Bonnie Bing: Shopping for swimsuits doesn’t get easier with age

A woman walking down the mall started laughing when she saw me. I thought my pants must be unzipped or my hair was standing straight up because it was a windy day, or maybe part of my lunch was on my face.

She stopped laughing and said, “I was just thinking about you!” Oh dear. I couldn’t think who this woman was. I didn’t recognize anything about her. Thankfully she said, “You don’t know me, but I read your column and I know you do not like swimsuits. I’m going to go shop for one right now.”

I asked her if she wanted to go have a cocktail first, and we both laughed. I told her good luck and away she went.

What I didn’t tell her was I had decided to get a new swimsuit. And maybe a color other than black. I’ve lost some weight and thought maybe it wouldn’t be the devastating experience that it has been in the past.


It instantly became clear that the problem is not only the body shape, but that skin that has been around a long time starts to hang funny. And not haha funny either. Apologies to Sir Issac Newton, but gravity is not our friend.

After trying on the three most modest suits in the store I launched into a serious mood swing, had a sweat moustache, was sort of grinding my teeth and repressing the urge to stomp on the last suit I tried on.

But taking a deep breath, I thought ‘who cares if my old faithful black swimsuits are a little loose here and there, I’m getting out of this little fitting room with all these big mirrors and lighting that makes me look jaundiced and going straight home. That cocktail idea sounded really good by now. I hoped the woman I met in the mall was having a better experience, but wouldn’t put any money on it.

Looking through those racks of bathing suits brought back memories of when I was a fashion writer and did a trend story on swimwear every year.

After I rounded up pretty, smooth-skinned, flat bellied models, the photographer would shoot their photos while they pretended to sunbathe or frolic poolside wearing everything from a bikini to a tankini.

The best article I’ve seen lately on this summertime subject was by Katharine K. Zarrella at The Wall Street Journal. The headline was “Bathe in Glory” with the subhead “It’s a cliché that swimsuit shopping is depressing-a false one, given the accommodating array of options. She pictured 26 options from A (asymmetrical) to Z, (for zippers.)

The very cleaver copy with the attention grabbing full page of swimwear examples had me thinking maybe I should give swimsuit shopping another try.


The prices also were attention grabbing. A bikini pictured under Q (for quality) was $405 for the top and $335 for the bottoms. Wait. Now what? Yes, even with my marginal math skills, that adds up to $740 if you want to cover all your important parts. Seems quite a bit per square inch of fabric.

Since 75 percent of the female population seem to worry about flapping-in-the-breeze upper arms, there is a long-sleeve swimsuit available from coverswim.com, $220. The one pictured is blue and white stripe. Why stop there, perhaps the answer is the unitard I suggested years ago. And yes, that brings back the visual of putting a marshmallow in a drinking straw.

Thinking about all those swimsuits, the styles, the prices, the coverage and the lack of it, I decided, what the heck, just get out there and splash around in whatever you can get pulled on. It’s summer and it’s time to turn it loose regardless of what you wear.

But do wear your sunscreen.

Reach Bonnie Bing at bingbylines@gmail.com