but I’m sleep deprived and they’re not organizing themselves well.


Seta June 8, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Just to share a little bit about myself here.

1). About wearing bikinis. Though i’m not Mormon, I’m from a very strict Asian family. So bikinis are a definite N-O. In my most rebellious times, I bought a really revealing bikini swimsuit in defiance against my mom’s ‘tyrannical rule’. Alas, never got to wear it and I may not be able to do so because …

2). I have been struggling with dysmorphia for all my life and have been battling ED (Anorexia, binging, bulimia, lax abuse you name it i’ve had it) since I was 13. As I have mentioned, I am from a very strict family and I am, by default, a perfectionist, much like you, Charlotte. I am constantly under so much pressure at school and among my schoolmates because they actually think I am THE perfect girl, you know, not trying to be cocky or anything, but good grades, a waif-ish body (totally WRONG), boys, with a great family background and acclaimed parents etc.. Yes, it sounds perfect. Ironically, underneath all that, I abuse laxes and have had suicidal tendencies and have been battling ED for YEARS. My classmates actually bullied me because they are the ones who know about my weird habits and they, being so close to me, detect something is seriously wrong with me. What I am trying to say is that, I feel that achieving that confidence and that love for your own body is sadly, impossible to me.

I know it’s a really long post but I just feel like I need to vent all of this out somewhere. I’m 5’5 and 97 lbs. But I guess me losing weight has already turned into an issue of compulsion and control, rather than striving for ‘beauty’. I don’t know about having an ED cured, but for some reason I am losing hope in trying to ‘cure’ it. I think it’s always going to be a part of me.

PS: It’s really ironic cuz my mom is a psychologist and she really has no idea how messed up I am.


Darwin June 9, 2014 at 9:28 am

Hello Seta!

About hope…

…I was alone at night in a forest and was first stalked by and them attacked repeated by wolves all night long.

I didn’t know how I would survive, but I knew I wanted to…and I had HOPE.

Another time after being soaked all day from snow shaken out of trees in my then-job as a lumber jack, I also fell through the ice in a river…developed pneumonia..and THEN encountered a white-out blinding blizzard when I reached the mouth of the river and stepped out onto the frozen lake.

(Yes, it was a bad-to-worse-and-downhill-from-there kind of circumstance.)

I was exhausted and weak with miles to safety and oh so sick.

And remember: blinding blizzard.

It is VERY hard to walk straight when you cannot see and the wind knocking you about.

And it is all too easy to unknowingly get turned around and head in the completely wrong direction.

And there were lots of wrong directions.

But I had to blindly find the right direction.

If I didn’t find the small town on the other side of the big lake on my first try…I would not have the strength for a second try and I would die.

But I wanted to.

And I had HOPE.

Those two incidents before I was eighteen. And I have had a great many other complicated and stressful and potentially deadly circumstances since then.

I look back and I think…weird.


Wanting to succeed…and having hope…is the always starting point.

You want to succeed Seta. I know this because you are searching about for helpful advice to have your ED cured.

Charlotte knows resources.

Be patient, Charlotte will be back from her road-trip soon.

In the meantime develop more gentle and kind and unconditional love for you!

Tune out the school bullies.

And as an aside, parents can be crazy scared in regards to anything endangering their children (hence their strictness) and many parents are always looking, rising in panic, then wonder if they are being paranoid and overly protective, and also sometimes dismiss obvious clues on the chance they are being over-reactive.

They fear things bad are happening, and sometimes that fear blinds them too.

Your Mom would seem to be a great resource as well. And obviously has great concern for your well-being.

I once got stabbed with a samurai sword (more weirdness) and upon examining the wound I knew I could not fix it myself.

I needed the help of a professional.

That was the best hope.


Se June 9, 2014 at 1:10 am

This design is incredible! You obviously know how to keep a reader entertained.
Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start
my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Wonderful
job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
Too cool!


Sarah June 9, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Speaking of bikinis, this article came in today about the praise Miss Indiana had for having a ‘normal’ body.

Being this is Indiana (I reside here), we have all sorts of bodies!


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